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A Simple Guide to USB.

You’ll get everything you need to know about USB after reading this article. We will go over the connection types, speed, power, and practical application.

There are several different types of USB ports all for use with varying devices. The most universally known is the standard USB 2.0 Type A connector. It is used for practically every peripheral, keyboard, mouse, desktop speaker, headphones, flash drives, headsets, and wireless adapters that plug directly into your computer. For the longest time, this has been the most widely used connection type and will most likely retain that title for a couple more years at least. However, it’s even more likely now that you’ve seen the 3.0 and 3.1 enhanced speed USB version which is the exact same thing, except it is blue and light blue instead of white or black. All of these versions are backwards compatible and can be used so long as it has a Type A connector.

At the opposite end of the cable is usually going to be the Type B connector. This plugs directly into the other device which is usually a printer, phone, or external hard-drive. Because these devices are largely differing in size, there are a few different Type B connectors. The standard Type B is nearly square and almost always connects into a desktop printer or scanner.

The Type B Mini is much smaller and has a small bend inwards on both sides making it look like a tiny trapezoid. These usually connect into older portable devices like digital cameras and old phones. This design is nearly obsolete.

Type B Micro is smaller still and is notably familiar being currently used in the majority of android smartphones and tablets. This connection type is currently being replaced by USB Type C and will eventually be obsolete.

The last connection in Type B is another micro subset, but used for USB version 3.0. Because of the additional speed this cable can transfer, it looks just like a Type B micro connector, but has an extension to its side. Almost always this will connect a portable hard-drive to a computer and will be USB 3.0 or 3.1 (blue).


USB Type C is the newest interface and has the capability of being at either end of the cable, both at the device and the host end. This makes the cable reversible and Type C also has no connector orientation, so you can plug it in either up or down. It is a very small and very flat rectangle-like connector with rounded edges. It’s similar to a Type B micro, but is slightly bigger and more rounded edges. This type has been out for a couple of years now and has been widely used in new smartphones, tablets, and storage devices. Type C also has bi-directional power, so even a peripheral device could charge a host device. This means eventually, there will be limited need for proprietary power adapters (for laptops especially) and you can have a single USB Type C cable for all of your power/data needs. Quite robust and remarkable.


USB Versions

USB 1.1: This version was released in 1998, and is the first to enter the marketplace. The original version never hit the market due to its instability. USB 1.1 has a top speed of 12Mbps, but usually largely underperforms. It’s almost entirely obsolete.

USB 2.0: Released in 2000, this is the most commonly known version and actually has two modes. Full-speed mode will deliver 12Mbps, like 1.1 but will consistently transfer at that speed, and it also has high-speed mode which can bring it up to 480 MBps. It can send a power output of 5V, 1.8A and is backwards compatible with the original version.

USB 3.0: This came out in 2008, but took a couple of years to gain some traction. Also known as “SuperSpeed”, it is labeled with an “SS”, has a top speed of 5GBps, and blue at the terminals. Version 3.0 delivers the same power output as 2.0, 5V and 1.8A. Some refer to this version as 3.1, Generation1.

USB 3.1: Or “Generation 2”, was released in late 2013, but again, taking a few years to gain traction and enter the marketplace with devices that support it. Most of its applied devices entered the market just over a year ago, even though version 3.2 has just recently been “announced.” The majority of version 3.1 and the future version 3.2 has and will have a Type C connection. Version 3.1 is ALSO called “SuperSpeed +” and has transfer speeds of 10 GBps. This version has the capability to draw in 20V and push out up to 100W of power. When most laptops require around 60 watts of power to charge, USB 3.1 is easily able to be used as a charging cable.

With an easy, reversible, power-deliverable, no-orientation USB Type C connector and the incredibly fast USB 3.1 data transfer speed with high power output capability, we can actually use just one USB cable to charge and transfer data at the same time.

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