USB Types - Speed, Connectors and Practical Use

Jan 10, 2019 in 12:02 PM | Posted By William Smith
USB Types - Speed, Connectors and Practical Use

USB types, connections and do I need an adapter for this stuff?

USB-C type. USB 3.0. USB 2.0. USB Type-A connector. B-connector. Mini B connector. Micro B??.

Huh?

Let’s go through what each of these are and do to get an idea of what you have and how you use it.

USB Type A connector

The Type-A connector is probably the USB port you are most familiar with. They are the slots you plug into for your wireless mouse and just about anything these days with an internal rechargeable battery. They are also the mount for the USB flash drives you’ve gotten as promotional swag.

You are also familiar with the paradox of Type A. Try to connect it with one side up and it doesn’t go in. You flip it the opposite direction, and still, nothing. You go back to the original position and suddenly, joy. It went in. No one knows why, it’s a mystery.

They are also VERY sturdy. The insides of a USB flash drive will go bad before that connector does.

USB Micro B

You are also familiar with this one. They charge(d) Android phones, your Kindle, your other USB-compatible gadgets that are not Apple/iOS/Mac (until they switched to Type C (See below).)

You also know that in the middle of the night, you cannot make that darn thing go into the slot. They are notoriously fragile – bend them once and you’ll never get it to charge anything correctly again.

Here is the thing about USB Micro-B. The cords are designed to take the brunt wear and tear, not the device’s actual port. It means you won’t break your device when you break the charger, but it’s still a PITA.

I have at least four of these cords floating around my house, depending on what I am trying to charge and when. Half of them are bent and have to be supported at the port to get it to charge the device. But I am not going out to buy another one I will need to replace sooner or later. Again. And yes, I am an iOS person who has had to replace her Macbook charger and iPhone Lightning charger more than once because it frayed. Don’t start.

Image of USB 3.0 type

USB Type C

It’s those frustrations with the USB Type A (and slower connection speeds) and USB Micro-B that have, in part, moved the industry to the Type C connector. Right now, those are the only style USB port on most of Apple’s Macbooks and many new Android products.

The Type C connector solves the “flip it, flip it again, now flip it back” problem of the Type A and fragility of the Micro B connector – it will go in no matter the orientation you hold the connector. It’s a fraction of the Type A size, making for thinner and lighter devices.

Type C will charge your device and exchange data at the same time. But the change to USB C makes all of your flash drives and other peripherals using A connectors useless without an adapter or hub.

Type C also use USB 3.0 (or 3.1 to be exact) connection speeds.

USB 2.0 and USB 3.0

Both use the traditional, Type A port. The 3.0 is about 10x’s faster than the 2.0 and has been around for a decade.

The 3.0 is backwards compatible, so if you plug a 2.0 USB flash drive or peripheral into a 3.0 port, it works just fine – it's just using the slower 2.0 speeds.

Image of USB 3.0 type

How do you know if the device’s port or the USB charger is 3.0? The flat part inside the connector device is blue instead of white or black. Easy.

What about USB B (but not mini or micro?)

The connection port for your printer is probably a USB B. They are fat and not great for mobile tech. You probably don’t use or see these in the wild.