Ubiquitous to modern society, USB tech can be found in at least one or more devices people use on a daily basis. However, USB cables come in a variety of connections, most of which are incompatible with the others. This makes replacing a USB cable a troublesome task, especially when the differences between each may seem trivial to the inexperienced.
For instance, while micro B and mini USBs may use synonymous terms, you cannot simply use one plug to connect to the other's port. To make matters even more confusing, the USB tech industry is constantly evolving that even the same plug type can differ between each version of USB, simultaneously influencing the plug's performance.
We have put together this exhaustive guide to help you untangle all the nuanced idiosyncrasies between the different types of USB cables on the market.
Also known as USB standard A connector, the USB A connector is primarily be used on host controllers in computers and hubs. USB-A socket is designed to provide a "downstream" connection intended for host controllers and hubs, rarely implemented as an "upstream" connector on a peripheral device. This is because USB host will supply a 5V DC power on the VBUS pin. As such, it is important to remember when in doubt while purchasing USB cables it is safest to make sure at least one of the plugs is a USB A.
Though not that common, USB A male to A male cables are used by some implementers to make connections between two USB A style female port. Be aware that typical A-A cables are not intended for connection between two host computers or computer to hub.
Also known as USB standard B connector, the B style connector is designed for USB peripherals, such as printer, upstream port on hub, or other larger peripheral devices. The primary reason for the development of USB B connectors were to allow the connection of peripheral devices without running the risk of connecting two host computers to one another. USB B type connector is still used today, though it is slowly being phased out in favor of more refined usb connector types.
USB-C or USB Type-C connector is the newest USB interface came to the market along with the new USB 3.1 standard. Different from previously mentioned USB A type and B type connector, USB C Type connector can be used on both host controller ports and devices which use upstream sockets. In the last few years a numbers of laptops and cellphones have appeared on the market with C style USB connectors.
USB Type C connector is compatible with USB 2.0, 3.0, 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 signals. A full feature USB 3.1 Gen 2 C to C cable is able to transmit data at maximum 10 Gbps with enhanced power delivery of up to 20V, 5A (100W) and to support DisplayPort and HDMI alternate mode to transfer video and audio signal.
Similar to USB B type connector, USB mini B sockets are used on USB peripheral devices, but in a smaller form factor. The mini B plug by default has 5 pins, including an extra ID pin to support USB On-The-Go (OTG), which allows mobile devices and other peripherals to act as a USB host.
Initially, this plug was designed for earlier models of smartphones, but as smartphones have become more compact and with sleeker profiles, the Mini USB plug has been replaced by the micro USB. Now, the Mini-B is designed for some digital cameras while the rest of the mini plugs series have become more of a legacy connectors as they are no longer certified for new products.
The micro USB B connector essentially a scaled down form of the mini USB which allowed mobile devices to get slimmer while still maintaining the ability to connect to computers and other hubs.
The micro B type connector holds 5 pins to support USB OTG, which permits smartphones and other similar mobile devices to read external drives, digital cameras, or other peripherals as a computer might. Note that to enable OTG feature, special wiring connection needs to be implemented in the cable assembly.
On Oct. 22, 2009, the international Telecommunication Union (ITU) announced to include Micro-USB interface into the Universal Charging Solution (UCS) that has been adopted broadly by industry.
Inheriting the same design to the A-Type connector used in USB 2.0 & USB 1.1 application, USB 3.0 A is also provides a "downstream" connection that is designed for use only on host controllers and hubs.
However, USB 3.0 Type A processes additional pins that are not in the USB 2.0 A Type. USB 3.0 connector is designed to support 5Gbps bandwidth "SuperSpeed" data transfer, whereas, lower data rate can be transmitted with backward compatibility to USB 2.0 ports. USB 3.0 connectors are often in blue color or with "SS" logo to help distinguish them from previous generations.
USB 3.0 B-Type connector is designed for USB peripherals, such as printer, upstream port on hub, or other larger peripheral devices. This connector can support USB 3.0 SuperSpeed application and also carry USB 2.0 low speed data in the same time.
A USB 3.0 B plug cannot be plugged in to a USB 2.0 B socket due to its plug shape change. However devices with USB 3.0 Type B receptacles can accept mating with previous USB 2.0 B Type male plugs.
Also referenced as the SuperSpeed Micro USB B connector, this connector stacks five more pins on the side of the USB 2.0 Micro B connector to achieve the full USB 3.0 standard data transfer speed. USB 3.0 Micro B connectors are found on hard drives, digital cameras, cell phones, and other USB 3.0 devices.
A USB 3.0 Micro B male connector cannot be plugged in to a USB 2.0 B socket due to its plug shape change. However devices with USB 3.0 Micro B receptacle can accept mating with previous USB 2.0 Micro B male plug.
With the growing need of higher data transfer rates, more industrial applications such as Machine Vision and 3D imaging are starting to implement USB 3.0 Micro B into their system designs. Screw lock Micro B connectors are often used in cabling to ensure secure interconnection.
Developed by Intel, USB 3.0 internal connector cables are usually used to connect the external USB SS ports on the front panel to the motherboard. The 20 pin internal socket contains two lines of USB 3.0 signal channels, which allows maximum two individual USB 3.0 ports without sharing one channel data bandwidth.
Developed by Intel, USB 3.1 internal connector cables are designed for connecting motherboard to front panel USB ports.
Similar to previous USB 3.0 internal connector, the new generation internal connector also has a 20 pin header version that support single Type C port or dual Type A connections but with a reduced form factor and stronger mechanical latch design. An 40 pin header version internal connector was also introduced to support two full feature Type-C ports.