USB-C power all the things! (Almost)

Over the past few years I’ve attempted to power as many things via USB-C as possible to simplify things. Everything: same battery, same connection. I work mostly on location and battery powered everything is a huge plus for me.

TLDR: USB-C PD trigger cables can change how your power things on set and make life easy or potentially save your butt.

USB-C Power

For those unaware the USB-C connection brought along Power Delivery (PD). USB-C PD offers various standards that can output as much as 20V/5A or 100W depending on the hardware configuration. This has tremendous potential for powering various things via USB-C. You can read about how the various way to power laptops and other devices in a past post here.

With USB-C, a device’s power needs are negotiated at both ends. Device A states “I need 12V/3A or 60W” Device B says ok “I’ve got that here you go” That’s an over simplification, but you get the point. If you want to get into the weeds here you go. Basically, if you can have your dumb device (non-USB-C PD) talk to a USB-C power source you can make use of the power offered. This is where PD trigger/decoy cables come into play.

PD Trigger Cables

I’ve known about PD trigger cables for awhile but failed to put 2+2 together. I was often wanting the opposite of what they do. I wanted to use generic DC sources that I already had to power my Type-C devices (Macbooks mostly). Recently, I realized their usefulness. PD trigger cables are available commercially as 5V, 9V12V15V, 18V, 20V. There are programable PD trigger PCBs or single voltage PCBs. You can search for “ZY12PDN” on ebay, Amazon, Aliexpress and find them in various quantities with and without terminals as well as the cables. The cables tend to come with the ubiquitous 5.5mm x 2.1mm DC barrel but can easily be swapped for another connection like 2-pin, D-TAPAnderson PowerPole or other barrel jacks. Here is a great video showing how to program the ZY12PDN to your desired voltage. If you are into DIY, the single voltage and programable boards can be easily made into a custom cable or enclosure with a little soldering and heat shrink or epoxy to encase the PCB.


So, what can you power with these?


One thing to note is that when using USB-C power banks you have to know the output(s) supported. Some will have USB-C yet only support 5V output and no PD. Many offer up to 60W via various combinations (20V/3A, 15V/4A, 12V/5A and so forth). You might already have full protocol or 100W PD output USB-C power banks (Like Hyperjuice and Zendure) so it would not be a concern with those. You can also leverage these cables to power devices with a USB-C wall charger which could help save space on power strips if you have a multiport charger or save your butt if your forgot/lost a DC power supply.

Obviously, this isn’t for everyone but, it could be a very useful tool to have in your kit. I now keep a couple 9V and 12V PD trigger cables with my Hollyland kit and my WiFi kit (100% battery powered). I just wish monitor makers like EIZO, NEC, Dell and BenQ offered a DC input on their monitors!

Im excited for the future possibilities with PD 3.1 EPR that supports up to 48VDC and 240W

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