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June 14, 2017

USB 3.1 and USB Type C are NOT the Same


Since 2015, USB 3.1 standard and Type-C connector has been widely adopted by many electronic devices, such as portable SSD hard drive, smart phone, laptop, etc.

When people talk about USB Type C, they always somehow relate it to USB 3.1. Some people even use the two terms equivalently when introducing the technology.

But is it true that USB 3.1 is the same as USB Type C?

Type C and Type A Gen 2 Ports

No, USB Type-C and USB 3.1 are Different

USB 3.1 is the latest industry standard for USB data transfer protocol, evolved from its previous generations, USB 1.0, 1.1, 2.0 and 3.0. According to the USB 3.1 standard, the USB data transfer bandwidth has doubled to 10 Gbps from the USB 3.0 standard at 5 Gbps.

UDB 2 3 3.1 symbols

Note that the USB 3.1 standard includes two versions of transfer speed, USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2. The 10Gbps version only refers to USB 3.1 Gen 2, which is also identified as "SuperSpeedPlus" (or SSP). On the other hand, the 5Gbps version is referenced as USB 3.1 Gen 1 or "SuperSpeed" (or SS), although the term "USB 3.0" is still widely used. In other words, the term "USB 3.1 Gen 1" is meant to be used as a synonym for USB 3.0

Other than data communication, the USB standard also defines the electric power connection between computers and peripherals. Compared to the delivery of USB 2.0 (5V/0.5A) and USB 3.0 (5V/0.9A) standard power, the USB 3.1 standard provides a maximum of 20V/5A 100W power delivery, which enables high power-consuming devices to draw power directly from computers without needing an external power source.

USB Type-C is a new type of USB connector interface. Until today, there were only two major USB connector types within USB standards—but now, there are three: Type-A, Type-B, and the latest, Type-C. (Click to learn more about USB connector types). All of three connector types can be used for all generations of USB data transfer.

Compared with Type-A and Type-B connectors, the major advantage of USB Type-C connector by itself is that it supports reversible plug orientation. This unique feature brings a more convenient user experience and the smaller form factor that enables a slimmer device design.

Different Types of Connector grouped in an image
USB 2 versus USB 3 Connectors

However, it is not so easy to tell the differences between Type C connectors by appearance. For example, a USB 2.0 C to C cable will look identical to a USB 3.1 Gen 2 full feature C to C cable. Therefore a customer has to pay extra attention before they select their cable.

To summarize, USB 3.1 generally refers to the latest USB data transfer standard while USB Type-C is for a new USB connector type. A USB Type-C port is not necessary to support USB 3.1 data transfer. A USB 3.1 cable is not necessary to have a Type-C connector for the cable assembly.

If you are interested in learning more, the Newnex Custom Cable Design Tool will assist you in selecting the correct cable for your needs. You are also welcome to contact us directly through inquiry, and our expert customer representatives will help you right away.


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