USB VERSIONS AND SPEED STANDARDS

USB versions and speed standards refers to the generation and the speed at which data can be transferred through the USB port or cable.

First generation

The first version is the USB 1.0. It was released in 1996 and it is ancient by modern standards. It is very slow, with data transmission speeds of just 1.5 Mbps. You will hardly find any device using this version of USB today. If you do, that device is most likely in a museum. Due to it’s shortcomings, a minor upgrade called the USB 1.1 was released in 1998. USB 1.1 had speeds of up to 12Mbps and performed better than the 1.0.


Second generation

In 2001, the second USB version called USB 2.0 (High Speed) was released. USB 2.0 is still the version used on many smartphones today. USB 2.0 had three speed tiers. It transmitted data at 1.5Mbps (low speed) for low powered peripherals like wired keyboards, mice etc. 12Mbps (Full speed) was used for printers, photocopiers, flash drives, phones etc. 480 Mbps (High speed) was mostly used for data transfer.

USB 2.0 introduced many modern USB norms, including support for Mini and Micro USB cables, USB OTG, USB hubs and more. It is the slowest speed of USB still used today. You’ll find it used on cheap flash drives, devices like mice and keyboards, and similar. Most phones and computers today use USB 2.0 ports.

Third generation

USB 3.0 (Super speed) is the current standard for USB speeds. It was introduced in 2011. It is much faster than USB 2.0, and thus recommended for devices like external hard drives. USB 3.0 runs at a blazing 5Gbps. In 2014 and 2017, USB 3.1 and 3.2 (Superspeed+) were released as updates to the standard 3.0 and they were even much more faster.


You can typically identify a USB 3.x port or connector by its blue coloring. Many USB 3.0 ports also have an SS symbol (which stands for Super Speed). Most new computers have at least one USB 3 port, and all good-quality flash drives use this standard.

Fourth generation

USB 4.0 (Superspeed+ and Thunderbolt 3) was released last year (2019) and it transfers data at double the speed of USB 3.2. USB 4.0 transfers data at 40Gbits per second. It can only be found on the high end PCs, laptops and smartphones (probably). The latest PlayStation 5 also ships with USB 4.0.

Below are the various USB versions and speed standards in tabular form.

USB versions and speed standards

INSIDE A USB CABLE

If you cut a USB cable open, you will find 4 wires that are colour coded according to their functions.

This information should come in handy when fiddling with cables especially when trying to swap heads or on other DIY stuff.

One more thing, all USB cords are not equal. Some USB cords are actually faster than others when charging or sending data. Make sure to check before purchasing.


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