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What is a USB Cable?
We know that technology evolves faster and further every day and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve partnered with StarTech.com, a global leader in manufacturing top-quality USB cables and connectivity solutions, to bring you this USB Cable Guide.
Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the various types of USB cables, what the USB versions mean for transferring your data, and how they work.
USB stands for Universal Serial Bus and is an umbrella term used to describe the most common port type: the rectangular USB, known as USB A. Typically, USB ports are found across multiple devices, such as phones, PCs, and gaming consoles.
Initially developed in the mid-90s, the USB connection was created to standardize ports for peripherals. This is so secondary devices, like printers and keyboards, can connect to a wider range of computers and hosts, rather than a select few with specific receptacles.
Today, there are a variety of USB types, but the main use of all USBs has remained the same: to transfer data and power. Over time, new versions have been released to improve transfer speeds and power output.
StarTech.com are the experts when it comes to how this technology works. The industry leaders explain a USB 2.0 cable connection like this:
“If you were to open up a USB cable, you would notice 4 different USB wire colours: white and green, which carry data, and red and black, which are used for power. Red carries 5 volts and acts as the positive wire, while black is the negative wire, otherwise known as the ground wire.
Each type of USB connection (USB cable type A, B, C, micro and mini) has a pinout system, these are the small metal strips inside the connector, designed to access each of these wires and their capabilities.”
Over the last 25 years, there have been several different USB cables and iterations, depending on the USB protocol. The USB started with version 1.0, which transfers up to 12Mbps and was released in 1995. The latest today is USB version 4, which transfers up to a massive 40Gbps.
StarTech.com know that users want the best USB for the job, which is why they have created a table below to help decipher the speed and capabilities of each version.
As with USB versions, the shape of the USB connection has also seen drastic changes over the years. With each new evolution of USB type, their form factor generally becomes smaller to accommodate for new, much thinner devices that are popular during the time of release.
The USB C design, which is the latest USB release, is unique because it’s the only USB that fits into another port type not specifically created for it: Thunderbolt 3. They are both the same shape and users can employ Thunderbolt 3 and USB C cables and ports interchangeably. All other male and female USB connector types only fit their corresponding male and female ports. For example, a USB port type b will only accept a USB type B connector.
The version or speed of the technology is dictated by the host device, connecting peripheral, and the version of the USB 3.0 cable, not the shape of the port.