USB strengths are determined by multiple factors, including their types and what they’re used for. Each new USB version offers more versatility, speed, functionality, and power, paving the way for the invention of more portable devices.
Thanks to their differences in features and capabilities, you’ll need to carefully consider what makes one better than the other when choosing the USB flash drive, peripheral, or cable you want to work with.
In this guide, we’ll be considering the different types of universal serial bus ports and connectors as well as USB strengths and weaknesses.
List of Different USB Types and Their Strengths
USBs are generally categorized into USB-A, USB-B, and USB-C. However, there are many other variations, such as micro-A, micro-B, and mini-B. Most USB flash drives use the USB-A connector.
|Interface||Flat and rectangular|
|Connection Type||Four pins for the older generation; nine pins for the 3.0 version.|
|Version Support||USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. Also offers backward compatibility with later USB types.|
|Uses||It’s used on many different devices, including computers, game consoles, media players, and TVs.|
USB-A is the standard USB port found on many different computers, televisions, hubs, USB flash drives, etc. This USB type uses a connector with a flat and rectangular interface which is often held in place by the friction between the cable’s connector and its corresponding port.
Thanks to the flat contacts embedded in this USB type, it can withstand multiple removal and attachment processes without wearing out the port or cable’s interface.
USB-A ports, also known as USB Type-A ports, are designed to provide a “downstream” connection from a host controller or hub to peripheral devices. This USB port is usually not intended for any “upstream” connections from peripheral devices, which is why many hubs and host controllers come with a USB pin that provides 5V DC power.
While you can decide to connect your computer’s USB Type-A connector to another computer’s USB Type-A connector to initiate data transfer between both devices, there’s a good chance you’d cause irreparable damage to one or both devices since their USB ports are not meant for data transfer.
|Interface||Squared and boxy for versions 1.1 and 2.0; flat design for version 3.0.|
|Connection Type||Four pins for the older generation; nine pins for 3.0 version|
|Version Support||USB 1.1, 2.0, and 3.0.|
Unlike USB-A, USB-B is designed for peripheral devices. This USB connector maintains its connection to its host via friction just like the A variant, but it allows “upstream” connections, which means that it can be used to transfer data between a peripheral device and a host device; for instance, data transfer between your printer and computer.
Due to this mode of connection, many USB devices that use USB-B require you to utilize a USB A to B cable.
|Interface||Features a symmetrical, oval-like design.|
|Connection Type||24 pins|
|Version Support||USB 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0|
|Uses||It’s used for a wide variety of applications and devices, including smartphones, computers, tablets, headphones, and more.|
USB Type C is a more robust and versatile USB version when compared to USB A and B. The USB-C connector is about 60 percent smaller than USB-A, and unlike USB-A to B cables, you can connect either end of a USB-C cable to the appropriate port without experiencing any issues. This USB type supports USB 3.1, 3.0, 2.0, and the new USB 4.0.
It also supports the Thunderbolt 3 technology, which allows it to carry up to 100W, providing the Type C cable and connectors with the ability to charge modern devices.
With a USB-C 3.1 version, you can get transfer rates of up to 10Gb per second and up to 40Gb per second if you use the USB4 40Gbps cable. Thanks to its superb speed, this USB type is being embedded in many different devices, such as HDTVs, computer monitors, headphones, surround sound systems, USB drives, and more.
Its incredible transfer rates also make it the ideal interface for many different applications, such as high-res photo storage and editing, HD video editing, Blu-ray authoring, and more.
– USB Micro-A
|Interface||Compact rectangular shape with slanted sides.|
|Connection Type||5 pins|
|Version Support||USB 2.0.|
|Uses||It’s mainly used for portable devices, such as mobile phones, digital cameras, GPS devices, etc.|
Unlike USB A, that’s meant for downstream transfers, USB micro-A was designed to provide upstream data transfer. This connector is often embedded in small, portable devices, such as digital cameras and smartphones, and it can support up to 480Mbps at its highest speed.
Unlike USB-A, it features a five-pin design, and you can still find it on many devices, even though it’s quickly phasing out as many companies are now adopting USB-C. While it’s similar to the USB micro-B, you can tell both apart by the white-colored receptacle of the micro-A.
– USB Micro B
|Interface||Compact rectangular shape with slanted sides; the 3.0 variant is larger and has a split in the middle.|
|Connection Type||5 pins|
|Version Support||USB 2.0, 3.0, 3.1|
|Uses||It’s used for portable devices, such as mobile phones, digital cameras, GPS devices, etc.|
The USB micro-B is essentially a scaled-down version of the USB Type B connector. It features five pins, and unlike the USB micro-A, which only supports USB 2.0, USB micro-B supports USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1. This connector is used on smaller devices just like the micro-A and it offers OTG support as well.
The USB 2.0 version offers transfer rates of up to 480Mbps, the 3.0 version offers up to 5Gbps, while the 3.1 version can provide up to 10Gbps. You can easily identify this USB connector by its black-colored receptacle. Also, the configuration for the 3.0 and 3.1 variants is different from what you have on the 2.0 variant as the former variants have a larger connector with a slanted divider in the middle. You can find the 3.0 and 3.1 connectors on external hard drives.
– USB Mini B
|Interface||Compact rectangular shape with beveled corners.|
|Connection Type||Four pins or five pins|
|Version Support||USB 2.0|
|Uses||It’s utilized for portable devices, such as mobile phones, digital cameras, GPS devices, etc.|
Due to its big size, the original USB-B connector was unsuitable for smaller devices. Manufacturers decided to create mini models of the same connector so they could use them in compact devices, thus the birth of the USB mini B.
This connector features five or four pins. Even though the five-pin variant is the one that was standardized, many companies, such as Kodak, use the four-pin variant.
USB strengths are also determined by the USB standards they support, such as USB 1.1, 2.0, etc. USB cords and connectors that support version 1.1 can provide a maximum speed of up to 12Mbps; version 2.0 can provide 480Mbps; version 3.0 and 3.1 Superspeed offers 10Gbps; version 3.2 Superspeed offers up to 20Gbps; and USB 4 can provide up to 40Gbps.
With that said, here are some pointers to keep in mind when deciding the USB cable or connector for you based on their strength:
- USB Type-A ports aren’t designed for upstream data transfer so it’s not recommended to use them to transfer data between two computers.
- Micro-B comes in two configurations with one configuration supporting USB 2.0 while the other supports USB 3.0 and later.
- USB-C is currently the only USB type that supports Thunderbolt technology.
- Type-C 2.1 supports up to 240W, which allows the USB to power huge devices, such as 4K monitors, gaming laptops, and e-bikes.
Keep in mind that when choosing a USB peripheral, such as a flash drive, the USB type, and standard are more important than the storage capacity as both factors will determine the speeds of your drive.