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Dec '21

PD 3.1 Protocol: Everything You Need to Know

USB (Universal Serial Bus) has evolved from a data interface with limited power capability to a primary power provider. Now there are tons of devices that charge over USB ports contained in cars, displays, docking stations, workstations, laptops, and even wall outputs. 

For many small devices such as portable speakers, tablets, cellphones, and cameras, USB has become a prevalent power socket. Consumers around the world use USB not only to charge or power their devices but also to use it in terms of data. 

What is USB PD Protocol?

USB PD (Power Delivery) is a specification or industry standard for managing high power and allows users to charge their devices quickly. It provides more flexible data transfer and power delivery by enabling maximum USB functionality over a single cable. 

PD 3.1 Protocol

Important notes about the above infographics:

The max value of the green bar will be 240-watts instead of 100-watts. 

You can also add icons of “e-scooter”, “laser printer”, and 4K displays above 240-watts.

You can use “USB PD 3.1 Protocol” instead of just “USB power Delivery”.


The USB PD 3.1, that’s announced recently, is the latest update that can deliver a staggering power up to 240 watts using USB Type-C. It uses intelligent device negotiation of 5A with variable voltage up to 48V at 240W. 

It’s important to note that you won’t be able to use any old USB-C cable or charger to send 240-watt of power. That’s because the new specification bumps up the voltage to 48 volts and the current rating remains the same to 5 amps. 

If you remember from high-school physical that volt times amps equal watts, so:

48 volts x 5 amps = 240 watts

Before this major update, the maximum power delivery of USB PD was limited to only 100 watts with 20V and 5A. According to the USB IF (Implementers Forum), the cables, as well as charges with 240-watt capability, will be officially called EPR (Extended Power Range).

The USB IF has also updated the Type-C specifications in order to define the requirements for 240-watt cable requirements. The new Type-C 2.1 cables will come with the capability to handle the latest USB PD 3.1 protocol. 

Why Is PD 3.1 Protocol Important?

There are many devices that require more power than the older version of the USB PD protocol offers (100-watts). While a 100-watt power supply is way more than any smartphone would need, the 100-watt limit is not enough for the latest gaming laptops, displays, docking stations, mobile workstations, and so on. 

USB Type-C can even be used to charge and power e-bikes, power garden tools, and laser printers, but that 100-watt capability again isn’t enough for these purposes. 

But now the USB-C with 240-watt power upgrade will allow you to plug in these high-power demanding devices including 4K monitors and LED TVs. You might also be able to go back to your junk drawer to toll plenty of proprietary cables and chargers. 

Which Devices Support PD 3.1 Protocol with EPR?

Interestingly, the PD 3.1 Protocol is already available on some devices including MacBook Pro 14 and 16. It also means that the new charging brick of Apple MacBook Pro laptops will be cross-compatible with all the other devices that support PD 3.1 Protocol.

It’s important to note that USB Implementers Forum also stated that all the new cables and chargers with PD 3.1 capability must also bear specific icons for the convenience of end-users. It’ll allow customers to visually confirm that they’re buying cables with 240-watt support. 


This upgrade is good news for countless end-users as it can eliminate the hassle of finding the right charging tip for different devices. After all, having one universal standard to charge and power all your devices is a lot easier than managing a bunch of cables and chargers. 

PD 3.1 Protocol Features

As mentioned, the new USB PD 3.1 protocol offers increased power levels up to 240-watt. Other than that, it also flaunts the following features:

  • The new 48-volt, 36-volt, and 28-volt fixed values enable 240-watt, 180-watt, and 140-watt power levels respectively. 

  • The new specification allows new cables and chargers to have adjustable voltage supply mode. Resultantly, you can enjoy intermediate voltages from 15-volts to 48-volts.

  • The power direction will no longer be fixed to allow products (peripheral or host) to provide power. 

  • The new specification also optimizes the power management on different peripherals. It means that every device can take the power it actually needs. 

  • It enables flexible and intelligent power management at the system level through optional hub communication with computers.

It allows low-power devices such as headsets to get the power they actually need. 

Applications of PD 3.1 Protocol

  • All the devices that require 240-watt or lower power will benefit from the PD 3.1 protocol. These devices include large displays, docking stations, workstations, desktops, gaming PCs, larger notebooks, cameras, and even e-scooters. 

  • It’ll eliminate the need for extra power bricks for high-power use-cases including printers and USB-powered HDDs (Hard Disk Drives).

  • A monitor that usually needs power from a wall outlet will be able to run on USB Type-C cables with 3.1 PD while the laptop display still runs. 

  • USB chargers or power brinks will be able to run on USB ports with 3.1 PD installed on laptops. 

  • Power bricks and laptop USB ports will deliver high power to devices that run on a battery. 

  • The charging rate will increase for all battery-powered devices.

It’s important to note that PD 3.1 is specially designed to work with the current standard. It means that all the products with new specifications will offer backward compatibility. You will be able to run older cables with new 3.1 PD ports on lower power levels and vice versa.  

Future of PD 3.1 Protocol

The USB IF plans to eliminate the 5A/20V cables eventually.

The new specification aims to move the industry to have ERP-capable products. 

All the new products with PD 3.1 protocol specifications will be visually identifiable to allow users to buy 240-watt cables and chargers conveniently. 

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