USB Type-C and a standard USB

difference between usb types

by Alex Gustman

Updated: February 14, 2022

Manufacturers of mobile electronics are increasingly equipping devices with a USB Type-C port that will replace commonly used ports in the future. In this article, we’ll have a look at the features, advantages, and disadvantages of this new type of port. Also, we compare it to the popular micro-USB port.

What is USB Type-C?

USB Type-C or USB-C is a new type of connector for various devices, including smartphones, tablets, flash drives, computer motherboards, power banks, laptops, etc. The symmetrical shape of a connector allows you to connect the cable in any position. Micro-USB ports do not have this feature. As a result, you can connect them to your devices only in one position.

usb port on smartphone

Simultaneously with the release of USB Type-C connectors, manufacturers adopted new USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface standards. They differ from their predecessors by higher carrying capacity and additional features. In particular, they have extra power lines, a channel for device type detection, and video stream broadcasting.

usb c port
USB-C connector

USB Type-C connectors offer features that are not available in previous USB versions. For instance, with USB-C, you can have faster data transfer rates, power transfer of up to 100 W, images displaying on a PC or TV screen, and more.

As a user, you have got a universal connector with many features. However, take in mind that USB Type-C is just a connector. Its functionality is affected by the implementation of the standard. Therefore when buying new devices, you should make sure that they support the USB 3.1 Gen 1 standard or a more modern USB standard.

What do you think about USB Type-C? Share your opinion in the comment section below.

Opportunities

  • Features. The number of contacts on one side in USB Type-C is 12, compared to 5 contacts in micro-USB. Thanks to this, a new connector includes more scenarios of use. 
  • Connectivity. A symmetrical design of USB Type-C allows you to install the cable on either side. It simplifies and speeds up the connection process.
  • Sound. You can connect analog and digital headphones to USB Type-C devices.
  • Durability. Connector reliability is similar to micro-USB with 10,000 connection-disconnect cycles. With one cycle per day, you get up to 27 years of life, and with four cycles per day, you get up to 6 years of life.
  • Compatibility. USB Type-C is fully compatible with devices that run on the outdated specification. Power cables, power banks, and other accessories can work with the USB-C-micro-USB adapter or vice versa.
  • Data transfer. When using USB 3.1 Gen 1 specification, the maximum data transfer rate reaches 5 Gbit, while micro-USB with USB 2.0 is 11 times lower and is 480 MB. For devices supporting the new standards, it is up to 40 GB.
  • Fast charging. Low-quality micro-USB cables use a thin, conductive wire for charging, resulting in current and voltage sags. Quality micro-USB cables typically use a reinforced conductive wire or extra wire that can transfer up to 25 watt of power. In USB Type-C, there is an additional power line. It can provide up to 100 watt of power.
  • Image displaying on the screen. Displaying full HD pictures via HDMI is available in micro-USB that the MHL standard is supported. At the same time, the mobile device quickly runs out of power due to the lack of additional power. USB Type-C supports DisplayPort, HDMI, and Thunderbolt. Thanks to extra power lines, a device has enough power. Also, the maximum resolution of the picture displayed on the screen is 4K.
  • Versatility. The USB Type-C port can connect multiple peripherals, display images, and transfer data at high speed. As a result, one compact port can easily replace several massive connectors.
usb a port
USB-A connector

What is the difference between USB Type-C and micro-USB?

It is a mistake to assume that having USB Type-C in a smartphone or other device gives users access to all of the above features.

It is important to understand that USB Type-C is only a connector, and all possible implementations refer to USB 3.1 Gen 1 standards and higher. Remember to check out connector specifications before purchasing new electronics. Often, manufacturers use USB Type-C instead of micro-USB. In this case, only the installation of the cable on either side is available.

The USB Type-C port has USB 2.0 lines for backward compatibility. It allows you to connect devices with outdated specifications. This hardware works as advertised, but the advanced features of USB 3.0 and above are not available to the user.

usb port on phone

Compatibility

The availability of additional power and data lines has enabled previously unavailable technologies, such as Power Delivery (PD), to be incorporated into USB Type-C. This standard provides up to 100 watts of power to compatible devices in both directions, allowing you to quickly charge a laptop or power a monitor.

DisplayPort and HDMI provide the ability to transfer video to an external screen without the need for adapters.

With Thunderbolt support, up to six peripheral devices can be chained together or connected via a hub.

SuperSpeed. The USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 specifications have data transfer rates of 5 and 10 Gbps, respectively. The USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 specification has a maximum transfer rate of 20 Gbps, and USB 4 has a maximum transfer rate of 40 Gbps.

Multitasking. With one USB Type-C port, you can simultaneously transfer data, charge your device, and display images on another device.

The new connector has a total of 24 pins, two pairs on each side. Each pair is duplicated, allowing the connector to be installed on either side. Only 12 contacts are used at once, which makes up 6 groups.

GND, aka Ground, refers to the earth ground, literally connecting electrical equipment to the ground to prevent user contact with high voltages. USB 2.0 is a low-speed data transfer channel with data transfer rates of up to 480 Mbps that maintains the USB 2.0 standard. USB 3.1 is a high-speed data channel for data transfer of 5 GB or more when compatible equipment is connected. VBUS is a power supply channel with interactive voltage and current regulation. The maximum current is up to 5 amps, voltage is up to 20 volts. The maximum power per cable is up to 100 watts. SBU is an auxiliary channel with video transmission capability. CC is a channel for detecting the equipment to be connected, allowing automatic adjustment of the supplied voltage and current intensity.

What is the difference between USB-A and USB-C?

The difference lies in the type of connector and the number of pins. The USB-C standard is more compact, making it suitable for all types of devices. The number of pins in USB-C is larger, which means more opportunities for developers and manufacturers. In addition, the USB-C standard is initially designed symmetrically, allowing the cable to connect either side.

Can you plug regular USB into USB-C?

Any cable can be connected to USB-C as long as the connector and plug match. The capabilities are affected by the USB-C version. In version 2.0 only slow charging and data transfer are available. The 3.0 version additionally offers charging and data transfer in accelerated mode. In later generations, more features are available.

Are there different types of USB-C?

There is a uniform standard for USB-C in terms of size and contacts. However, the number of connected wires can vary according to the respective version. In version 2.0 only 2 wires can be used for charging or 4 for charging and data transfer. In version 3.0 there can be 12 wires in a cable: for charging and data transfer in accelerated or normal mode, video transfer, etc.

Will USB-C replace USB-A?

It will not completely replace USB-A, as USB-A is used in many digital devices. The USB-C connector will eventually become more mainstream than USB-A. However, USB-C will only be used in devices which require high data transfer rates or power. Other devices will use USB-A or USB-B.

What is the difference between Type-C charger and normal charger?

The Type-C charger is designed for high power output of 25W or more. This is facilitated by an additional set of contacts. The Type-A charger also supports power delivery in accelerated mode, but the power delivered is typically less than 20W.

FAQ

What is A Type A to Type C USB cable?

This is a cable with a USB-A standard connector on one side and a USB-C standard plug on the other. A typical cable for charging most devices with a USB-C connector. Most cables transfer power from the USB-C side.

Is standard USB USB-A?

USB-A is the standard type for most mobile, portable and stationary electronics. USB-C is gradually replacing USB-A to become the new universal standard due to its versatility and advanced capabilities.

Is USB-C and Type-C the same?

Yes, these are synonyms for the USB standard.

What is the standard USB size?

Length x Width x Height for type-C 6.65 x 8.25 x 2.4 mm. Width x height of type-A is 12 x 4.5 mm and for type-B 6.8 x 10.44 mm.

What is A Type-C cord for?

The cord is required for charging and transferring data for devices with a USB-C socket. These are usually mobile devices in the form of smartphones and tablets, as well as accessories. More and more USB-C connectors are appearing in laptops and ultrabooks.

Are USB-A and C compatible?

The standards are only partially compatible because of the difference in the number of pins. USB-A has a maximum of 9 pins, while USB-C has 12.

What is the standard USB port called?

The standard port is commonly referred to as USB-A. The version has been around since 1996 and is considered the most widely used. In recent years, it has been replaced by the more compact USB-C version.

Is USB-C the same as USB 4?

USB4 is a new specification describing how the standard works. USB-C is the connector type. Formally, USB4 will work on the basis of USB-C, but USB-C can also be used by other USB specifications, e.g. version 2.0 or 3.0.

What is the Type-C port on my laptop for?

The Type-C port is versatile and suitable for a variety of applications: charging, data transfer and video streaming. This is facilitated by the extra pins in the connector. Typically, the Type-C port is installed in slim ultrabooks to save space and space at the expense of legacy oversized ports.

Conclusion

In the future, manufacturers will finally switch to USB Type-C. In the end, micro-USB will meet the same fate as mini-USB because now the appearance of devices with the old connector is a rarity and occurs only in the Chinese market of gadgets. The process of transition to a new type of connector has already begun. In the middle and mass niche devices by inertia continue to introduce micro-USB. Some electronics goods such as power banks have both connectors.

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About the author 

Alex Gustman


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