USB 3 Vs USB-C Transfer Speed Explained
USB-C has arrived at the office, at home, and at school. We’ve got some pointers on how to use those new ports, as well as a look into the future of data transport and video.
You’ve probably noticed something odd about many of your company’s new phones, tablets, and laptops: Smaller oblong connectors have replaced the typical rectangular Type-A USB ports. At work, at home, and in school, USB-C has taken over.
While Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector is still used on several iPhone and iPad models, USB-C is now standard on most laptops, phones, and tablets. Even the most recent MacBooks and Chromebooks are adopting USB-C.
What exactly is USB-C?
USB Type-C, also known as just USB-C, is a relatively new connector for transferring data and power between computers. Because the USB-C connection is symmetrical, it may be placed in any direction, removing the difficulties of older USB ports and bringing it on par with Apple’s reversible Lightning connector.
USB-C is directly tied to numerous strong new technologies, including Thunderbolt and USB Power Delivery, that can transform how we think about our devices and operate in the office, on the road, or at home. This alone makes it a hit for me.
The second-generation USB 3.1 data-transfer standard, which can theoretically carry data at speeds of up to 10Gbps — twice as fast as USB 3.0 and first-generation USB 3.1, which both top out at 5Gbps — is used in the majority of USB-C connections. To support the speedier spec, look for devices that mention “USB 3.1 Rev 2,” “USB 3.1 Gen 2,” “SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps,” or “SuperSpeed+.”
Even more perplexing, the current USB 3.2 standard is largely a repetition of USB 3.1 specifications.
USB 3.2 Gen 1 and 2 are, for example, the same as USB 3.1 Gen 1 and 2. The new USB 3.2 Gen 2X2 specification is notable because it includes two 10Gbps data traffic lanes for a total of 20Gbps. However, device manufacturers have yet to embrace it, thus it’s difficult to locate it on any devices in the wild. As new controller chips are released in the coming year, this could alter.
Always use high-quality cables to ensure that data travels at a faster rate. They’ll usually have the SuperSpeed logo and a “10” on them to indicate that they can move 10Gbps.
The good news is that with the next revision of the USB spec, a universal USB cable, this spaghetti bowl of cable standards may be eliminated. I’ll get to that later.
Video delivery, speed, and power
The USB-C specification also supports Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 data-transfer technology, which is a huge plus on many laptops and desktops. A Thunderbolt 3 port on a USB-C interface can theoretically push data speeds up to 40Gbps. That’s four times quicker than USB 3.1 and more than 3,000 times faster than the original USB 1 spec of 12Mbps, to give you an idea of how far we’ve come.
The ability to push video over the same connection comes with increased data-transfer speeds. Alternate Mode (or “Alt Mode” for short) for video on USB-C allows adapters to output video to HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, and other types of video connectors on monitors, TVs, and projectors from the same USB-C port. It benefits the ultramobile by allowing many contemporary phones and tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+, Note, and Tab 6 systems, to connect straight to a display at home or a projector at work.
Furthermore, USB-C complies with the USB Power Delivery (USB PD) standard. A USB 2.0 connector can only offer 2.5 watts of power, which is barely enough to charge a phone. This value rises to around 15 watts with USB 3.1. USB PD, on the other hand, can deliver up to 100 watts of power, which is more than six times that of USB 3.1. This opens the door to laptop-powered projectors that use USB-C, but it is currently only used for high-power chargers and external battery packs.
USB4 is Up Next
Now that USB-C has established itself as the de facto connector, USB4 is the next logical step. It supports two 4K monitors or a single 8K display at up to 40Gbps and provides at least 15 watts of electricity for accessories. USB4 will, to its credit, keep the small oblong connector that USB-C introduced and will function with existing devices, including USB 2.0 devices. (If your device doesn’t have a USB-C connector, you’ll need an adaptor.)
Thunderbolt 4 is used behind the scenes by USB4. It establishes bidirectional data lanes, which should aid videoconferencing, which requires two-way data flow to avoid congestion and jams. Thunderbolt 4 will be compatible with Thunderbolt 3 devices, like as docking stations and External Graphics Processing Units, in addition to providing additional protection to avoid a hack assault (eGPUs). It contains dynamic data flow that is tailored to the devices, ensuring that older devices do not stifle the performance of newer ones.
Unfortunately, you’ll need a Thunderbolt 4 cable to use it,However, there is a possible benefit: all Thunderbolt 4 cables will be compatible with USB 2 (with an adaptor) to USB 4 systems. As a result, it will be the closest thing to a universal data cable that exists today. They’ll come in 2-meter (nearly 612-foot) lengths, which is more than double the typical 0.8-meter length of current USB-C cables. The Thunderbolt lightning emblem and a 4 on the plug are the main features to look for when shopping.
Although Intel’s 11th-generation Tiger Lake CPUs include the USB4/Thunderbolt 4 spec, the firm and others will have standalone USB4 controller chips.
The first laptops with Thunderbolt 4 ports, as well as devices that plug into them, are expected to arrive in late 2020.
Using USB-C to its full potential
To take full use of USB-C right now, you’ll need to make some tweaks and purchase certain accessories. This guide can assist with the transition by demonstrating what USB-C can achieve and what you’ll need to make it work.
Keep in mind that not all USB-C devices support the most recent USB-C specifications. For example, almost every USB-C flash drive supports the older USB 3.1 Rev 1 protocol, certain tablets and phones don’t support Alt Mode video, and USB Power Delivery is still in its infancy, with few devices capable of exceeding 40 or 60 watts. To put it another way, study the spec sheet thoroughly before purchasing so you know exactly what you’re buying.
These tools, advice, and DIY projects might assist you in making the switch to USB-C.
Construct a USB-C Travel Kit
The good news is that most earlier USB 2, 3.0, and 3.1 accessories will work with USB-C connections. The bad news is that you’ll need the appropriate adapters and cables, and I’ve yet to come across a complete set. Inside an old zipped pouch, I’ve constructed my own USB-C survival kit, which contains six vital cables and adapters.