There are a number of different USB types with their ports, connectors, and transfer speed. Here’s the lowdown on each one.
In this article:
- Where Can You Connect the Different USB Types?
- Which Connector Types Will You Need?
- What is USB OTG and How do You Use It?
- What are the Different USB Transfer Speeds?
- Who Sets the Standards for USBs?
- When Should You Buy a New USB Cable?
- How Do I Choose the Right USB Cable?
- Why Should You Buy the Right USB Cable?
USB Types and Cables 101
USB Definition: The Universal Serial Bus, or USB for short, was invented to replace the numerous types of connectors in an effort to simplify the process of installing any hardware to the computer.
Where Can You Connect the Different USB Types?
Almost all hardware today, such as printers, hard drives, and external disc readers connect to a computer via a USB port. Even though USB technology was invented to simplify the installation of devices, there are also a number of different USB connectors available for other purposes:
- Lightning: This type of connector isn’t a true standard but it’s a unique standard USB connector for Apple and most of its devices, especially the newer ones. It has an almost similar size to the USB type C.
- Mini-USB: This was a small type of connector that was the original standard before the micro-USB was invented. It’s no longer as commonly used for mobile phones today, but it’s still used to connect PlayStation 3 controllers, some MP3 players, cameras, and rechargeable speakers.
- Micro-USB: This is the current standard USB connector for portable gadgets, mobile phones, USB battery packs, and other game controllers. It’s smaller than the mini-USB.
- Type A: This type of USB connector is flat with a rectangular surface, and a common standard on almost all USB cables. You can find the port for this USB connector on computers, TVs, and game consoles.
- Type B: This other type of USB connector has an almost completely square shape, and is commonly the connector for powered devices like printers, with the other end being a type A connector. The latter sends power to the device while the former receives the power.
- Type C: The standard USB connector is moving on from micro-USB to Type C’s because it has a faster transfer rate and more powerful. This reversible cable also has the ability to juggle multiple functions that’s why you’ll often see it in new models of laptops, smartphones, and some game controllers like the Nintendo Switch.
Which Connector Types Will You Need?
There’s a lot more to cover about the USB-C because it can do more than just transfer date. It can also act as a charger connector by powering up devices as power-hungry as a monitor.
Unfortunately, because the technology is relatively new, most devices are compatible with USB-A connectors. Most USB-C cables will have a type C connector on both ends, but you can always by a USB-C to USB-A adapters.
To answer this question, the types of connectors you’ll need vary depending on what devices you’ll use them for:
- Laptops and PCs: For the time being, it’s better to stick to USB cables with a standard type-A end because it’s compatible with most laptops and almost all PCs.
- Smartphones: You’ll mostly be needing lightning, USB-C, and micro-USB.
What is USB OTG and How do You Use It?
The micro-USB is essential for anyone who has an Android phone. Their USB port is also useful for using OTG cables which lets you regularly access files on a USB flash drive without a laptop or computer.
Instead of transferring data from a drive to your laptop and then connecting your mobile phone, you can directly transfer the file to your Android phone using an OTG cable.
Fortunately, there are new USB OTG cables that are compatible with USB-C ports, but most Apple devices don’t have the software to read the files on a USB flash drive.
What are the Different USB Transfer Speeds?
Apart from knowing the different USB types of connector and ports, you should also know the different data transfer speeds of these ports and connector. Some connector types are limited to older transfer speeds while new ones can speed up data transfer.
Take a look at the different USB connectors, their own data transfer speeds, and which cables and devices you’ll most commonly find them:
- USB 1.0: This was the first standard connector in the 1990s, and it was able to transfer data at a rate from 187.5kB/s to 1.5MB/s. You can still find this standard on some devices today.
- USB 2.0: This is currently what most type-A connectors come with, and they have an average transfer rate of 60MB/s. This is common among micro and mini cables, USB OTG cables, and computer ports.
- USB 3.0: These types of connectors can transfer data at a super speed of 625MB/s. Newer models of computers, laptops, USB flash drives and external hard drives have USB 3.0 or higher.
- USB 3.1 and 3.2: Being the most recently released connector types, these can transfer large files at a data transfer rate of 1.25GB/s to 2.5GB/s.
Even if you have a USB 2.0 device or cable, you can still use it in a USB 3.0 port but its data transfer rate will only match the USB 2.0 speed.
Any connectors that are 3.0 or higher can be identified by the blue coloring along the port or connector. Some USB 3.0 ports also have an SS symbol on it which means “Super Speed.”
Who Sets the Standards for USBs?
The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) is a non-profit organization that promotes and supports the use of USBs in devices. They also set the standards for USB ports, connectors, and cables to prevent any damage to the devices.
The organization also certifies legitimate sellers by officiating them with a vendor license. This is what can guide buyers to ensure they’re purchasing USB cables and connectors that are compatible with their devices.
When Should You Buy a New USB Cable?
Almost all portable gadgets are charged using USB cables. You never know when they’ll break, which makes it important to keep a spare around.
Here’s how you can tell if you need to replace your USB cable:
- The only time you can find out if your cable is about to break is if it shows signs of wear and tear. If some of the covering of the cable has come off, it’s better to buy a new one because the wires have already been exposed.
- Keep a close eye on the ends of the cable where it leads to the connectors because these are often the first to break after repeated use.
- Lastly, the most certain sign that you need a new USB cable is when it’s no longer charging your device.
How Do I Choose the Right USB Cable?
When choosing the right USB cable for your device, you need to look at its USB connectors. You can easily match up the connector to the port on your device to see if they’re compatible.
The next most important decision is the length of the cable. If you’re buying a cable for portability, you need shorter cables that won’t tangle so easily.
Only buy a longer cable if the wall charger is far from where you’re keeping or holding your device. Three feet is usually a good length for charging cables but if you’re going to use your phone while it’s charging, try a six-foot cable.
Why Should You Buy the Right USB Cable?
USB cables are mostly interchangeable, which means you can use any cable on different devices. However, always check with your device’s manufacturer to make sure you’re using the cable that will work best on your device.
The usual problem with buying cheaper USB cables is that their poor quality can cause different issues, like slow charging and transfers. They can also break easily and become a fire hazard.
Low-quality cables may also have an improper configuration, which can damage the device.
The best option may be to buy a cable from the device manufacturers to avoid any damage or small annoyances. If you’re buying a new device, you won’t have to worry about finding the right ones because it’ll come with its own USB cable and connector.
Learning about the different USB ports and USB connector types may be overwhelming, but we hope this guide gives you a clearer picture of what you need to know about your device cables. Now that you’re more familiar, you’ll hopefully find it easier to figure out what you really need when a cable gets broken or lost.
Do you have more questions about USB types and cables? Drop us a line in the comments section below!