USB Generations and Types

Well, it is impossible that you haven’t seen rectangular USB ports around you. Life without USB cannot be imagined. The question is, how much you know about USB Generations and types? Keep reading the article to know everything about USB.

USB stand for Universal Serial Bus. It is a bus-based mechanism which can transfer the data or power in the serial foam from one place to another and hence makes them to communicate with each other. These are present everywhere, from your Computer’s Motherboard to even trimmers, now a days. It is widely used because of its easy to plug mechanism and plug and play convenience. Keep on learning and we will be reading more about USB Generations and Types.

Do you Know? USB was introduced in 1996 for connecting the peripheral devices to desktop computers. Later on, USB started replacing the serial ports, parallel ports, audio ports and PS/2 Ports. [?]

Let’s find out how USB port information is being written. So, The numeric digits (can be in decimal) is the generation of the USB and the Alphabets written with USB indicates the type of USB Port.

USB Generations

Generation of the USB defines its standard varying in data transfer speed or bandwidth, Maximum current it can transfer and what features it do have. The Generations of USB till now are:

Find the USB 3.x changed name scheme below

USB 1.0: Launched in 1996, Comes with a 4-pin easy to plug connector, which uses two pins for data transfer i.e. +5v and GND and other two for transferring serial data from Peripheral to host.  It do not support the transfer of data from host to peripheral at the same time. It have two speed standards, Low speed and Full Speed. It was designed for peripherals, i.e. Keyboard, Mouse and Joystick which do not need to transfer a large amount to data. Its color code was white.

USB 2.0 and USB 2.0 Revised: Both launched in 2001, have a 4 pin connector just like USB 1.0, along with this a new speed standard was launched, High Speed standard, Which is being used in various devices like pen drives etc. which can be found around in now a days. Color code of USB 2.0 is black. It can be easily found around still today.

USB 3.x: 3.0 was launched in 2011 along with a new speed standard known as superspeed with can transfer the data at a speed up to 5 Gb/s. Gen 3.1 and USB 3.2 were later introduced in 2014 and 2017, respectively. With a new speed standard, named Superspeed+. USB 3.x family uses a 9 pin connector for transferring data from peripheral to host and host to peripheral. Yes, this two way transfer of data at the same time was possible with USB 3 Family.

It has 5 additional pins to transfer the data, i.e. GND, receive +, receive -, transmit +, transmit -. USB 2.0 and USB 1.0 can also be used with the USB 3.0 Ports as these have the existing 4 pin setup at the same place.

The name scheme of USB 3.x family is changed later, Use can find somewhere written different names, these belongs to changed names. These are as:

New NameOld nameOriginal nameUSB-IF brandingTransfer speed
USB 3.2 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.0SuperSpeed USB 5Gbps5 Gbit/s
USB 3.2 Gen 2USB 3.1 Gen 2USB 3.1SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps10 Gbit/s
USB 3.2 Gen 2 x 2USB 3.2SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps20 Gbit/s
New Name scheme for USB 3.x Family

The color code of USB 3 family is Blue and additionally, Red or orange, which are high-current ports supporting sleep and charge which means the ports wouldn’t sleep while charging a device, which may be a good option for laptops, which we use many times for charging our smartphones.

USB 4: Launched recently in 2019, It is the most powerful USB, that is based on Superspeed + and Thunderbolt 3 Protocol. It can work as a display port as well. It can be used for host to host data transfer up to a whooping transfer rate of 40Gb/s! USB is produced with tunneling of USB 3.2 with PCI Express traffic. Only one type of USB Port, i.e. USB type C is continued in USB Gen 4. With USB Gen 4, We can even run two 4K displays at one and can attach a graphics card externally as well!

Learn more about USB Communications from Wikipedia here.

USB Types

USB are categorized into different types on the basis different physical design of ports which are being used in different types of devices according to their size and specifications. The USB types are majorly distributed among Standard, Mini and Micro, which have further classifications as well.

USB Types Classifications

USB Type A: These are the mostly seen USB Ports. These are rectangular ports, widely used in Desktops, Laptops, Wall Adapter of chargers etc. Comes with 4 pin in Gen 1.0 (White Color), Gen 2.0 (Black color) and 9 pin in Gen 3 family (Blue Color). These are easiest to plug in.

USB Type B: You have to pay a little attention with orientation when plugging in USB Type B. These are the square shaped connectors widely used to connect printers. It comes with 4 pins in Gen 1.0 and Gen 2.0 whereas 9 pins till Gen 3.1

USB Type C: This is the only type of USB Port continued in USB Gen 4. All other ports are not carried till Gen 4. These can transfer data at up to 40Gb/s and can also work as a Display port and we can attach a HDMI cable directly from Type C Port.  We can also conclude that USB C type is the future of USB. Newly launched smartphones are getting USB type C as these can also transfer power of up to 80-90W easily. These are easy to plug in. It has Thunderbolt 3 and Superspeed + Protocol.

This is the most powerful type of USB Ports produced till now. This port, same as size of micro-USB can have 24 pins!

USB Mini-family: It consists of Mini A, Mini B and Mini AB Ports. These are not carried further in USB 3 and USB 4 family. These all 3 ports are nearly same in architecture and varies in size. These are five pin connectors. These are the type of USB ports you may haven’t seen and have seen at a little bit of places. These were used in some mobile phones, Development boards like Arduino and Raspberry pi etc. These can wear and tear so easily because of their architecture. These are not robust and hence not suitable for being used in mobile phones etc. where we have to plug and remove many times.

USB Micro family: It must be mostly seen at many places by you. These are mainly found in smartphones for charging. It has two types of ports Micro-USB B and Micro-USB AB. The one used in mobile phones are Type B. Type B was continued till Gen 3.1 whereas Type AB was discontinued after Gen 2.0 Revised. This is a 5 pin and 9 pin connectors in Gen 2 and Gen 3.1, respectively.

What is OTG?

OTG stands for On-The-Go. These types of cables and adapters and even Pen-Drives are used to convert the type of USB port to another type to increase the compatibility of a host device to support more and more devices. i.e. MicroUSB to USB type A so that we can use Pen-Drives in our mobile phones. USB type C to USB Type A etc.

USB Generations

Author: Prateek

Technology Enthusiast, Computer Science Student

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