Pro tip: Use a poorly constructed USB-C cable to charge your laptop and you might end up frying your computer. That’s the message from Google engineer Benson Leung, who sacrificed his laptop in the name of safe USB-C cables.
Leung, who has been testing USB-C cables and posting about them on Amazon, posted a one-star review of Surjtech’s 3M USB A-to-C cable. Why did it earn such low marks? It “seriously damaged the laptop computer I am using for these reviews, a Chromebook Pixel 2015, and two USB PD Sniffer devices (Twinkie),” he said.
“On my Pixel, both USB Type-C ports stopped responding immediately. Neither would charge or act as a host when I plugged in a USB device such as an ethernet adapter,” he wrote. “Upon rebooting my Pixel, the system came up in recovery mode because it could not verify the Embedded Controller on the system. No amount of software recovery could revive the EC. Upon closer analysis, serious damage has been done to components related to charging and managing the USB Type-C port’s capabilities.”
The Surjtech cable in question is no longer for sale on Amazon, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t available elsewhere. Or, for that matter, that other cable manufacturers aren’t making the same mistakes Surjtech apparently did when constructing its cable.
“I directly analyzed the Surjtech cable using a Type-C breakout board and a multimeter, and it appears that they completely miswired the cable. The GND pin on the Type-A plug is tied to the Vbus pins on the Type-C plug. The Vbus pin on the Type-A plug is tied to GND on the Type-C plug,” Leung described.
In a subsequent comment on a Google+ post, Leung noted that the cable itself didn’t even have the right wiring for SuperSpeed connectivity: “Wire is COMPLETELY missing SuperSpeed wires. It is NOT actually a USB 3.1 cable, even though it has a blue connector on the A side and SuperSpeed logos,” he said.
Leung’s interest in testing all sorts of USB-C cables came about as a result of his work on two different Chrome Pixel laptops. As he describes in a Google+ post, the growth of USB-C has led to the launch of many, many different USB-C cables from all kinds of manufacturers, and the quality of these cables can vary greatly.
“USB Type-C will only be as good as its ecosystem, and more specifically, the worst of its ecosystem,” Leung said. “I have started reviewing USB cables on Amazon because I have gotten fed up with the early cables from 3rd party vendors that so blatantly flout the specification and I want to take them to task.”