The arrival of the Huawei P9 signalled for me a new USB era. As I reported in my review, the phone uses the upcoming USB C standard. This isn’t just a new physical configuration, allowing the plug to be inserted either way round into the socket. The standard is also able to carry currents as high as 3 amps, nearly twice the 1.8 amps that’s the official maximum for the ten-year-old microUSB standard it replaces.
But the microUSB isn’t going to vanish overnight. I thought this transition time might be a good opportunity to look at some of the old and new cables available on the market.
I HADN’T HEARD OF THE CHINESE COMPANY BLITZWOLF before I started researching cables for this review. What drew me to them was the discovery of an intriguing microUSB cable that seems to solve at least part of the problem that has plagued the USB connector since its very inception back in the mid-90s. Like the new USB C plug, it’s reversible. And I mean into any standard microUSB socket.
This remarkable innovation doesn’t seem to be unique to BlitzWolf. But its implementation of the idea in a very robustly constructed 1 metre braided cable is clearly worth a review here. A colleague of mine, who’s normally deeply cynical about what he likes to call “the gimmicks” I write about, was impressed enough to pay the BlitzWolf cable the compliment of taking it seriously.
He was delighted to discover too that the other end of the cable, the familiar “standard” USB connector officially known as “Type A” is also reversible. “Think of all the time people have wasted in the twenty years since USB was invented trying to find the right way round to plug these things in,” he said.
I reminded him that according to the official USB specification the required USB icon has to be embossed on the “topside” of the USB plug, to provide, in the words of the specification, “…easy user recognition… during the mating process.” (Sic)
My colleague pointed out, correctly, that not a lot of people know about this mandatory logo and its purpose. Among them, in my experience, several cable manufacturers.
My colleague now wants one of these BlitzWolf double-sided cables. But I’m not giving him mine.
BlitzWolf Braided Reversible USB Type-C Cable
BlitzWolf was also kind enough to send me samples of its 1 metre and 2 metre conventional USB Type C cables. These are Type A plug to Type C plug cables using the same rugged braided construction as the double-sided microUSB cable.
I was sorry to find that the word “reversible” in the title refers only to the standard design of the Type C end; the innovative double-sided Type A end of the microUSB cable isn’t used here. It does, however, carry the mandatory USB logo in the correct place, although it’s not embossed.
USB Type C is the coming standard, offering a much more flexible connection protocol that seems likely even to replace the familiar 3.5mm audio socket on our mobiles. Its immediate practical advantage is that—like Apple’s Lightning connector—it obviates fumbling while you try to work out the orientation. If this appeals, you needn’t wait to upgrade your phone. The BlitzWolf double-sided microUSB cable will set you back less than three quid.
All the BlitzWolf cables use 24/30 AWG (American Wire Gauge) cores and carry data as well as power. The USB Type C cable handles 5/9/12 volt charging to a maximum current of 2.4 amps. The microUSB cable has identical specs, but with the maximum current limited to 2.1 amps.
It’s clear that BlitzWolf is going all out to stamp its new brand name on the market: there’s an 18 month guarantee behind all the cables, and the company is building a solid user community around its Web site.
These products sell on Amazon, as you’d expect, but BlitzWolf’s Rao, who sent me the cables, has recommended me to a Chinese vending site, BangGood, that’s new to me.