The world of technology is constantly changing and it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with the new terminology. The latest USB technology is no exception. When people use jargon like USB-C, USB 3 and Thunderbolt, what does it really mean? Let’s try to clear up some of the confusion.
What do letters and numbers mean?
First of all, you should understand that these terms do not speak of different versions of the same thing. Each refers to certain unique characteristics of USB, either speed or hardware specifications.
USB connectors have both numbers and letters to describe them. The letters represent the physical characteristics of the connector. The numbers refer to the technology that moves data and power from one device to another.
The original USB ports, USB-A, were 12mm wide rectangular connectors. These ports are still standard on most computers and are the ones that most people probably consider when they hear the term USB. Even though technology has improved the speed of data transfer, this connector has remained the same until recently.
USB-C is the latest version of USB hardware available. It no longer uses the 12 mm connector. Instead, it uses a reversible 8.4mm connector.
If you’ve ever tried inserting a USB-A cord into another device, you may have noticed that it may take several flips to insert it correctly! This is because there is a top and a bottom on the cord. USB-C does not have this problem because it is reversible. With a USB-C connector, you don’t have to worry about the direction in which you insert it.
A USB-C cord can provide considerably more power than earlier versions.
These cords are also capable of transferring data at high speeds.
Another useful feature of some USB-C devices is bidirectional charging, which allows one device to charge another.
The numbers associated with the USB connectors indicate the speed at which data is transferred from the device. Each new generation of USB technology enables faster transfer speeds. USB 3.0 is the third major version of USB for connecting computers and other electronic devices.
The USB-3 ports on a device are identical to traditional USB-2 ports, but they are blue.
USB 3 has been revised to become USB 3.1 and 3.2. The most recent 3.2 generations are Gen 1, Gen 2 and Gen 2 × 2. These new versions are even faster than the original 3.0, which was ten times faster than USB 2.0.
Thunderbolt is not a USB standard. It is an entirely different tool designed for fast data transfer. Intel has developed it and if a company wants to integrate this technology into its devices, it must obtain certification from Intel. Not all companies want to do this, so this protocol is not found on many devices.
Thunderbolt cords use the same 8.4mm reversible port as USB-C. Thunderbolt 3 ports, cables, and equipment typically have a lightning arrow to distinguish them from USB-C.
Even if it is not USB, Thunderbolt has a backup option. If it cannot communicate with a device connected as a Thunderbolt unit, it attempts to transfer using the USB protocol. When using USB, the Thunderbolt 3 port is limited to the USB speeds of the connected device, not the much faster Thunderbolt speeds.
Thunderbolt is much faster than any of its USB competitors.
USB 3.2 Generation 1 has only a transfer rate of 5 Gbps, Generation 2 has a transfer rate of 10 Gbps, and generation 2 × 2 has a top speed of 20 Gbps. But none of these can compete with the 40 Gbps speed of the Thunderbolt.
If you’re buying a new device or computer and want to use the high-speed transfers Thunderbolt makes possible, make sure the device has a USB-C port labeled with the lightning logo .
Want to know how much power you can get from your USB ports on your computer? Find out here.
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