X-ray USB-C cables: what construction differences between one and the other

The solutions to humanity’s most complex problems depend on production processes. How true is this assumption! And there’s even a company, Lumafield, which made it the founding reason for its activities. Thus was born the idea of ​​looking inside the operation of electronic devices highlighting possible gaps before placing on the market. Gray areas that could, for example, lead to unpleasant (and expensive) product recalls. Same cavi USB-C they cannot and must not avoid in-depth evaluations: also because if you find yourself faced with a 5 euro cable and a 149 euro cable some difference there must be.

Founded in 2019, Lumafield recognizes that as products and manufacturing technologies become increasingly complex and sophisticated, the debugging tools used by engineers to solve design problems have often remained rooted in the 19th century. The company aims to fill this gap by offering engineers advanced tools, such as “X-ray vision“, which allow them to evaluate the work in a new light. The goal is to allow manufacturers of any type of device to create more functional, economical and sustainable devices.

USB-C cables, what are the differences between the least and most expensive products

The new Apple iPhone 15 marks a turning point compared to previous models. The “kingdom” of the historian Lightning cable, which lasted 11 years, is over and the USB-C era has begun. More and more users are wondering what the differences may be between one USB-C cable and another, also on the basis of prices decidedly variable.

Lumafield wanted to use its Neptune industrial X-ray CT scanner to start tidying up and discovering the differences between USB-C cables, with particular attention to the engineering discrepancies between one version and another.

The Apple Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) Pro Cable Features: (Expensive) Engineering Masterpiece

The technicians started from cavo Apple Thunderbolt 4 (USB‑C) Pro: Supports Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, and USB 4 data transfers with speeds up to 40 Gbps. It also allows video output DisplayPort (HBR3) and can charge devices by providing up to 100W. Examining in detail “the secrets” of Apple’s Thunderbolt 4 cable, Lumafield he defined it as a “stunning piece of precision engineering“. On the other hand, it costs 79 euros in the one meter long version.

The X-ray scan of the Apple USB-C cable, which we invite you to explore, shows excellent work: the cable has 24 pins, all mounted independently on a 10-layer PCBA, and uses a real “forest” Of blind vias e buried vias. These expressions refer to two types of holes used in printed circuits: i primi (blind) are blind holes that pass through one or more layers of the printed circuit board (PCB), without passing through the entire board. They are only visible from one side of the card.

Cavo USB-C Pro Apple Thunderbolt

I buried vias instead, they are connection holes that are completely inside the board and are not visible from the outside. They are useful for internally interconnecting PCB layers without compromising the available surface space.

Il Thunderbolt cable with the Apple brand contains three distinct types of wires to separately enable charging and data transfer capabilities. The coaxially shielded conductors in the cable are data lines high speed. Most of the unshielded connections transmits power, but two of them are data cables that support legacy USB 2.0 functionality. The wires and their shields are fixed separately on the PCBA.

What an Amazon Basics USB-C cable looks like

Taking Apple’s USB-C cable as a “north star”, the experts at Lumafield they then examined the internal architecture of the Amazon Basics USB-C cable. It costs exactly one tenth compared to the Apple cable of the same length (around 14 euros versus 149 euros), but how good is it? The cable fast charging USB-C Amazon Basics allows you to manage up to 60W of power and ensures data transfer up to 480 Mbps.

There are only 12 pins at the connector, half the size of the Thunderbolt pins, and four pairs are skipped rather than individually connected to the PCBA. It is, as noted by Lumafielda simpler solution to provide basic charging and data transfer functionality at lower speeds.

Cheap USB-C cables: the NiceTQ example for just over 5 euros

Lumafield However, it went further by also examining a USB-C cable available on the market for just over 5 euros. The producer NiceTQ It claims it’s capable of transferring data at up to 10Gbps, which is slower than Apple’s Thunderbolt cable but significantly faster than the Amazon Basics USB-C cable.

Putting the NiceTQ cable “under the lens”, however, several things emerged critical issues. “It’s a much more primitive cable than the first two we looked at. It has no metal shielding under its soft plastic casing and the plug shell floats inside overmolded plastic with no connection to the earth wire. The strain relief is simply a rubber extension of the plug’s plastic casing, with no metal reinforcement.

There are 8 pins inside the connector, but only four of them are actually connected to the cable. The other four float in the plastic overmolding of the connector. This can present reliability problems: If one of the active pins becomes worn or bent and does not reliably connect to the port, there would be no redundant pin available on the opposite side.

The technicians also add that it is the only USB-C cable, among those examined, that does not contain PCBA: the pins connect directly to the wires. Also, keep going LumafieldThe manufacturer claims the cable transmits data up to 10 Gbps, a speed that matches USB 3.1 Gen 2, but the cable has enough pins and wires to support USB 2.0 up to 480 Mbps“.

Inexpensive but well designed: ATYFUER cables

To conclude his “roundup”, Lumafield also looked at a ATYFUER USB-C cable which costs even less than the NiceTQ one but stands out for its much more sophisticated construction. Despite the negligible price.

The connector consists of a full set of 24 pins, although only 12 are connected. Despite being advertised as a charging cableits pins and wires are configured for USB 2.0 data transfer.

Why does the cable have all 24 pins when only half of them are connected? the experts asked themselves Lumafield. I pin extra they could provide a more solid connection or, since the same manufacturer also makes Thunderbolt cables, it seemed simpler and cheaper to stick with just one design.

The images in the article are by Lumafield and are taken from this post.


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