About USB-C dongles

So Microsoft, to aleviate the complaints about the lack of a USB-C port on its new Surface Pro has promised a USB-C dongle later this year. My question would be: how does it differ from having a true USB-C? After all, it is said that “If you want to charge a device with a Type-C charger, you can. If you want to put data back and forth with a Type-C peripheral, you can” thanks to the connection to the Surface connect.

How it differs? Well, you in the first place don’t need a dongle if they would have made the surface pro with both a USB A and a USB C port. From the rest it doesn’t differ in any way. The dongle is a true usb C port. It is not that usb C is any different from USB A except for the connector

1 Like

Although technically USB-A and USB-C is just the connector port.
In practice, its not uncommon that a USB-A port + a good A-to-C dongle deliver less power than a “native” USB-C port.

Well that is always the case when you are not connecting it directly but use a cable in between. So I don’t think that a small 5cm dongle would matter that much if you use it to add a 1m charging cable for a phone or such

As long as they use the same technology (USB 3.1, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, etc.) the only difference is the connector type. A dongle may reduce effective data speed and power delivery, but only by a small amount.

This is highly dependent on the built quality of the dongle, bad dongles not only reduce both by significant amounts, but also introduce risks of burning the guest device.

It is Microsoft, as if they care to deliver the highest quality

Okay thanks everyone. Now… Can such a dongle be/accept thunderbolt?
What’s so special about thunderbolt by the way? I think it means being able to both transfer date and charge but I might be wrong.

It can accept any USB C connector, so it can also accept the ones with USB C. But you will not be able to use thunderbolt functions such as attaching a monitor, since the USB A port from the surface pro is just USB 3.1, no thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is special since it combines different functions to get high exchange rates. Unlike USB C, thunderbolt is connected to PCIe ports on the motherboard and uses that for data transfers. The best thunderbolt Pittsburgh are connected to 4x PCIe port (so 4 lanes) and that gives 32 Gb/s of data travel, and than some magic such as giving it a hdmi/DisplayPort function boost that up tot a total of 40 Gb/s data exchange speed. That is quadruple of USB 3.1 gen 2 (10Gb/s) and eight times the regular USB 3.0 = USB3.1 gen 1 (5Gb/s). So thunderbolt is something more than just USB

The special thing about TB3 is that it allows an external GPU. This is the single killer feature that is missing in about 9 out of 10 USB-C implementations on devices available today.

There are 5 variants of USB Type-C readily available in the market right now. Do you know which one your laptop has (aside from the Eve)? Is it the one that is really built for the future? The folks at BestBuy certainly didn’t know when I looked at a bunch of laptops.

  • USB type-C Gen 1 - 5MBps - no TB3, same bandwidth as USB 3.0; up to 60watts bi-directional charging
  • USB type-C Gen 1 - same as above with 100 watts bi-directional charging
  • USB type-C Gen 2 - same as above with 10GBps
  • USB type-C Gen 2 - same as above but adds TB3 2PCI lanes@ 20Gbps
  • USB type-C Gen 2 - same as above but adds TB3 4PCI lanes@ 40Gbps - this is the one everyone thinks they are getting when in reality there are getting one of the others.

The best part about the Microsoft solution is the zero insertion force connector which is great for people with disabilities. Many folks don’t care about folks with disabilities which is a real shame. USB type-C is a huge step backwards in this area, although it is quite a bit better than USB-type-A or micro-USB.


Apparently the future USB-C dongle won’t be connected via the USB-A port, but via the Surface Connector (that already allows for ethernet, HDMI, display port…)
So could that USB-C dongle actually allow for Thunderbolt?

That depends on what the surface connector has to offer. I don’t know it because it is a proprietary connector. It could be possible it has thunderbolt since the connector allows for video, ethernet and regular usb connection. But on the other hand thunderbolt does need a hardware controller and I don’t know if they have it integrated yet. I guess they could have it, but why wouldn’t they provide a thunderbolt port than?

My bet: best they can do is u usb 3.1 gen 2.

1 Like

Their products built after the SP4 are well built from my experience. Yes, it may not be the absolute gold standard for the industry, but name me a product from them they made since the SP4 with a terrible build quality.

It is not that there are much products after the SP4. Hopefully they can stay having the quality that you say. My experience with the SP3 is that the quality does not justify the price.

1 Like

A lot of people say that the SP4 marked the point where Microsoft turned the Surface line, which was rather disappointing before, into competitive products. And imo that is quite true. While they are solid right now, Microsoft had a really hard time before, I totally agree with you