Posted by: kurtsh | July 18, 2012

INFO: USB 3.0 Cabling/Connector Types

I’ve had this 1GB portable USB 3.0 Hard Drive for a while now.  I’ve always used it for backups and whatnot and never really paid attention to the connectors it used.

One day, I decided that along with my new Sony VAIO S laptop, I would buy a USB 3.0 hub so that I could have a USB 3.0 speed backup drive attached all the time when I got home and backup stuff at 5Gbps. (Wheeee!)  That’s when I noticed the cable connectors were… well… sort alien to me.

imageUSB 3.0 Type-A
Here’s the connector & port that everyone knows:  The “blue” colored USB 3.0 connector.  It looks identical to USB 2.0 ports/connectors except the inside connector plate is the tell-tale SuperSpeed ‘blue’ color and the cable is labeled with an ‘SS’. 

USB 3.0 Type-A connectors are compatible with USB 2.0 ports, and vice versa, but anytime you’ve got the USB 2.0 connected to USB 3.0 peripherals, you’ll see the slower 2.0 data rates.  That’s easy enough to understand.

imageUSB 3.0 Type-B
Here’s the more foreign port/connector that folks that have had stationary periperals like desktop drives, CD/DVD external chassis’, etc. may recognize a bit.  It’s the larger, more sturdier port connector that looks more square-ish and fits the back of larger devices like printers and such. 

Interestingly enough, USB 2.0 Type-B cables are compatible with USB 3.0 ports, (shuttling down their speed accordingly of course) but not vice versa.

imageUSB 3.0 Micro-B
Now this is where it gets funky.  The Micro B connector is labeled with a “B”, has the tell tale ‘SS’ on it, and it has a very thin, short connector.  This has to be the single WORST connector every created and I can tell you from personal experience that if you can, you’ll want to avoid this connector.  Why?  Because it’s VERY easy to break/snap off into the drive/hub it’s plugged into, or worst, break the female port that it’s plugged into.  This is exactly what’s happened to me several times with this connector on hubs, drives, and peripherals.  If you have to use, it be very careful as it can be delicate.

So why’d they design it like this?  Well, it turns out for the same reason as I’ve mentioned above:  Compatibility with USB 2.0 Micro-B connectors.  A USB 3.0 cable can obviously (due to size) not be plugged into a USB 2.0 port, but a 2.0 cable can be used in a 3.0 port – and it’ll work, but at the slower data rate of USB 2.0.


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