USB-A and USB-C: what's the difference?

USB Type-A and USB Type-C are wired interfaces. We understand how they differ from each other and what relation USB 3.1 has to them.

There are many types of wired connections. These include VGA, COM, HDMI, USB and many others. USB Type-A and USB Type-C are just the tip of the iceberg, but today we will only talk about them. These two types of ports are very common, they are found in personal computers, and in numerous peripherals. When buying any device, it will be useful to find out what type of connection it supports, as this information will help you understand what the technique can do and how to get the most out of it.


What is USB-A?

To begin with, a USB connection involves using the port of the host device (host), the connecting cable, and the port of the receiving device. Ports have different functions and differ externally.

A Type A USB connection is often referred to as full-sized USB. This type is widespread and easily recognizable.

USB Type-A is a large, horizontally located rectangular-shaped connector with sharp corners. Inside it is a plastic panel in black, white or blue with a set of contacts. This is the same connector that must be “observed” before use: the plug enters the socket in only one position.

USB-A appeared in the mid-nineties. In the zero, he began to meet everywhere. They are equipped with keyboards, mice, webcams, banks, cameras and connecting cables. The popularity of USB Type-A is due to the fact that this interface is reliable, versatile and provides a high data transfer rate (480 Mbps). At the same time, it supports not only connecting peripheral devices, but also charging them.

There may be a USB Type-B connector on the other end of the USB Type-A cable. USB-B is the port of the receiving device (such as a printer) that connects to the host (computer). It is also easy to recognize: a Type B compound is square.

There are many subtypes of USB-A and USB-B: USB Mini A, USB Micro A, Mini B, Micro AB, etc. Their design features deserve a separate material, while we will not touch them.

What is USB-C?

Over time, the capabilities of USB Type-A ceased to meet the needs of users, and there was a need for a faster and more compact connection. USB-C is a relatively new interface, it appeared in 2014. It differs in form from USB-A: it is also a rectangle, but much smaller and with very rounded corners. Today Type-C is one of the most widely used connection types in consumer devices.

Its key features:

  • Compactness and convenience (the USB-C plug is inserted into the connector on either side).
  • Power transmission up to 100 watts (in some cases up to 130 watts).
  • The ability to supply power to energy-intensive devices, such as laptops.
  • Higher data transfer rates (up to 10 Gb / s).
  • The ability to transfer video in 4K.
  • Versatility - you can replace many specific connectors, including HDMI and VGA.
  • Potential compatibility with Thunderbolt 3 (with optional hardware, the USB-C port can be used as Thunderbolt 3).

Is USB-C better than USB-A and all?

As mentioned above, USB Type-C is faster and more versatile than USB-A. Over time, it will supersede the old interfaces, but this will not happen soon.

Currently, computers and laptops are equipped with both types of connectors. This is necessary to avoid problems with connecting old equipment: there are plenty of phones, gamepads , keyboards, printers and other peripherals in use that require USB-A / A or USB-A / B.

In addition, not all users are willing to purchase USB-C adapters in order to use old equipment through the new connection standard. But as older devices go out of use, USB-C is becoming more widespread.

What is USB 3.1?

USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 - data transfer protocols when connected via USB. These terms do not refer to the physical description of the connectors. They indicate at what speed the device is able to exchange data.

The USB 3.0 standard, with its advent, marked the beginning of a chain of important changes. First of all, he demanded to modify the Type-A design in order to expand connectivity (the USB-C standard was developed in this way). Subsequent changes, by and large, affected only the data transfer rate.

The USB 3.1 protocol and the USB-C port were developed in parallel, which is why USB-C always works via USB 3.1 (although it is technically possible to implement USB 2.0 in it as well). At the moment, there are two generations of USB 3.1: USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2. The second extends the original capabilities of USB-C, for example, allows you to transfer data at speeds up to 10 Gb / s.

USB-A and USB-C ports can support various protocols - from USB 2.0 to USB 3.1 Gen 2. Usually, this information is indicated in the technical specifications of the device. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that manufacturers use different names of protocols, and sometimes there is confusion: USB 3.1 Gen 1 is mistakenly called USB 3.0.

USB 3.1 is compatible with other USB connections: if the laptop port supports USB 3.1, you can connect an old USB 2.0 stick to it. But there are a couple of nuances: to use the Type-C connector, an adapter may be required, and the maximum data transfer rate is possible only if the USB cable and the connected device support it.

Instead of a conclusion

Too complicated? Then remember the main thing.

  • USB-A and USB-C are connectors and plugs of various shapes. USB-A is large rectangular, USB-C is small and looks more like an elongated oval than a rectangle.
  • USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 are data transfer standards.
  • USB-A and USB-C can have different standards, the connection speed depends on this.
  • USB 3.1 is compatible with other standards, but only USB-C can use the potential of USB 3.1 Gen 2.
  • The cable and connected devices must also support 3.1 technology for full functionality.
  • Soon the USB 3.2 standard will appear. It will provide new advantages in terms of speed, but it will add even more confusion to the understanding of USB standards.



1 comment

  • I advise you to look at usb 3.1 and usb 2.0 at least once, and make sure that these terms also apply to the physical description. It seems that in general neither 3.0 nor 3.1 have ever been seen live.