TECH TIPS - USB 3.1 EXPLAINED

WHAT IS USB 3.1?

USB 3.1 is the current standard for USB which determines the data transfer speed and features of the USB device. USB 3.1 was confusingly known as USB 3.0 until it was renamed in 2018. USB 3.1 supports up to 5Gbps for USB 3.1 Gen1 devices (previously USB 3.0) or up to 10Gbps for USB 3.1 Gen2 which is the newer standard. Got all that? We know, it’s not simple!


IS TYPE C THE SAME AS USB 3.1?

It’s not quite the same. USB Type C is a physical connector while USB 3.1 refers to the format and speed the data is sent in. For more information on USB Type C take a look through our USB Type C Explained guide here


WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN USB 2.0 AND USB 3.1?

You will still find USB 2.0 is commonly used on devices such as mice, keyboards or even webcams. USB 2.0 doesn’t support the higher data transfer rates of USB 3.1 and instead caps out at just 480Mbps with support for only 0.5A of power compared to the 5,000Mbps and 0.9A supported by USB 3.1.


WHAT ARE POWER DELIVERY AND ALTERNATE MODE?

You’ve probably seen those terms around quite a bit on modern USB devices or cables. For an explanation of these terms take a look at our Guide to USB Type C which explains power delivery and alternate mode.


HOW DO I KNOW IF MY DEVICE HAS A TYPE C PORT OR AN OLDER USB PORT?

An easy way to check is by inserting a cable. Type C connectors are reversible so will work no matter which way it is inserted into the port, while older USB connectors such as Micro-B only work when inserted with a specific orientation. This guide also provides a simple reference as to what each USB connector looks like so you can check if they will fit your device ports.


WHAT IS HDR?

Here is a link to our in-depth HDR FAQ


WHAT ARE THE OTHER FEATURES OF USB TYPE C?

There are two optional features that are common with USB Type C cables, and these features need to be supported by both the cable and the devices used.

Power Delivery or PD – This does exactly what you would expect. Delivers power from 15W up to 100W to charge a device. Most phones currently support charging between 15W and 30W, with laptops supporting between 45W and 60W.

Alternate Mode – Currently Alternate Mode is only widely supported by a single standard, DisplayPort. With DisplayPort Alternate mode a USB Type C cable can be used as a video cable similar to a normal DisplayPort cable, but only if the device it’s connected to supports alternate mode.


ANYTHING ELSE I NEED TO KNOW?

Well you should now have a basic idea about USB Type C but if you need more information on USB in general why not take a look at our in-depth Guide to USB 3.1