Getting hold of USB-C cables can be a pain, but a Google engineer has found one that actually qualifies as dangerous after it broke three pieces of hardware, including a very expensive Pixel Chromebook.
Googler Benson Leung has been on a quest to try out the latest USB Type-C cables and find those that aren't up to snuff. Properly configured Type C connectors should be able to provide power and very high data rates, but most of those on the market have serious flaws, he has found.
His findings have already caused one manufacturer to make a public mea culpa. In his latest review, for a Surjtech 3M USB A-to-C cable, Leung found that the cable had been wired up incorrectly and was actively harmful.
He reported that he plugged the cable into his 2015 edition Pixel via a USB power delivery analyzer and connected it to an Apple 12W iPad charger. The second the connection was made it fried both the analyzer and the Pixel laptop.
The analyzer, and a second unit he tried, both died on contact with the cable and not even a firmware reinstall would get them working. As for the Pixel, both USB ports died as the current fried the embedded controller, meaning the laptop couldn't be charged or linked to another device.
"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," he wrote.
"This is a total recipe for disaster and I have 3 pieces of electronics dead to show for it – my Pixel 2015 and two USB PD analyzers. Needless to say, this cable is fundamentally dangerous. Do not buy this under any circumstances."
Leung said that he'd gotten in contact with the manufacturer to discuss the issue. As the item is no longer for sale on Amazon, it appears the company has responded. ®