Beware: Some New USB Cords Could Fry Your Laptop (and Phone)

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Some of the now-standard USB Type-C cords out on the market are "downright dangerous," according to an expert. Here's what you need to know.

If you’re like me, you have dozens of electronic device connector cords around the house. I have several micro- and mini-USB cords and USB-to-Lightning connectors that I use to charge my digital cameras, old phones, Kindle, smartphone and some of my kids’ toys.

The newest USB plug, known as a USB Type-C connector – with its reversible design and ability to deliver large amounts of power and data quickly – is now considered the power cord standard for all our devices.

Unfortunately, not all USB-C cords are created equal, and some cheap, faulty cables can actually fry your gadgets. Says CNN Money:

[T]he new USB-C cords are capable of supplying way more power to a gadget than micro-USB. If you charge your smartphone by plugging your USB-C cord into your laptop, a faulty cord could drain far more power from your laptop than your computer is designed to supply, destroying it — and your smartphone — in an instant.

The cords are supposed to recognize what kind of device they’re sucking power from. If the USB-C cord senses it’s plugged into a wall socket, it should crank up the juice. If it’s plugged into a laptop, it should sip power.

Instead of sipping power from the laptop it was plugged into, Surjtech’s 3M USB-C cord recently fried Google engineer Benson Leung’s $1,500 laptop. In an Amazon review, Leung says he examined the Surjtech cable and it had been “completely miswired.”

“Needless to say, this cable is fundamentally dangerous,” Leung warned consumers on Amazon. “Do not buy this under any circumstances.”

Leung has spent the last few months reviewing USB-Type C cables – which he describes on his Google+ page as “an amazing little connector” – and then posting his reviews on Amazon.

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.

You may not just get weird behavior from your devices with these bad cables… What some [of] these vendors are doing is downright dangerous.

Click here to see all of Leung’s completed reviews of USB-C cords sold on Amazon. You can also check here for cords Leung has tested.

The USB Implementers Forum is issuing a seal of approval for USB-C cords that it has deemed safe, but it’s hard to tell when you’re trying to buy one of the cords online. CNN Money recommends purchasing in-person from a retailer so you can check for the certification logo.

Although it’s not a bad suggestion to steer clear of cheap USB Type-C cords, “‘just buy the more expensive one’ is a really crappy solution,” Dieter Bohn writes on The Verge.

“With USB-C, Amazon needs to pull dangerous cables from its store and every single retailer needs to demand that USB-C cables are certified,” Bohn writes.

Have you used the new USB-C cords? Share your experiences below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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