In this age of connectivity where transferring data is almost second nature for the majority of us, three letters have skyrocketed in popularity – USB. The universal serial bus, whether they be connectors or cables, have been a ubiquitous ingredient in our lives. Particularly nowadays where everyone still pretty much prefers staying at home to work rather than exposing yourself to the virus, knowing a thing or two about USBs may be required but handy knowledge.
But then, there is also quite a lot of things related to the USB cables and ports that might prove to be quite overwhelming especially to those who are not really technically proficient. There’s USB-A, B, C, mini-USB, micro-USB, and then USB 1, 2, and 3 (and even 3.1) that casual users may ask themselves if it is really worth knowing all of these. It is, so without further ado, here is everything you need to know about USBs:
Cables and connectors
Before you get overwhelmed, remember this: numbers for cable types (and their speeds) and letters for connector types. So, when you hear USB-A, B, C, mini- and micro, you are talking about the various types of USB connectors. On the other hand, USB-1, USB-2, and USB-3 refer to the data transfer speed of particular USB cables. As can be deduced by their names, the higher the number the faster the speed of data transfer. This means that nowadays, USB-3 is quite fast, and is already considered the standard when it comes to USB cables.
USB connectors come in different shapes and sizes. Most of the versions of USB connectors, including the standard USB, Mini USB, and Micro USB, have two or more variations of connectors.
Like almost everything else, Apple likes to be different and quirky. Thus, the birth of Thunderbolt, which was, for most of its history, distinct from USB. That is, until Thunderbolt 3 happened, which uses a USB Type-C connector. So now, with the widespread use of Thunderbolt 3, the divide between Thunderbolt and USB may not be as obvious as before.
Designed in a collaboration between Apple and Intel, Thunderbolt is an alternative to USB that was brought to the market in 2011, but was initially shown off as Light Peak by Intel in 2009, running on a Mac Pro. Compared to USB, Thunderbolt aimed to offer considerable benefits, including multiplexing data lanes for PCIe and DisplayPort hardware together, namely mixing data with video, as well as a fast data rate of 10Gbps for each of two channels, 20Gbps in total.
What’s compatible with what?
When faced with the selection of 1, 2, or 3 cables, you should not really be worried as all these cables are compatible with any USB connector and technology. What is limiting is the connector and ports available on your device. Obviously, if your device has a USB-C port, then you cannot use a micro-USB cable on it. Same with a USB-C cable for a device that only has a mini-USB port. In other words, be more conscious of connectors and ports for compatibility rather than paying too much attention to USB cables.
On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to buy a cable with a USB-C connector if either the device you’re connecting or your computer doesn’t have a port that will support that connector.
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