The USB Implementers Forum – the organization that defines and promotes the USB standard – released a new amendment to USB-C on Wednesday. The USB-C modification 2.1 increases the power range of the USB-C standard from 100 watts to 240 watts – enough for some gaming laptops.
USB-C has seen some changes over the years, but the standard has only supported 100W power distribution since its release in 2014. It is a convenient, popular option for charging ports on Chromebooks and thin and light laptops, but beefier machines require a proprietary power brick and connection. The updated standard will allow some gaming laptops to adopt USB-C for charging.
And 240W is the correct number. The Razor Blade 15, one of the best gaming laptops, comes with a 230W power adapter, so it makes sense to swap the proprietary connection for USB-C. In contrast, the MacBook Pro M1 already uses a USB-C connection to charge via 61W power bricks.
All-in-one machines will likely get USB-C treatment as well. The most recent iMac, for example, draws around 150W, and some older models move towards 200W. Assuming that Apple will lose the proprietary magnetic connection on the iMac and Mac Mini, we can see USB-C powering a full desktop.
Laptops will see the most noticeable increase, but Amendment 2.1 has implications for many peripherals. Larger, power-hungry displays can now use USB-C, such as USB-C docking stations. Some laser printers may also be able to use USB-C (however, many are still attracted above 500W).
The USB Implementers Forum says that all cables that support high power distribution “will be clearly identified” [extended power range] Cable icon. “They will also need to be electronically marked to support high power draws, which is what USB-IF requires for all USB-C cables.
These new extended power range (EPR) cables are backward compatible. So, EPR cables will work with standard power range (SPR) devices, but SPR cables will not work with EPR devices. Although USB-C can handle more power, EPR cables will still need to handle 50V at 5A, so the dream of plugging your gaming laptop into a random USB outlet is still off.
USB-C EPR cables are not out yet, but we are not far away. The USB Implementers Forum says it expects to launch devices that support high-powered USB-C by the second half of 2021.