All Electronical devices have their own uses and therefore, each functions in its own unique way. However, what is the one thing, in one form or the other, that all these devices have in common?

USB cable. Yes it is.

Most computers and electronic devices have some form of USB connection, and many devices also come packaged with a USB cable. What are all these different cables for, and why does it matter which one you use? But — as you may have realized with utter disappointment when those bulk USB cables you bought failed to fit the gadget you wanted to use — not all USB cables are the same. It can be somewhat complicated to wrap your head around all this. Here’s everything you need to know about the USB standard.

USB CABLES

USB (Universal Serial Bus) cables are everywhere these days. Most of us use them on a daily basis for charging our smartphones, tablets, and cameras, connecting them with computers, and so on. However, USB cables came in different shapes and sizes despite the fact a lot of them do the same things. In this short and handy guide, we’ll take a look at all the different types of USB cables and give you some examples where you might find them in use.

to fit the gadget you wanted to use — not all USB cables are the same. It can be somewhat complicated to wrap your head around all this. Here’s everything you need to know about the USB standard.

Based on Physical Design

USB Type A

The most popular type of USB standard is Type A, which you can see at one end (the end that goes inside the slot of the host) of almost every USB cable nowadays. You will most likely to find Type-A ports in host devices like desktop computers, gaming consoles and media players.

USB Type A connectors are extremely common and can be found on one end of almost every USB cable these days. They are used to connect various devices such as smartphones, cameras, keyboards, and so forth to computers and can also plug into wall chargers used for charging our gadgets.

USB Type B

Type-B connectors are at the other end of a typical USB cable that plugs into a peripheral device, such as a smartphone, a printer or a hard drive. These cables are not quite as common and versatile as the others in this list, as they are primarily used to connect printers and scanners to computers. They have a square shape with beveled exterior corners on the top ends. Although they are still used today, USB Type-B connectors are being slowly phased out.

Mini USB

A smaller connector type that was standard for mobile devices before micro-USB. While not as common today, you’ll still see these on some cameras, the PlayStation 3 controller, MP3 players, and similar.

Micro USB

The current standard (though slowly declining in popularity) for mobile and portable devices, which is even smaller than mini-USB. While you’ll still find micro-USB on all sorts of smartphones, tablets, USB battery packs, and game controllers, some have moved onto USB-C.

USB Type C

The newest USB standard, this is a reversible cable that promises higher transfer rates and more power than previous USB types. It’s also capable of juggling multiple functions. You’ll see it on many new laptops and smartphones, including the MacBook, Pixel phones, and Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. We discuss USB-C more below.

This is the latest USB port that’s found on the newer smartphones and other mobile devices and offers faster data transfer rates than previous USB versions. The biggest advantage of USB-C is that, unlike its predecessor, it’s reversible and can be plugged in either up or down. It has become the new standard for mobile devices. However, some manufacturers are still releasing new handsets with older micro-USB ports, particularly in the affordable segments.

Type-C supports USB 3.1 and offers a top speed of 10 Gbps for transferring data. It also boasts a much higher power output of up to 20 Volts (100 W) and 5 Amperes.

Lightning

This isn’t a true USB standard, but is Apple’s proprietary connector for the iPhone, iPad, AirPods, and more. It’s a similar size to USB-C and comes standard on Apple devices released since September 2012. Older Apple devices use the much larger 30-pin proprietary connector. For more on cables, adapters, and ports for Apple devices.

Addition.

In most cases, you’ll find USB cables have one standard type-A end and one type-B end of some sort. The type-A end powers the device, while the type-B end receives power. This is to prevent potential damage that would be caused by connecting two computers via USB-A, for example.

The Mini and Micro connectors are considered smaller forms of type-B, even though “type-B” is usually not in their name.

In general, the cables you’ll use the most, and therefore need to replace, are micro-USB, USB-C, and Lightning.

Based on Speed

USB connection types are only half of the story, as USB has also gone through multiple standards of varying data transfer speeds. The cable’s connector doesn’t necessarily mean it uses a certain standard.

The three main iterations of USB’s speed.

USB 1.x

USB 1.x was the original standard, and is ancient by modern benchmarks. You’re very unlikely to find devices using this standard nowadays.

USB 2.0

USB 2.0 introduced many modern USB norms, including support for Mini and Micro cables, USB OTG (see below), and more. It’s the slowest speed of USB still used today. You’ll find it used on cheap flash drives, devices like mice and keyboards, and similar. Most computers also include a few USB 2.0 ports.

USB 3.x

USB 3.x is the current standard for USB speeds. It’s much faster than USB 2.0, and thus recommended for devices like external hard drives. You can typically identify a USB 3.x port or connector by its blue coloring. Many USB 3.0 ports also have an SS symbol (which stands for Super Speed). Most new computers have at least one USB 3 port, and good-quality flash drives use this standard.

Addition.

You can use a USB 2.0 device in a USB 3 port, or a USB 3 device in a USB 2.0 port, but neither setup provides the extra speed benefit.

The below chart shows what connector types are compatible with which standards. Notice that micro-USB devices that support USB 3.x have a different plug. You’ll frequently see this on external hard drives.

Conclusion

It’s almost a certainty that in the coming years, every electronic device will support Type-C. Think how easy and convenient dealing with electronic devices will become; all you will need is a single Type-C cable, allowing you to finally eliminate that tangled mess of cables jammed in your desk drawer. USB Cable freedom, at last!

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