Terrible USB Type-C cable fries engineer's Chromebook Pixel

By Scorpus
Feb 4, 2016
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  1. Google engineer Benson Leung has been using his spare time to test USB Type-C cables, and has recently found what could be the worst of them all. As reported by Ars Technica, the 3M USB A-to-C cable from Surjtech fried Leung's Chromebook Pixel, along with two USB power delivery analyzers, when used normally.

    As soon as Leung plugged in the USB cable to his Twinkie USB PD analyzer, it fried the Vbus line, causing permanent damage that couldn't be fixed via any firmware resets or reflashes. When plugged into his Chromebook Pixel, it fried both USB Type-C ports, causing neither to function as a charge or host device.

    But it gets even worse. An embedded controller in the Chromebook Pixel was also fried by this Type-C cable, preventing the device from booting as Chrome OS' Verified Boot couldn't verify the controller. The Pixel currently only boots into recovery mode.

    Upon closer inspection, Leung discovered that the Surjtech cable was "completely miswired". Whoever designed the cable had wired the Vbus pin on one end to the GND pin on the other. On top of that, a 10 kΩ pull-down resistor was used instead of the required 56 kΩ pull-up resistor, and SuperSpeed wires were completely missing, preventing this cable from functioning at its advertised USB 3.1 speeds.

    Beung stated in his review that he would be contacting Surjtech directly to report this "fundamentally dangerous" cable, which is designed incorrectly in practically every way possible. This is just another warning to make sure you're buying reputable USB Type-C cables before you use them with any sort of expensive technology.

    Permalink to story.

  2. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 853   +352

    Sounds like the same group that made the OnePlus Usb-C cable.
    It had the same pull up resistor problem, allowing way to much current.
  3. RustyTech

    RustyTech TS Guru Posts: 814   +382

    Wow, I wouldn't have even thought a cable could do something like this all by itself.
  4. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,136   +480

    They are trying to make the USB C the all in one cable including power video data and etc.
    Reehahs likes this.
  5. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,106   +1,376

    So he bought a USB-X type, aka haywire :)
  6. yRaz

    yRaz TS Evangelist Posts: 1,826   +877

    This is what happens when all our electronics are made by Chinese slave labor. The could have mixed up the reals on the pick and place machine and didn't give a damn to check because they work 18 hour days for pennies
  7. BadThad

    BadThad TS Enthusiast Posts: 58   +26

    HAHAHA...look at their name...."Surgetech"!
    seeprime likes this.
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 9,150   +597

    Lesson learned: stick with the OEM cables and avoid 3rd party. There was a similar issue with 3rd party chargers destroying devices.
  9. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 6,335   +1,937

    Have you ever tried bridging +/- wires then plugging them into a power source? An incorrect cable can cause a device to explode in your face, taking you out, permanently, thus all the unique shapes of different types of connectors.
    seeprime likes this.
  10. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,408   +464

    Or stick with reputable brands and not try to save a buck or two by buying the generic brand.
  11. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    I predicted this as soon as I read about the introduction of 100W power on USB. Think about why a GPU PCIe power connector requires 8 heavy duty pins for such power delivery. 100W's on USB is a bad idea.

    Yep and 100W's will give it the power to burn.
  12. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,498   +673

    Back in the early days of Apple, the first 800K drive had a similar issue, just differently applied. In that case, the card used to drive the device would accept the same power connector as the old 5.25 floppy drive so the user could accidentally hook the drive up to the old cord and viola! Fried drive. Steve, the Woz was attending Applevention in Cincinnati and had brought about a dozen of these drives as "gifts" from Apple which were given away as door prizes (day 1). On day 2 all were returned, cooked, and poor Woz suffered significant embarrassment but, he took command and had new devices shipped with a significant warning label to prevent repete's. Sounds like a few more warnings need to go out!
    alabama man and dms96960 like this.
  13. MikeAcker

    MikeAcker TS Enthusiast Posts: 30

    Attempting to make the connectors reversible was stupid to begin with: all that was needed was to better mark the top of the connector so you didn't need to try it both ways
  14. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,408   +464

    You don't seem to work in IT.
  15. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 11,457   +1,759

    Ironically, (in a morbid and tragic sense), this debacle offers Sujitech the potential for some great ad copy...:eek:

    "Now with new high energy Surgitech cables, you can explore all the fireworks your brand new laptop has to offer"!

    Last edited: Feb 6, 2016
    cartera and cliffordcooley like this.
  16. Camikazi

    Camikazi TS Maniac Posts: 797   +217

    On any well made USB cable the side that has the USB symbol is the top, the bottoms generally have no marks and most are embossed (the tops I mean) so you can feel it.
  17. Sharif

    Sharif TS Member Posts: 25

    Same here,though I am really looking forward to USB type C being the new standard

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