Complete comprehensive understanding of USB, Types of USB Ports, Types of USB Cables, comparison, cable color coding, etc:
USBs are everywhere these days. Smartphones, tablets, music players, and smartwatches, even though they all work differently and serve different purposes, all have one thing in common- USB cables.
In this article, we are going to tell you about different USB cables and which one to use when you are in a hurry.
It is not easy to decide which cable is suitable for your device, but you don’t always have to use the one that comes with it. There are multiple options available in the market.
USB is the abbreviation for Universal Serial Bus. Let us explore them in detail here.
What You Will Learn:
- What Is USB
- Types Of USB Cables
- USB Ports By Speed
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is USB
Today, Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a standard connection type for different types of devices. They simplified computer connectivity with a small and inexpensive interface.
They allow a computer to connect to various peripherals like mice, keyboards, flash drives, etc. And now they are also used for charging various devices like smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, earphones, and whatnot.
Functions Of USB
- Connect devices to a computer to plug and play.
- Transfer data between devices.
- Storing data.
- Device charging.
Where To Find the USB Ports
- Desktop: On the desktops, we often find the Universal Serial Bus ports on the front and back.
- Laptop: You will find the ports on both sides of the laptop.
- Tablet: Usually, a USB connection is located in the charging port of the Tablet.
- Smartphones: Like tablets, the Universal Serial Bus connection for smartphones is in its charging port as well.
Understanding Host, Port, and Receptor
To understand the difference between various types of USB cables, it is important to understand what is a host, a port, and a receptor.
The port is the slot where one end of the cable is connected to a device, usually the thin side. That device is called the host, from which you want to transfer the data and the device you want to transfer the data to is called the receiver.
Types Of USB Cables
There are different types of USB connectors. They come in different shapes and sizes. It is easy to recognize by looking at them.
These are called Standard-A connectors. They are flat and rectangular and are the original USB connectors. USB-A is the most commonly used connector. They support almost every Universal Serial Bus version from USB1.1 to USB3.0.
- You can find them on computers that can act as USB hosts.
- They are used in any computer-like device like video game consoles, audio systems, DVRs, DVDs, Blu-rays, etc.
- These are found at one end of various Universal Serial Bus cables that connect the host to a receiver device.
- They are also found at the end of cables hard-wired to USB devices like USB keyboards, a mouse, joystick, etc
- USB Type-A plug-ins are used for small devices that don’t need cable. These plug-ins integrate into the Universal Serial Bus device directly, like a flash drive.
The USB-A plug from any version will fit into the Type A receptacle of any version and vice versa.
These are called standard B connectors. These are square-shaped and usually have either a large square protrusion or a slight rounding at the top. Like USB-A, these are also supported in every Universal Serial Bus version. However, there is a second type of USB-B, called Powered-B that is only supported in USB 3.0.
- We often see it in large computer peripherals like scanners and printers.
- Used on floppy drives, optical drives, hard drives, and other external storage devices.
- Used on one end of USB A/B cables where Type A fits into the Type A receptacle on the host and Type B fits into the Type B receptacle device like printer, scanner, etc.
The Type B connectors in USB 1.1 and 2.0 are identical, so the Type B plug from one version will fit into the receptacle from both versions. However, USB-B 3.0 comes in a different shape and hence they don’t fit in the receptacles of previous Universal Serial Bus versions. But it allowed the previous versions with Type B 3.0 receptacles.
In simple words, Type B 1.1 and 2.0 plugs are compatible with 3.0 receptacles, but 3.0 plugs are not compatible with 1.1 and 2.0 receptacles. This is because USB Type B 3.0 has nine pins instead of the usual four pins found in versions 1.1 and 2.0. These extra pins allow faster data transfer.
USB Type C connector is small and thin, with an asymmetrical shape and oval appearance. It differs from Type A and B in more than just looks. One of the major differences is that it’s reversible. That means there is no ‘right-side up’ for this connector.
It supports USB 2.0. 3.0. 3.1, and 3.2. USB C comes with a 24-pin cable that can relay videos and data as quickly as 10 Gb/s and power up to 100 watts. So, we can use it for connecting peripherals, transferring data from one device to another, and charging high-powered devices.
Standard Type C cable comes with USB C on both ends, but there are Type C to Type A converters that can be used to charge a Type C device or transfer data over a Type-A port.
Suggested Reading => Best USB-C Hubs For Your Laptops
Type C is gradually replacing the need for Type A and B. There are many devices like smartphones and smartwatches that use Type C Universal Serial Bus for charging and connecting. Apple’s MacBook and some Chromebook versions also use USB-C connections. It is also used in headphones, instead of jacks.
USB-C is smaller than Type A or B cables and hence they will not fit into Type A or B ports. However, with the use of adapters, you can use them with both A and B USB ports.
#4) Mini USB
Mini USB A and B are the significantly smaller versions of Type A and B connectors. They are used in smaller devices for conserving space like game controllers, mobile phones, portable cameras, etc. They come in the variant of four pins and five pins and are only available at USB 1.1 and 2.0 speeds.
#5) Micro USB
Micro USBs A and B are also used for minimizing space in devices. These ports are commonly available on devices like tablets, game controllers, and smartphones. They come in two configurations, one for USB 2.0 and another for USB 3.0 and later.
#6) Lightning Cable
Lightning connector is often seen paired with Apple’s devices. It came into existence in 2012 with iPhone 5 and has been a standard way of charging and connecting them to various other devices.
It comes with a Type-A connector on one side and a thin lightning connector on the other, which is almost 80% smaller than Apple’s 30-pin connector. And just like Type C cable, it is completely reversible as well.
Along with charging the device, you can also use it for uploading and downloading videos, photos, music, movies, etc. It is also used in Apple’s earphones using a lightning-to-headphone adapter.
Comparison Table: USB Cables
|USB Type||Number of Pins||Shape||Used in|
|Type A||4||Flat and rectangular||Computers, tablets, television sets, flash drives, keyboards|
|Type B||4||Square||Printers, Scanners|
|Type C||24||Symmetrical oblong||Smartphones, headphones|
|Mini A&B||5||Advil shaped(roughly)||Digital camera, computer peripherals|
|Micro A&B||5||Rounded top and a flat bottom||Smartphones, computer peripherals, video game controllers|
|Lightning Cable||8||Chip- like flat||Apple’s devices|
USB Ports By Speed
Universal Serial Bus ports are also categorized on the basis of technical specifications and data transfer speed.
#1) USB 1.0
USB 1.0 was launched in January 1996 with limited data speed. The maximum speed it could obtain was 1.5 Mbit/s, and it could not accommodate extension cables. Power limitation and many other issues negatively affected its adaptation rate.
#2) USB 2.0
In 2001, USB 2.0 came into existence. Its design kept the design of USB 1.0 in terms of low and full speed bandwidth range. However, it could deliver a speed of 480 Mbit/s and be improved many times.
For example, Mini USB A and B were launched along with USB on-the-go and dedicated chargers. 1.5A current sped up the device charging process and made USB 2.0 extremely popular.
#3) USB 3.0
USB 3.0 hit the market in 2010-11 with many notable improvements. It offered the fastest data transfer, high power output, and lower power consumption. It also came with a maximum transfer speed of 5.0 Gbit/s.
#4) USB 3.1
In 2013, an update on USB 3.0 was released, called 3.1. It was broken down into two versions, Gen 1 and Gen 2, differentiated by speed. Gen 1 relied on the SuperSpeed specification of the original USB 3.0 with a maximum speed of 5 Gbit/s.
Gen 2 featured SuperSpeed+ which allows it to have a maximum speed of 10 Gbit/s. The speed of Gen 2 became its main selling point. In 2017, USB 3.2 was rolled out with SuperSpeed of a maximum of 20Gbit/s.
#5) USB 4
In 2019, USB 4.0 came out with Thunderbolt 3 and SuperSpeed+ with a maximum speed of 40 Gbit/s. To attain that speed, they have to use Gen 3 cables shorter than 0.8 meters. It also supports DisplayPort 2.0 used for 8K resolution. USB4 supports some, not all, Thunderbolt 3 devices and only uses a Type C connector.
It also uses the protocol tunneling process for sending PCIe, DisplayPort, and USB packets simultaneously and allocating bandwidth accordingly. So, if the 1080p video you are watching needs only 20% of the bandwidth, it will free the other 80% and you can use it to transfer files using an external SSD that can operate either over PCIe or USB Protocol.
Here is the difference table for your reference:
|USB Type||Connector Types||Maximum Data Transfer Speed||Recommended Cable length|
|USB 1.0||USB-A&B||12 Mbps||3m|
|USB 2.0||USB-A,B,C, Micro A, Micro B, Mini A, & Mini B||480 Mbps||5m|
|USB 3.0||USB-A,B,C, & Micro B||5 Gbps||3m|
|USB-A,B,C, & Micro B|
USB-A,B,C, & Micro B
|USB 4.0||USB-C||40 Gbps||0.8m|
Know Colour Coding Of Your USB Ports
Ever noticed different colors in your Universal Serial Bus ports? That’s not just to make it look pretty. There is a meaning to colors in USB Ports.
- White: These are usually the USB-A or USB-B or Micro USB-A with 1.0 specification.
- Black: Black is usually the USB 2.0 Type A, B, or Micro USB-B.
- Blue: It indicates superspeed USB 3.0 Type A or B.
- Teal: It is Type A or B USB 3.1 Gen 1.
- Red: Red is the Sleep-and-Charge USB-A 3.1 Gen2 and 3.2. Usually, it denotes an always-on port.
- Yellow: It is yet another color for Sleep-and-Charge USB-A but for specifications 2.0 or 3.0. It denotes higher power or always on the port.
- Orange: Orange is Sleep-and-Charge USB-A as well but for 3.0 specifications. It is sometimes charging only cable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q #1) What is the difference between USB-A and USB-C?
Answer: USB-A comes with a much larger physical connector as compared to Type C. Type C is smaller, a little oblong, and symmetrical. One major difference is Type C connectors are the same on both sides, so they are reversible. This means, that there is no ‘this side up’ with C-Type cables. This is not the case with Type A.
Q #2) How can I tell the difference between USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports?
Answer: The USB 2.0 connectors have either black or white color, while USB 3.0 is blue. You can easily distinguish between the ports with the colors they carry.
Q #3) Is micro USB the same as Type C?
Answer: No, they are different. As compared to Micro USB, Type C is faster and more flexible. Micro USB can only input power, while Type C can both input and output power. They can fast charge the phones at 18 Watts and laptops at a maximum of 100 watts.
Q #4) Is USB-C or USB 3.0 faster?
Answer: USB-C is created on USB 3.1 Gen2 data transfer standard that allows it to deliver data at the speed of 10Gbps, which is twice faster than USB 3.0, even first Gen USB 3.1.
Q #5) Is USB 3.0 the same as Thunderbolt?
Answer: USB-C has two different standards USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt 3 transmits at the whopping speed of 40Gbps, which is twice faster than Thunderbolt 2, four times faster as compared USB 3.1, and eight times faster than USB 3.0.
USB is everywhere, from charging mobile, and computers, to peripherals. They help us achieve a lot, from connecting peripherals to charging devices and data transfers. It is evolving, from USB 1.0 to 4.0, and the change has come a long way. They are getting faster and better.
Now that you know all about Universal Serial Bus ports and cables, you will understand which one you can use for what and how much they can deliver.