It’s fair to say we all grumble at the thought of buying yet another charging cable when manufacturers decide to make a new type the standard. For example, there's USB-C, a new cable that Google, Apple and other hardware manufacturers have embraced and integrated into recently launched products. Before you go out and buy a cheap USB-C cable, you should know that some third-party cords could fry your phone, tablet or computer.
As we wrote in a previous post, USB-C cables have some wonderful qualities: they are easier to plug in (since there's no right side up), allow device manufacturers to make their products slimmer and support faster data transfers and charging. They’re also backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, though you’ll need an adapter.
Benson Leung, an engineer working on Google’s Pixel team, has been testing all of the Amazon-available cables that have a USB-C connector on one end and a USB-A connector (the big end that’s ubiquitously called “USB”) on the other. USB-C connectors are able to draw more power from a source than USB-A connectors, which means they can charge a device faster than the typical USB-A connector. For USB-C to USB-A cables, that means that unless the cable is made a specific way, there is a power imbalance between the two types that can end up killing your device.
Unfortunately, Leung’s $1,499 Google Pixel 2 laptop and testing equipment were fried using the “SurjTech 3M USB 3.1 Type C to Standard Type A” cable, which has since been removed from Amazon. Leung wrote on Google Plus that the cable’s wires were not soldered properly and some wires were completely missing.
A group of Redditors made a publicly available spreadsheet that detail all of Leung’s findings. If they’ve got the green “Approved” highlight, they’re made properly and good to go, so buy without fear. However, there are currently 49 cables that didn’t pass the test on the list.
[USB-A to USB-C cable via Shutterstock]