Confused about the difference between USB 2.0 vs 3.0? Know which is suited for your needs by learning all about the differences of each here.
RELATED: What Is USB 3.0?
In this article:
- Distinguishing the Difference Between USB 2.0 vs 3.0
- History of the USB Drive
- USB 2.0 vs 3.0 Difference
- USB 2.0 vs 3.0 Cable
- USB 3.1
- What Is USB 3.1 Gen 1?
- What Is USB 3.1 Gen 2?
- Understanding USB Type-C Connector
USB 2.0 vs 3.0: Explaining the Difference
Distinguishing the Difference Between USB 2.0 vs 3.0
There are six main differences between the universal serial bus (USB) 2.0 vs 3.0. Not only is there a difference in size, but also a handful of others (like transfer rate and bandwidth to name a few) that distinguish the different USB versions.
History of the USB Drive
Before developers even invented USBs, computers had already utilized parallel and serial ports to transfer data. Printers, joysticks, mice, and keyboards all use individual ports.
On top of that, custom drivers and an expansion card were required to connect a device to a computer. Other types of ports couldn’t even run simultaneously.
When developers created USB ports, they designed the port to handle up to 127 devices while providing compatibility.
Developers created USBs in the ’90s to define communication protocols, which include connectors and cables, between various electronic devices (scanners, printers, and others) and computers. These soon became the standard for connecting electronics and gadgets to computers.
Gadgets like smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles are able to connect to computers through USB ports, which allows communication and charging.
In November 2008, developers released USB 3.0, eight years after developers released USB 2.0. In 2014, they released USB 3.1.
USB 2.0 vs 3.0 Difference
In terms of USB 2.0 vs 3.0 speed, USB 3.0 offers superior speed and a higher efficiency power management compared to the more common USB 2.0. Also, USB 3.0 ports are backward compatible.
But, when a USB 3.0 device is connected to a USB 2.0 port, the data transfer speeds will be limited to USB 2.0 levels.
1. Physical Differences
The USB ports for USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 also differ visually. Figure 1 illustrates the visual differences between the three types of USB ports:
- USB 2.0 has a black “block” inside the USB port.
- In contrast, USB 3.0 has a blue “block” inside the USB port.
- The more recent USB 3.1 port also differs visually in that the “block” inside the USB 3.1 port is red.
2. Data Transfer Rate
USB 2.0 transfer speed is 480 megabits per second (Mbps), while USB 3.0 transfer speed is 4,800 Mbps. This means USB 3.0 is approximately 10 times faster than USB 2.0.
More recently, USB 3.1 has also been released and has a data transfer rate of 10,000 Mbps. This is twice as fast as USB 3.0 and twenty times as fast as USB 2.0.
3. Backward Compatibility
USB 3.0 ports are completely backward compatible. This means when a USB 2.0 drive or earlier versions are connected to a USB 3.0 port, the drive will work normally.
It is important to note that a USB 3.0 drive is also compatible with a USB 2.0 port. But, a USB 3.0 drive will exhibit the same transfer rate as a USB 2.0 drive when connected to a USB 2.0 port.
In other words, a USB 3.0 drive must be connected with a USB 3.0 port to be able to achieve the high data transfer rates USB 3.0 are known for.
4. Power Usage
USB 2.0 is capable of providing up to 500 mA current, whereas USB 3.0 is capable of providing up to 900 mA current. Also, USB 3.0 is capable of delivering more USB power when the need arises and conserve power when the USB flash drive is connected but not being used.
5. Larger Bandwidth
USB 2.0 offers a one-way communication path. This means the data are both sent and received over the same pathway.
Thus, USB 2.0 can only send data or receive data at a given time but not do both.
USB 3.0 uses two separate unidirectional data paths, each with a dedicated function: one for sending data and the other for receiving data. This means USB 3.0 can simultaneously send and receive data.
RELATED: USB 2.0 Frequently Asked Questions
6. Larger Number of Wires
USB 2.0 has a total of four connector wires, while USB 3.0 has a total of 9. It is the presence of these five additional wires that increases the bandwidth of USB 3.0 by permitting two-way communications simultaneously.
The superior performance of USB 2.0 vs 3.0 has caused an increase in popularity for the USB 3.0 USB drives. Many of our clients are opting for a USB 3.0 upgrade.
In terms of price, USB 2.0 vs 3.0 differs significantly. You can buy an affordable USB 2.0 on the market, such as an 8-gigabyte (GB) USB 2.0 flash drive for less than $10.
With USB 3.0, it’s going to be more expensive, especially those that offer the fastest transfer speeds. It can reach up to $40 if you opt for those that offer said speeds.
You might want to consider how you’ll use the drive, so you would know if USB 2.0 is enough. If you’ll be using it frequently and transferring huge files, USB 3.0 might be a better choice for you since its superior speeds can cut down transfer time.
USB 2.0 vs 3.0 Cable
When it comes to cables, USB 3.0 has a faster transfer rate (4.8 Gbps) and power transfer (900 mA) than USB 2.0. It doubles the number of wires in the cable from four to eight, making power transfer a lot better than USB 2.0.
USB 3.0 also has various connectors, commonly blue, which also means USB devices that utilize different connectors may not be compatible with USB 2.0 equivalent cables. Although USB 2.0 connectors may fit into 3.0 ports, data transfer might not run at optimal performance because of the different wiring configuration of the two USB standards.
While USB 3.0 cables may still be used for USB 2.0 ports, it will run on the slower USB 2.0 speeds since the device determines transfer rates, not the cable. For best results and to maximize the features offered by the USB type, it’s best to match the USB cable with the port.
The newest version of USBs is the 3.1, which provides several major improvements compared to the USB 3.0.
- USB 3.1 can power any device.
- Its data transfer speed can reach up to 10 gigabits per second
The USB 3.1 is usually associated with the USB-C connector because it’s the connector type that can support the features of the USB 3.1 standard. It can support up to an impressive 10,000 cycles of usage.
What Is USB 3.1 Gen 1?
USB 3.1 Gen 1 is similar to USB 3.0, and in fact, the existing USB 3.0 connectors have been named USB Gen 1. Even with the change in name, the transfer speeds remained the same.
USB 3.1 Gen 1 has a power capacity up to 900 mA at 5V and speeds of up to 625 megabytes or 5 Gbps. The USB 3.1 Gen 1 connector also looks like the USB 2.0 A connector with a blue interior.
Gen 1 has more than one connector type with the slim micro-B and bulky type B, also known as the “printer.” However, these types of connectors cannot support the full power of Gen 2.
What Is USB 3.1 Gen 2?
Developers launched the USB 3.1 Gen 2 in July 2013. Unlike the Gen 1, which had only gone through a name change, several upgrades were made on the USB 3.1 Gen 2.
It has the same transfer rate as Gen 1, which is 5 Gbps, but its maximum speed can reach up to 10 Gbps.
However, only the USB type-C connector can keep up with the bandwidth and full power of the Gen 2. Aside from that, its cable length is only limited.
Devices and cables that support Gen 2 aren’t that common yet.
Understanding USB Type-C Connector
To clarify some confusion, the USB type-C connector is just a connector, not a USB standard. While its construction enables some of Gen 2’s features, the connector doesn’t determine the USB standard’s power transfer and speed.
The devices at both ends of the cable determine the power and speed capacity. The problem in buying the USB standard and connector is that most people confuse USB 3.1 with the Type-C.
If you purchase cables with Type-C connectors on both ends, it can support Gen 2’s features.
USB Type-C surpasses the older versions of connectors, which helps create a universal connector type and drops the mini and macro versions.
You can secure a strong connection with this connector with a transfer power of up to 5,000 mA at 20 V.
Download this infographic now and reference it later:
Check out this video about the difference between USB 2.0 vs 3.0:
We hope the above-mentioned details about USB 2.0 vs 3.0 help you in deciding which type to opt for yourself. If you are interested in ordering a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0, let our sales team know and they will be happy to get back to you!
Have you tried using USB 3.0? How was your experience with it? Tell us in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on January 11, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.