Understanding USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB Type C – Why is it so confusing?

What is USB and how did it arrive?

USB Universal Serial Bus What is the difference We see them in almost every technological device we see these days from our PCs, Laptops and phones all the way through to our TV’s, our cars and modern wall sockets. Universal Series Bus, or USB, was first commercially introduced in 1998 as a means of unifying and eliminating the multitude of connections that existed at the rear of computers. Up until that point the diverse selection of connections at the rear of computers could be truly daunting and the need for a uniform connection for peripheral devices of all kinds was sorely needed. Unsurprisingly, it was a triumph and over the years the humble USB port has changed in a number of ways. From operational revisions that have enabled higher transmission speeds and increased power, to the very psychical nature of USB changing shape and spawning numerous connection types – some might say almost invalidating the original point of USB all together!

What has changed in USB over the years and versions?

USB 3 For 5 GBPs transmission and file transfer USB 1 gave way inevitably to USB 2.0 (with revisions in between on the right of that decimal place!) and when USB 3.0 was released in 2008, somewhat undermining Apple and Intel’s collaboration with Thunderbolt technology, the market listened! How could they not, with each advancement in USB technology and revision, the speeds available multiplied significantly. And let’s not overlook the increased power that came with each iteration. The result of which was that the humble USB cable could not only relay input to and from a peripheral device, but also negate the need to require additional power to keep the external device functioning (key examples being an external hard drive, wireless peripherals or speakers).

What is the Difference between USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2?

USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C MaleBut USB 3.0 wasn’t enough for some and with Intel still pushing Thunderbolt, now into it’s 2nd generation with Thunderbolt 2, the latest iteration of USB was conceived and born! USB 3.1 was announced and shortly afterwards, renamed USB 3.1 Gen 2. Unsurprisingly this has led to a great deal of confusing and most likely the reason your inquisitive googling has brought you here.

In short, USB 3.0 has now been officially renamed USB 3.1 Gen 1

And the newer, faster and more powerful connection is now called USB 3.1 Gen 2

USB 3.1 Gen 2 via a USB Type C port

Let’s look at them all below

Version Speed Release
USB 1.1 1.5Mbit/s – 12Mbit/s Aug 1998
USB 2.0 480Mbit/s April 2000
USB 3.0

(now known as USB 3.1 Gen 1)

5Gb/s November 2008
USB 3.1

(now known as USB 3.1 Gen 2)

10Gb/s July 2013

Which leads us to the next bit change in USB. Namely the connector – Type C

What is the difference between USB Type A, B and C?

Depending on which device you have, the revision of USB that is enabled on the port, the USB port you have will differ. Fear not, there is almost every kind of cross over cable available so if you have found yourself an external device with a different style of USB port to that on your host machine, you can find the right USB cable at SPAN.COM. The variations are below as follows:

USB TYPE A USB Type A Male connection USB Type A Female
USB TYPE B USB Type B male USB Type B Female
USB TYPE C USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C male Cable USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C connection female
USB TYPE A Micro USB Type A Micro Male connection USB Type A Micro Female
USB TYPE B Micro USB Type B Micro Male connection USB Type B Micro Female
USB TYPE B Mini USB Type A Mini Male connection USB Type B Mini Female
USB TYPE A – USB 3.0 USB 3.0 Type A USB 3.0 Type A female
USB TYPE B USB 3.0 USB 3.0 Type B FEMALE USB 3.0 Type B Female

Here to explain it all is me, Robbie at SPANTV

What about USB 4.0?

Many are now wondering what comes next after USB 3.1 Gen2? Hard to say. Many people thought that USB 3.1 Gen 2 WAS USB 4.0, but it has just become a  new revision, albeit fantastically fast and innovative one. Another point to consider is the cross over between USB 3.1 Gen 2 and the newly announced Thunderbolt 3 and how you will be able to (apparently) connect a USB 3.1 Gen 2 device via Type C into a Thunderbolt 3 port and still see it as a USB device at 10 GB/ps. We will keep you informed as the details becoming concrete, but in the meantime thanks for reading and I hope I was able to help!

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