Proving an expensive point

SurjTech Cable

Benson Leung, the Google engineer who took it upon himself to test and review USB Type-C cables and adapters on Amazon to call attention to the dangers of using ones that are out of spec, just sacrificed his Chromebook Pixel to the digital gods.

No cheap lesson, Chromebook Pixels start at $999 direct from Google. Nevertheless, Leung continued with his mission of publicly shaming (or praising, in some cases) USB Type-C cable makers through transparent user reviews on Amazon, and when he attempted to test SurjTech’s 3M USB A-to-C cable, he discovered just how troublesome a poorly constructed cable can be.

“Hi Benson here doing another USB Type-C legacy cable review. This one will probably be the last one I do for a little while because this cable (1-star review score, straight off) seriously damaged the laptop computer I am using for these reviews, a Chromebook Pixel 2015, and two USB PD Sniffer devices (Twinkie),” Leung stated in his review.

Leung said he plugged the cable into the Twinkie as a pass-through and his Chromebook Pixel, which wreaked havoc as soon as he turned his system on. It immediately killed his analyzer, as well his laptops USB controller chip, which took out both USB Type-C ports.

“I directly analyzed the Surjtech cable using a Type-C breakout board and a multimeter, and it appears that they completely miswired the cable. The GND pin on the Type-A plug is tied to the Vbus pins on the Type-C plug. The Vbus pin on the Type-A plug is tied to GND on the Type-C plug,” Leung explained. “This is a total recipie for disaster and I have 3 pieces of electronics dead to show for it, my Pixel 2015, and two USB PD analyzers.”

Mistakes happen on the manufacturing side, this one admittedly much more severe than most. However, the poor Q&A that went into this particular product wasn’t the only egregious complaint. Further investigation revealed that even it had been wired correctly, it’s still yet another Type-C cable that’s out of spec. Here’s what he had to say in a follow-up Google+ post:

  • Red wire to G. Black wire to V. So wrong.
  • Missing SuperSpeed wires on the back of the connector. Only 4 wires in total. This cable was advertised as a USB 3.1 SuperSpeed cable but is entirely missing the TX/RX.
  • Generally a poor job with the soldering of the wires.
  • 10 kΩ resistor instead of 56 kΩ resistor used.
  • Resistor hooked up as a pull-down instead of a pull-up

It’s easy to take cables for granted and aim for the least expensive ones, but as Leung has shown on multiple occasions, these seemingly simple accessories aren’t all built the same.

Source: ArsTechnica

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