Google Engineer Warns Against Perils Of Buying Cheap, Third-Party USB-C Cables

A cable is just a cable. Or is it? While it's clear that there are some some cable solutions for those who lack a bit of sense and have fat wallets, most cheap cables are going to suffice for most purposes. That's the perk of a digital connection; unless the cable is of truly awful quality, you're going to see those bits that are shot across the stream arrive at their intended location.

If a cable has a fault, though, it can cause some bizarre issues. many have likely encountered situations in the past where a USB cable refused to let a device be detected by a PC, likely due to an internal fault. Sometimes, though, it's not just a physical fault that can prove problematic, but the actual specs of the cable. A new post on Google+ made by Google's Benson Leung clues us in to a new example.

Chromebook USB C

Leung and his teammates at Google work inside of the Chromebook ecosystem, and as such, they've had lots of hands-on experience with USB-C cables. The Chromebook Pixel remains one of the very few notebooks on the market that directly supports USB-C. Nonetheless, in his experience, not all cables are built alike, and in some cases, cheap out-of-spec cables could potentially cause physical damage.

It's such a big problem, in fact, that Leung began buying cables off of Amazon and leaving his feedback on each one. Ultimately, what the problem boils down to is that some of the specifications in a cable may be not well controlled. He notes that in some bad cables, incorrect resister values are throwing off power specs wildly - 3A vs 2A in one example.

With either the Pixel, or some other notebook that runs a Unix-based OS and can utilize USB-C cables, it's not too hard to find out whether or not the cable you have is out-of-spec. You would need to go root, or sudo, and run the command "ectool --name=cros_pd usbpdpower 0", without quotes. Alternatively, you may be able to run 'dmesg' after you plug the cable in, which doesn't require root. If the value returned includes a mention of Type-C rather than DCP, CDP, SDP, or Proprietary, you're good. We would recommend checking out the post linked above or in the via field here, if you want to test this out for yourself, as there's more to consider that what we'll dive into here.

If you want to know which USB-C cables are worth your time, you can check out this handy link to see what Leung himself has reviewed on Amazon.