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Your Next Laptop Could Have the Holy Grail of USB Ports

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In just a couple years, your MacBook Air or Surface Pro could look obsolete. Denizens of the future won't understand why you have so many gaping holes in your machine. Why would you need a full-size USB socket, a magnetic charging port, and a video output when you can cram them all into a single tiny plug? Because that's what the VESA standards body just announced with the new USB 3.1 Type-C jack, coming right around the corner.

USB 3.1 Type-C is the same wonderfully reversible miniature USB port we've been telling you about for a while now, the one that just went into mass production this very fall. It's also the same one that should be able to carry up to 100 watts of power, which sounds like plenty when you consider that current MacBook Airs ship with a 45W AC adapter.


But here's the coup de grâce: VESA has announced that the Type-C connector will also carry DisplayPort. That means it could 1) drive a 4K external monitor, 2) deliver 10Gbps of USB 3.0 throughput for your devices, and 3) charge your computer all at the same time. Sound like something you'd want?


As AnandTech explains, not only will you be able to hook up DisplayPort monitors, there should also be HDMI 2.0 adapter cables so you can sling video to your HDTV as well. And if you've got a 5K monitor, you can drive that too—as long as you're satisfied with USB 2.0 speeds for everything else. What's more, the new USB standard doesn't care which direction the video signal goes: theoretically, you could even display your phone on your laptop's screen at the same time your laptop charges your phone. Ars Technica reports that the cable could even have a PCI-Express mode.

USB 3.1 Type-C sounds like it's shaping up to be an incredible cable, and it'll be interesting to see how thin laptops get without the extra ports. One rumor actually has a new fanless, 12-inch MacBook Air using the new connector in the fairly near future. Still, it's too early to say whether the idea will succeed: We once thought Intel's Thunderbolt connector was going to be the cable to end all cables, but spotty adoption has kept it from ubiquity. [VESA]