The Best USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 Cables
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USB Type-C is a shape, not a technology. Just because two USB cables have a reversible Type-C plug doesn’t mean that they are the same. In fact, the most recent “Type C Cable and Connector Specification” PDF uses 373 pages to explain the differences between the eight standards that are all (confusingly) called “USB Type C.”
USB 3.1 and USB 3.2 Are the Same Thing; “Gen 1” and “Gen 2” Are Not
Most USB standards were renamed in 2019 (even as shoppers struggled to understand the existing names!). This confusion is easily exploited by shady manufacturers. Some USB-C cables are slow and overpriced; others can fry your gadgets instead of fast-charging them.
This article focuses on USB-IF-certified “SuperSpeed” Type-C cables that can transfer data at 10 Gbps and provide at least 60 watts of charging power. Until recently, these cables were called USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 2: Now, these cables are called USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2.
The Importance of the E-Marker Chip
Some devices shut down when a USB cable is plugged in: This is a protective feature, not a bug. “E-marker circuitry is included on all USB 3.1–compliant cables, and is present on some USB 2.0–compliant cables as well. This circuitry provides information about the cable’s specifications — including its maximum supported current (3A or 5A) and voltage,” according to Engineer School by Renesas. If a device isn’t able to handshake with a cable’s eMarker chip, it may shut down to avoid damage.
How Much Does a Good USB-C Cable Cost?
A one-meter USB-IF certified cable (with verified, above-average reviews) costs approximately $15, according to a 12-month analysis of price trends. Those same USB-C cables cost around $10 while on sale: an average discount of 33%.
Methodology for Selecting Products
I use data science to discover above-average products that are selling for below-average prices. To find USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 cables with below-average prices, I first assemble a list of IF/PD-certified candidates, then organize those products by their 12-month average sale price, determine the median value and then exclude any cables with a price above the mid-point.
To find cables with above-average reviews, I measure the relationship between 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 star ratings and flag outliers that fall outside of a normal statistical distribution. I also discount paid, sponsored and unverified reviews as well as unhelpful review behaviors from verified customers. USB cables with an average adjusted rating of less than 3.9 out of 5 are excluded; in the end, approximately 85% of the products that are analyzed are eliminated for one or more of the reasons above. (The rejection rate is closer to 99% when non-certified cables are taken into consideration.)
Here are the best cheap second-generation USB-C cables (aka “3.1 Gen 2” or “3.2 Gen 2”) for the money. All of the cables in this article are reversible (i.e. the Type-C connector fits in the port either way). They can transfer data and charge a device at the same time using USB-PD, the power delivery standard. With an adapter, they can also convert HDMI, VGA and DisplayPort signals.
Anker Powerline II USB-C to USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 Cable
Good Value: $20 | Great Deal: $15
Anker’s second-generation USB-C cable is durable, reliable and supports 4K video at 60Hz, according to several online customers. Many reviewers wish this cable was available in a longer length; others caution that this cable is not compatible with all smartphones (and suggest checking before buying).
Nekteck USB-IF Certified USB C 3.1 Gen 2 Cable (10Gbps/100W)
Good Value: $11 | Great Deal: $4
This USB cable is thick and sturdy, according to several online customers. On the downside, many reviewers say the cable is inflexible; others say the plug-end fits loosely.
Cable Matters (USB-IF Certified) 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 2 Cable
Good Value: $14 | Great Deal: $12
This well-made USB-C cable is capable of charging a laptop and outputting 4K video, according to several online customers. Many reviewers used this cable to successfully transfer data and charge a device at the same time. Some say that the cable disconnects too easily because the connector fits loosely.
Plugable (USB-IF Certified) 10Gbps, 60W USB-C Cable
Good Value: $20 | Great Deal: $10
Plugable’s USB-C cable is fast at transferring data, but slow at charging devices, according to several online customers. This cable is not compatible with Qualcomm’s “QC” fast charging standard.
About the Author: John DeFeo was formerly the head of editorial insights for technology brands such as Tom’s Hardware, Anandtech and Laptop Mag.