You may have used USB 3.1 in your daily life. USBs (which stands for “Universal Serial Bus”) are a common type of cable used to connect two devices, e.g. B. a PC with a game device or a camera. What makes USB 3.1 different from other options like USB 3.2 or USB-C?
Read on to find out the strengths and weaknesses of USB 3.1 and learn more about the technological advancement in current USB innovations.
By the numbers
USB 3.1 is a generation number that mostly refers to the data transfer speed of the USB port, not its shape or size. USB 3.1 was officially introduced in July 2013, replacing USB 3.0 as the new high-speed USB standard. It would in turn be replaced by USB 3.2, which would also update USB naming conventions. That created a pretty confusing mess of names and speeds. Some still refer to different USB speeds, at least colloquially, individually as USB 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2, but the official naming convention and their respective speeds are as follows:
- USB 3.2 Gen 1 is USB 3.0. It has a maximum throughput of 5 Gbps. This is also known as SuperSpeed USB.
- USB 3.2 Gen 2 is USB 3.1. It has a maximum throughput of 10 Gbps. This is also known as SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps.
- USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2 is USB 3.2. It has a maximum throughput of 20 Gbps. This is also known as SuperSpeed USB 20 Gbps.
Can you see why so many people are excited that USB4 is getting us past this messy naming convention?
All of these speeds are the theoretical maximums of the USB standard and are unlikely to be seen in everyday use, but you will surely see an increase in transfer speeds for files of most sizes when using a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (USB 3.1) device that is only rated at USB 3.2 Gen 1 or USB 3.0.
A standard Type A cable used with most current PC accessories.
USB 3.2 Gen 2 is not supported by all modern devices, but has slowly gained more support in recent years. A good example of switching between generations of hardware is Dell's XPS 13 laptop. The 2017 XPS 13 9360 laptop came with two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, while the 2018 and 2019 models replaced these with USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports of the USB-C variant. More on that later.
Another great benefit of USB 3.2 Gen 2 is that it can support a feature known as Power Delivery 2.0. Compatible ports can supply the device to which they are connected with up to 100 watts of power and charge larger devices such as laptops via a single USB cable. This is most common on laptops that use the new USB-C standard.
USB-C is not the same as 3.1
Maurizio Pesce / Flickr
While USB-C is often associated with USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Gen 2 2 × 2, it's not the same thing. USB letter types like A, B and C denote shape and shape the connection and the connection, while the number types (3.2 etc.) denote the data transmission capabilities.
Many modern devices have moved away from the classic USB-A, USB-B and micro-USB ports and towards USB-C – which is small and reversible and often goes hand in hand with faster transfer speeds. While this isn't always the case, the fastest USB 3.2 2 × 2 transfer speeds are only possible on USB-C.
USB-A is still offered on a number of devices to support older accessories and cables that still use this standard. However, laptops and smartphones are increasingly being shipped with only USB-C connectivity.
Regardless of whether a laptop, tablet or smartphone has USB-A, USB-C or any other connection in this wheelhouse, there is no guarantee that it is USB 3.2 Gen 2. The Microsoft Surface Book 2 comes with two USB-A ports and one USB-C port, which are all "USB Gen 1," which is actually USB 3.2 Gen 1 (USB 3.0) , not 3.2 Gen 2 (3.1). It's confusing, but it shows how important it is to read between the lines when you are interested in your new hardware with the latest standards.
What about Thunderbolt 3?
Bill Roberson / Digital Trends
To make matters even more confusing, USB-C ports can also be Thunderbolt 3 compatible. Thunderbolt 3 is a standard that uses the USB-C port and offers data transfer rates of up to 40 Gbps – four times that of USB 3.2 Gen 2 and even twice as high as the fastest USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2. Although it comes with USB 3.2 Gen 2 cables may be compatible, this is not always the case.
The USB 3.2 Gen 2 is specifically designed for data exchange and charging, which is very different from the unlimited capabilities of the Thunderbolt 3. With Thunderbolt 3, you can not only charge and move data, but also stream media and other content. The Intel developers responsible for creating Hunderbolt 3 state that you can transfer data, charge your devices, and stream video to other screens at the same time. This is possible by using the USB-C port to improve the compatibility of the device with all previous generations.
A USB-C port might contain Thunderbolt 3 functionality or be compatible only with USB 3.2 Gen 2. It's usually very easy to tell if a port has Thunderbolt 3 included, and most computer brands will tell you that quickly.
The Universal Serial Bus port is used worldwide as it is considered the top model for all ports. However, the USB Implementers Forum – a forum of experts from companies like Intel, Microsoft, Apple and HP who oversee the development of the standard – is constantly working on new ways to improve it.