USB Connection History and Top Modern Options

October 12, 2021

There are several different cord or connector types that might be important to today’s computer users, and the various USB options are a great example. USB connection has taken several forms over the last couple decades, and the last couple years in particular have featured a couple major upgrades that show big improvements for a variety of different device users.

At Xidax, we’re here to help with any and all connection and port needs for your gaming laptop or desktop, including the newest connection types on the market today. What’s the brief history here, and what are today’s best USB formats based on your needs? Here’s a rundown.

History of USB Connections

USB connections have been present for years in the device world, with the USB Type-A port serving as the oldest and most well-known. This is a blocky, square-like port that typically features four pins. This is the same physical connector type that has been used for a number of years, but there are still plenty of devices on the market today that feature this connection.

The USB Type-B was another common option for devices to use, fitting into a port at 90 degrees with 17 pins instead of the Type-A’s four. The USB Micro-B is a third option, featuring a small design with five pins for power and data transfer. This was commonly seen in mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

USB Type-C

Within the last few years, though, USB Type-C has become a much more popular option. This is a reversible connector, meaning you don’t have to worry about trying to plug it in upside down or at an angle. It also features a round shape that’s similar to the USB Micro-B before it, but with a slightly larger design and 24 pins instead of five.

This high number of pins helps with faster data transfer: Up to 10 Gbps for USB 3.1 Gen 1 and 20 Gbps for USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds for this format. This is already a standard option on many devices, but it’s also making its way into laptops and desktops that are built by Xidax and other manufacturers.

In some ways, you can think of USB Type-C as a “unifying” form of connection. This is because the pin configuration for this connector type is standardized, so it can be used on both sides of the connection. It’s also capable of handling DisplayPort signals and Thunderbolt 3 protection layers, which means you won’t need to worry about purchasing extra adapters or converters when transferring data or working with monitors or peripherals that use this.

Now, there are some additional varieties to the USB Type-C sector — these are sometimes confused for one another, with some assuming they’re all the same thing. This actually isn’t the case, as we’ll detail below.

USB 3.1

The first of these additional varieties is USB 3.1, the successor to USB 3.0. Known for its bright turquoise port, USB 3.1 Type-C can be found in a number of devices, such as the Apple MacBook Pro and HP Spectre.

A key difference between USB Type-C and USB 3.1 is that the latter uses an older standard for speeds: 5 Gbps and 10 Gbps instead of 20 Gbps. However, it still has plenty of benefits when compared to older USB formats, like SuperSpeed (USB 3.0) and high-speed (USB 2.0). In addition, USB 3.1 can utilize up to 100W of power, plus remains fully backwards compatible with USB 3.0.

USB 3.1 Gen 2

Another sub-variety of USB Type-C is USB 3.1 Gen 2, which is the same as its predecessor but supports faster speeds of 20 Gbps over 10 Gbps — basically double what you see with USB 3.1. It also works with DisplayPort 1.2, which means you’ll be able to stream 4K video content at 60 Hz.

It also supports up to 100W of power and is compatible with USB 3.0 devices if needed. However, it does have one key difference when compared directly to standard USB 3.1 Type-C: The option for 250 watts of power instead of 100 watts.

USB 3.2

The final variety of USB Type-C is USB 3.2, which is capable of working with multi-lane operation in order to facilitate faster data transfer speeds. For example, it can handle up to four lanes for 10 Gbps connections or two lanes at 20 Gbps — but this will depend on the device you’re using it with.

USB 3.2 is also known for its support of two-way data transfer over a single lane, which means devices can send and receive data simultaneously without having to rely on additional lanes or bandwidth.

While we hate to confuse you any further, USB 3.2 has several varieties of its own: Gen 1, Gen 2, and even Gen 2×2, all of which come with their own set of benefits. Gen 2×2 has the highest supported bandwidth, allowing for two 20 Gbps connections over two lanes. USB 3.2 Gen 1 is limited to 10 Gbps over one lane, while Gen 2 can manage up to 20 Gbps but with its single-lane limitation. It’s also worth noting that USB 3.2 Gen 1 is compatible with both USB 3.1 Type-C and USB 3.1 Gen 2, while USB 3.2 is officially compatible only with the latter type.

However, not all devices are currently supporting these faster speeds or multi-lane connections — in fact, some earlier devices even have trouble just connecting to a monitor or other device at USB 3.1 or 3.2 speeds, so you might not get the full benefit of these technologies unless your system is equipped with a newer processor and chipset to handle them.

Wondering how these areas apply to your gaming or any other computing setup? Speak to the pros at Xidax to learn more about this or any of our gaming computer products or accessories.

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