What is the difference between USB-C and USB 3? USB-C tells you the shape and hardware connectivity of your cable. USB 3 tells you the data transfer protocol and the speed of the cable. So what is the difference here?
The easiest way to understand the difference between USB-C and USB 3 is the connector one side (USB-C), and the other side is the cable technology (USB 3).
USB-C is the latest generation of USB connector, making it easy to plug in devices on both sides without fear of confusion. USB-C also provides a stronger connection to the devices.
USB 3 represents several generations of USB cables including USB 3.0 and USB 3.1. Each of these formats allows data transfer up to 10Gbps.
Data transfer rate: This is the job of USB 3
Introduced in 2008, USB 3.0 improves data transfer speeds up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0. In 2013, the USB 3.1 standard doubled that speed to reach 10Gbs.
This change is very important. A USB 3.1 cable is much more expensive to manufacture than a USB 2.0 cable. Since the USB-C connector can work with any USB cable including USB 2.0, the seller of the cheaper USB cable says it’s USB-C but leaves the USB 2.0 specification very small below.
If you are looking for a USB cable for high data transfer speeds, make sure it is USB 3.0 or higher, whatever its connector is.
How to use it: Now it’s time for USB-C to come into play
When it comes to the ease of using a USB cable, only the USB-C type connector is the one that really matters. Type A and B USB cables always depend on the type of port on the device.
The USB-C connector can be plugged in from any direction. It minimizes delays and improves usability. Whether the cable is USB 2.0 or 3.0 does not affect its usage.
Compatibility: USB-C is the limiting factor
The compatibility is perhaps a little confusing here. Take a look at the following example:
- A printer with a USB 2.0 cable with a USB-B connector.
- One USB 2.0 cable.
- The computer has a USB 3.1 connection port.
In this case, as long as both ends of the cable fit into the appropriate ports on the printer and computer, the USB 2.0 cable will work. This is because the computer port calculated for USB 3.1 is backwards compatible with both the cable and the printer.
Here’s another scenario:
- A new printer has a USB 3.1 cable.
- The part of the cable that plugs from the computer into the printer is the USB-C connection.
- The computer’s USB port is USB A, there is no USB-C port.
This connection will not be possible because the computer does not have a USB-C port.
Neither USB-C nor USB 3 is perfect
This article has looked at the basics for you to understand everything that USB-C and USB 3 have to offer. However, as you may have noticed, these standards are far from perfect. In addition to the confusion of names, there are many other usability issues affecting everyday users.
Another major problem is the amount of variance in USB-C devices. For example, your phone can offer USB-C fast charging, but only with the cable included in the box. If you buy a third-party cable (even a high-quality one), it may prevent you from taking advantage of this feature.
Not every USB-C port will work with all of the USB-C’s possible features. For example, your laptop might have two USB-C ports, one of which is only suitable for charging and the other suitable for connecting to an external display. This can be confusing and limited. In addition, having to purchase an adapter to restore the rest of this functionality is difficult, as it is an additional cost.
There are also historical issues with USB-C. Because cables consume more power than old connections, when USB-C is first used, a low-quality cable can damage your device. Thankfully, this isn’t a problem for now, but you should still stay away from unknown USB-C cables, if they haven’t been properly tested.
Summary: USB-C and USB 3 are very different, but they are both important
Since USB 3 technology is backwards compatible with all older devices and ports, you often can’t buy the wrong USB 3.0 or 3.1 cable. With these cables, you will enjoy better data transfer speeds if both the devices you are connecting to are capable of.
On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to use a cable with a USB-C connector if the device you’re connecting to or your computer doesn’t have a port that supports it.
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