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All About the Different USB Cable Types

How well do you know the different types of USB cables? This guide will help you identify the different USB cable types in no time. After this, you'll no longer worry about the headaches associated with mismatched USB connectors.

Universal serial bus (USB) connectors are the most widely used electronic connector cables in the world.

Just about every type of computer, phone, tablet, and peripheral device includes some kind of USB port.

Despite the ubiquity of these connectors, keeping all the different types, standards and styles straight can be a challenge.

Use this guide to learn about the different USB cable types and how they are commonly used.

Physical USB Cable Types

The goal of USB was to simplify the connector and port landscape and reduce complexity for consumers. The first step to understanding USB cables is being able to identify the actual connectors. There are several different connectors in use today as well as a few legacy connectors. Here are the most commonly used types of USB cables.

USB Type A

USB type A is what most people think of when they picture a USB. It uses a rectangular connector and is widely used for flash drives, connectors, and charging cables. Most other types of USB connectors include a USB type A connector on one end. The appearance of USB type A has remained virtually unchanged since its introduction.

USB Type B

USB type B was created to connect peripheral devices to computers and servers. It has a square shape with beveled edges and a small divot on the bottom. USB type B connectors are mostly used for printers, scanners, and other devices that are rarely disconnected. Most manufacturers are slowly switching out to other connector types instead of USB type B.

Mini USB

The mini USB was introduced in USB 2.0 and was widely used in first generation smartphones and other devices. As its name suggests it is basically a smaller version of the standard USB A connector. Its data and power transfer capability is virtually identical to USB type A. It has been replaced by the smaller micro USB connector for all but legacy applications.

Micro USB

Micro USB is the current standard for most phones, cameras, and other small electronics. Its thin profile made it very popular with manufacturers looking to create slimmer phones and tablets. Virtually every smartphone manufacturer, with the exception of Apple, uses the micro USB connector.

The micro USB itself is beginning to be phased out in favor of the universal USB type C connector. Despite this, it is still the most popular connector for phones and other small electronics.

USB Type C

The USB type C connector is the newest innovation in USB technology. It was designed from the ground up for high-speed data and power transfer. The goal with USB type C is to make a cable capable of charging any device, including high-end laptops and other high amp demands. USB type C is different from other USB connectors in that it can be plugged in without regard to orientation. It has an oval-shaped rectangular plug that will fit in without the shuffle to find the top and bottom.

Several major companies have begun using USB type C as the main ports for both internal battery charging and peripheral connections. This allows your computer to have fewer but far more capable connectors. Because the standard is so new, there are many types of adaptors available to allow USB type connections.

USB Standards

Physical USB cables only tell part of the story. The USB standard has been in existence for more than 20 years. Depending on the USB cable standard you're using you will see vastly different levels of performance.

USB 1.0

USB 1.0 was the original USB standard, created in 1996 through the cooperation of seven major computer manufacturers. The goal was to reduce the splintering of connectors currently taking place. Different manufacturers were using multiple variants of proprietary cables, creating a confusing situation for consumers.

The first widely accepted generation of USB, USB 1.1, introduced both the USB type A and USB type B connectors. It allowed data transfer at speeds of up to 12 Mbit/s. At this point, USB was entirely focused on computer connectivity and did not yet have designed connectors for small electronics. USB 1.1 was capable of supplying 5V power at up to 500MA.

USB 2.0

USB 2.0 was released in April of 2000 and was a major upgrade to both USB transfer speeds and usability. It allowed data transfer at speeds of up to 480 Mbit/s, a 40 fold increase over USB 1.1. USB also introduced the USB mini connector to increase standardization in small electronic devices.

The USB mini connector using the USB 2.0 standard was the first widely used USB charging port for cell phones. It allows charging at the same rate as USB 1.1, 5V at up to 500MA.

USB 3.0

USB 3 is the current generation of USB standard. It was released in November of 2008 as USB 3.0. It allowed significantly more data to be transferred than USB 2.0, up to 5 Gbit/s. It also included an upgrade to charging capability. USB 3.0 ports were capable of supplying 5V power up to 900ma. It was designed with the high power demands of modern phones, tablets, and small electronics in mind.

Most manufacturers denote USB 3.0 connectors by a blue connector. 3.0 also included the introduction of the type C connector. When combined, USB 3.x type C cables vastly increase the performance and capabilities of the standard.

USB 3.1 was the first upgrade to this standard. It increased data transfer speeds to 10 Gbit/s and maintained the power standard. It was released in January of 2013.

USB 3.2 is the current USB standard, introduced in September of 2017. It allows for data transfer up to 20 Gbit/s and is designed from the ground up to complement type C connectors. Because of its recent introduction few devices include USB 3.2 ports.

Embrace Interchangeability

More and more manufacturers are focusing on the USB type C connector for their products. With its promise of wide-ranging use, it could become the global standard for all connectors replacing other USB cable types. Laptops, printers, console gaming systems, and other devices can all be powered using USB C connector cables.

If you need USB Cables or other USB connector accessories for legacy or new systems, check out our inventory.