Published: Wed, July 10, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Raspberry Pi admits to faulty USB-C design on the Pi 4

Raspberry Pi admits to faulty USB-C design on the Pi 4

The Raspberry Pi Foundation released a schematic of the board which reveals that it has a missing CC resistor which makes sophisticated chargers like Macbook's type-C charger non-compatible with the board.

In theory, all USB-C cables are created equal, but we all know it's not quite that simple; the rollout of the standard has been beset by quirks and confusion, and it looks like the Pi 4 has fallen foul. The Raspberry Pi 4 launched recently, moving from micro USB to USB-C for power.

E-marking is a technique which gives a cable a digital signature based on what the cable is going to do. But every Raspberry Pi model 4 B available for sale right now has the issue, so if you're trying to get set up and aren't getting any power, try using a different cable.

The bad news is that there's not a lot the team can do about this until the next hardware revision - the quirk is built into the hardware.

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The Raspberry Pi foundation has confirmed to TechRepublic that this flaw will be fixed in a future board revision but no fixed date has been provided for it.

Benson Leung, a Google Chrome OS engineer, who's been waging a campaign on shoddy USB-C cables says Raspberry Pi engineers made a "common USB-C hardware design mistake" that makes even compliant USB-C chargers deliver zero volts instead of the 5V needed by the Pi 4. It features a powerful 1.5 GHz quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU, up to 4GB of RAM, support for up to 4K resolutions, Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit Ethernet, 2x USB 2 and 2x USB 3 ports, 2x micro-HDMI ports, and a USB-C power supply. In the meantime, though, you'll have to be choosier about powering the Pi.

The USB-C specification defines two pins called CC1 and CC2 for connecting to the power sink in a specific way. But there's a problem: The USB-C charging doesn't work with some USB-C chargers. "The Raspberry Pi 4 is actually a pretty wonderful little machine", said Offensive Security.

Given that USB-C is a complicated connector, some cables are electronically marked, which means that they have an integrated chip to support a wide range of devices. USB-C issues aren't an unheard-of problem, as the Nintendo Switch also packs a non-standard USB-C port that won't work with all cables, and early phones and laptops equipped with USB-C charging could be fried by rogue cables. Raspberry Pi 4 owners will need to use non-e-marked USB-C cables. As a result, the cable doesn't supply power, and your Raspberry Pi won't start up.

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