Definitive Guide to USB-C Alternate Modes

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What do I need to use USB-C Alt-Modes?

  • A smartphone with DisplayPort or HDMI Alt-Mode support, or
  • A Windows 10 or Mac PC/Laptop with Thunderbolt 3 Alt-Mode support
  • A compatible screen or docking station
  • USB-C Cable of good quality, or Optionally:
    • USB-C to DP / HDMI / VGA / DVI dongle or adapter cable
    • USB-C Hub with Video Support

Your first challenge will be to confirm that both your source hardware and sink hardware (monitor/dock) both offer compatible Alt-Modes and inputs for the purpose you require. Sometimes it can be as easy as checking your Laptop sockets for the DP or Thunderbolt logo, but more often (especially for phones) it will require you to go through your user manual. Alt-Mode support should not be assumed of any hardware, even high-end stuff.

Despite the new USB 3.2 naming conventions, manufacturers and hardware vendors are still using the USB 3.1 names in their documentation. Here are the equivalencies again so you know what’s what:

Current Name Old Name Max. Speed Socket Type
USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 20 Gbps Type-C Only
USB 3.2 Gen 2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 10 Gbps Type-C or Type-A
USB 3.2 Gen 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 / USB 3.0 5 Gbps Type-C or Type-A
USB4 Future Specification 40 Gbps Type-C Only

We’ll use Gen 1 names in this blog to match up with what you’re likely to see in user manuals and websites today. They have the same abilities whether you see the new name or the old.

Also, you can’t always expect maximum performance on all hardware, as different speeds (bandwidths) of USB-C may limit the maximum resolution available on your device – check those manuals!

Furthermore, not all USB-C ports on a device will have Alt-Mode support. A laptop with 3 USB Type-C sockets will probably only offer Alt-Mode on one of them. Identify it ahead of time so you know where to plug in your monitor, dongle or hub.

Remember that hardware manufacturers will advertise the highest performance of their USB-C Alt-Modes, but won’t state how short the cables have to be to achieve those numbers. Things like 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 and 100W Power Delivery are usually limited to 50cm cables!

Lastly, budget devices produced early-on in the commercial release of Thunderbolt 3 hardware (we’re talking laptops from 2017 here) didn’t always live up to their specifications, and likewise dongle adapters and cables produced around this time weren’t always full-featured either. Try to stay on this side of 2018 if you can – we’ve had a lot of headaches with older tech simply working as advertised.

2. After checking the cable, you need to check your phone’s settings. make sure it is in file transfer mode and NOT charging only

From Android 6.0 onwards File transfer is disabled by default when a cable is connected to the device, mainly due to malicious USB hubs which pretend to be normal charging ports, but instead copy data from your device whilst charging.

To enable File Transfer Mode

  1. Turn on your device and connect it to your computer (using a cable which supports data transfer)
  2. Unlock your device and open the notification labelled USB charging this device – you may need to swipe down from the notification bar
  3. Select Transfer Files from the menu that appears.
  4. You should be able to access your device on your computer. 3]3

Manual mode

First off, I went ahead and pushed the two fans to their max to get a reference level for the reminding of these tests. This pushes the fans to around 49-50 dB at head-level (49 dB reported by Armory Crate), which is rather noisy and means that you’ll have to use headphones to properly cover up this sort of noise.

There is, however, a noticeable impact over the temperatures, which drop by an average of 5-9 degrees on both the CPU and GPU compared to the standard Turbo profile. The impact on the actual gaming performance is once again, minor, though.

With that in mind, I wanted to somehow find a middle ground between these temperatures and the noise levels. I ended up with the following Manual fan profile (fan speed at temperatures over a certain limit):

  • CPU 50% >60C, 75% >77C, 85%> 82C, 90%> 90C;
  • GPU 50% >60C, 75% >77C, 85%> 82C, 90%> 90C.

Both CPU and GPU switch off at temperatures under 60C. These result in the fans ramping up to 47-48 dB at head-level. Of course, these are not set in stone, you can always adjust them based on your own preference. I wouldn’t go too aggressively towards the lower end, though, and focus on getting those ideal CPU/GPU temps mentioned above.

On average, this Manual profile ends up with the CPU running at between 80-90 C, and the GPU at between 73-78 C. The CPU is still a little high, but that’s only in Battlefield V and Far Cry 5, which do not properly support Dynamic Boost and hence do not shift the power away from the CPU to the GPU.

Finally, lifting up the laptop on this Manual profile help shed some extra 2-4 degrees off the components, with fresh air easier getting into the fans.

Overall, thermals are no longer an issue on this laptop on either of the two Manual modes. The fans end-up running noisier, though. As for the performance, the gains are minimal to none, and that’s because the laptop already performs very well on the Turbo profile. I am seeing a slight increase in the GPU frequencies across all the tested titles.

Most people might be afraid or overwhelmed by these Manual settings, and I feel Asus should rather tweak up the fans on the standard Turbo mode, raises them up a bit to 47-48 dB and equivalent speeds. At the same time, I’d recommend upping the Performance mode as well, as a middle-ground option with stock performance in the 43-45 dB range, and then fix the Silent profile and allow the best performance possible with fans around 39-40 dB and some fair power throttling limits, probably around 85C for the CPU and 78-80 C for the GPU. Whisper Mode can further help with limiting the temperatures at sub 60 fps.

What products offer USB-C Alternate Mode support?

We’ve collected a list of popular devices which support a USB Alternate Mode. This is a mix of DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3 Alt-Mode products. Generally Laptops are offering some level of Thunderbolt 3 functionality, while tablets, smartphones and hubs support DisplayPort Alt-Mode. Always check the product specs and/or manual to know for sure what your device is capable of connecting to.

This list is not complete, but we hope to update it from time to time as more products are released.

Last Updated: April 2020

Devices with USB-C Alt-Mode:

  • Acer Aspire Switch
  • Acer Predator 15 / 17 / 17X
  • Acer Spin 7
  • Alienware 13 / 15 / 17
  • Apple Macbook / Pro 2016
  • Apple Macbook / Pro 2017
  • Apple Macbook / Pro 2018
  • Apple MacBook / Pro 2019
  • Apple MacBook Air 2018
  • Apple iPad Pro 2018
  • ASUS ROG G5 / G7 / GX /Strix
  • ASUS Transformer 3 Pro
  • Dell Latitude 12 / 13 /15
  • Dell Latitude 7280 / 7390
  • Dell XPS 12 / 13 / 15
  • Gigabyte Aorus X5 / X7
  • Gigabyte BRIX / S
  • Google Chromebook Flip C302
  • Google Chromebook Pixel
  • Google Chromebook R13
  • Google Pixelbook 2
  • HP Elite X2
  • HP EliteBook G4 / G2 / Folio
  • HP Envy 13
  • HP Omen X
  • HP Spectre X2 / 13
  • HP Zbook 15 /17 / Studio
  • HTC 10 / EVO
  • Huawei Mate 10 / 20 / 30
  • Huawei Mate 10 Pro
  • Huawei MateBook / X
  • Huawei P20 / Pro
  • Huawei P30
  • Intel NUC
  • Lenovo Legion Y720
  • Lenovo Thinkpad P 50 / 70
  • Lenovo ThinkPad 470 / 470S / 570
  • Lenovo Thinkpad X270
  • Lenovo Yoga 370 / 900 / 910 / X1
  • LG G5 / G6 / G7
  • LG Q8
  • LG V20
  • LG V30 / V30+ / V30S
  • Microsoft Lumia 950 / XL
  • Nokia 10 Max
  • OnePlus 5 / 6
  • Oppo Find X
  • Razer Blade / Stealth / Pro
  • Razer Phone / 2
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 / S10+
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 / Plus
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 / Plus
  • Samsung Note 8 / 9 / 10
  • Samsung Notebook Odyssey
  • Surface Book 2
  • Surface Go
  • Surface Laptop 3
  • Surface Pro 7
  • Surface Pro X
  • XiaoMi Air / Pro
  • ZTE Max XL / Blade Max 3

Monitors with USB-C Input:

  • Acer H277HU
  • Acer Predator CG7
  • Acer XR382CQK
  • Asus ProArt PA32UC
  • BenQ DesignVue PD3220U
  • BenQ EW3270U
  • BenQ PV3200PT
  • Dell U3818DW UltraSharp
  • HP Envy 27
  • HP Z38c
  • Lenovo L27M-28
  • LG 27MD5KA
  • LG 27UD88-W
  • LG 34UM69G-B
  • LG UltraFine 24MD4KL-B
  • MSI Prestige PS341WU
  • Samsung LC34H892
  • Samsung S27H850QFE
  • ViewSonic ColorPro VP2771

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