Differences between USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB-C

The challenge of connecting an increasingly diverse range of peripheral devices to personal computers of different architectures and relying on different operating systems is a complex one. Multiple generations of USB (Universal Serial Bus) cables released since 1996 whose standards are maintained by the USB Implementers Forum and the Intel-Apple designed Thunderbolt cables have emerged as the two dominant hardware interface standards. The more widely-adopted USB standard has evolved 3 generations of USB specifications; 1) USD 1.x, 2) USB 2.0 and 3) USB 3.0 and its multiple iterations.


Three generations, same design

All the three generations of the USB cables have the same USB Type-A design on one end, easily recognizable with its flat rectangular shape for the host computer and a multiple Type-B connectors at the other end for the printer or other peripheral device. In other words, they use the same physical ports, a micro/mini-B that goes to cameras and a USB Type-A that goes to computers. So how then are the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 different if they use the same Type-A design? 


USB 3.0-Faster than USB 2.0

The difference lies in the data transfer speed that the USB cable version can support. USB 2.0, released in April 2000, can only support a speed maximum of 480 Mbps in the High-Speed Mode. The Full-Speed mode is faster at 12 Mbps. Compare this to the massive improvement of the USB 3.0 launched in 2008, capable of transferring 5 Gbps in its SuperSpeed mode and the 3.1 released in 2013 transferring a whopping 10 Gbit/s in SuperSpeed USB mode.  


USB-C, one size fits all

Many devices that support the USB 3.1 are also using the USB-C a slimmer, yet faster connector. Released in 2014, USB-C’s slim architecture yet higher data transfer speed won over rival Thunderbird’s designers who decided to adopt it as well. The port measures 8.4 by 2.6 mm and has quickly become the connector of choice for most flagship smartphone brands. Both ends of the cable are the same and can be plugged using either side. USB-C cables can also be plugged using either the side above or below, getting rid of the irritant of not being able to plug a USB cable without having the pin side in alignment with the port. The USB 3.1’s power output of 100 watts (20 volts) means that laptops that require just 60 watts can easily be charged the way iPhones are today using one, slim port.


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