The Current State Of USB

Release time:2017-06-16 11:15 Clicks:72
Look around your house and chancesare you that have a least a few devices equipped with Universal Serial Bus(USB) cables. On average, some 3 billion USBports are shipped each year, by far the most successful type ofperipheral connection.
In recent years, though, USB'scompetition has intensified and it now trails behind the new Thunderboltstandardboth in speed and ease of use. This is the gap that the latest USB development,USB Type-C, finalized justearlier this month, intends to fill.
Before you can understand USB Type-C,however, you need to know the difference between USB Type-A and Type-B, andtell between the various versions of the USB standard. Generally, the versionrefers to the speed and functionality of the USB cable, while the USB Type refersto the physical shape and the wiring of the ports and plugs.
USB Type-A
Also known asUSB Standard-A, USB Type-A is the originaldesign for the USB standard with a flat and rectangular shape.
On a typical USB cable, the Type Aconnector, aka the A-male connector, is the end that goes into a host, such asa computer. And on a host, the USB port (or receptacle) where the Type A-malegoes into, is called an A-female port. Type-A ports are mostly in host devices,including desktop computers, laptops,game consoles, media players and so on. There are very few peripheral devicesthat use a Type-A port.
Different USB versions including USB1.1, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 (more on versions below) currently share the same USBType-A design. That means a Type-A connector is always compatible with a Type-Aport event if the device and host use different USB versions. For example, aUSB 3.0 external hard drive also works with a USB 2.0 port, and vice versa.
Similarly, small devices such as amouse, keyboard, or network adapter that have hard-wired USB cables always useType-A connectors. That's true also for things without cables, such as a thumbdrive.
Though USB 3.0's connectors and portshave have more pins than those of USB 2.0 versions to deliver faster speed andhigher power output, these pins are organized in a way that doesn't preventthem from physically working with the older version.
Also note that there are smallerType-A plugs and connectors, including Mini Type-A and Micro Type-A, but thereare very few devices that use these designs.
USB Type-B
Typically, the Type-B connector is the other end of a standard USB cable that plugs into peripheral device (suchas a printer, a phone, or an external hard drive). It's also known as TypeB-male. On the peripheral device, the USB port is called Type B-female.
Since the peripheral devices vary agreat deal in shape and size, the Type-B connector and its respective port alsocome in many different designs. Up to now there have been five popular designsfor the USB Type-B's plugs and connectors. And since the Type-A end of a USBcable remains the same, the Type-B end is used to determine the name of thecable itself. (Wikipedia has a great USB connector mating matrix thatyou can consult.)
The original standard(Standard-B): This design was first made for USB 1.1 and is also used inUSB 2.0. It's mostly for connecting large peripheral devices, such as printersor scanners to a computer.
Mini-USB (or Mini-B USB):Significantlysmaller, the Mini-USB Type-B ports are found in older portable devices, such asdigital cameras, smartphones, and older portable drives. This design isbecoming obsolete.
Micro-USB (orMicro-B USB):Slightly smallerthan Mini-USB, the Micro-USB Type-B port is currently the most popular USB portdesign for latestsmartphones and tablets.
Micro-USB 3.0 (or Micro-B USB3.0): This is the widest design and mostly used for USB 3.0portable drives. Most of the time, the Type-A end of the cable isblue.
Standard-B USB3.0:This design is very similar to theStandard-B, however, it's designed to handle USB 3.0 speed. Most of the time,both ends of the cable are blue.
Note that there's also another, lesspopular, USB 3.0 Powered-B plug and connector. This design has two additionalpins to provide extra power to the peripheral device. Also, there's relativelya rare Micro Type-AB port that allows the device to work as either a host or aperipheral device.
Proprietary USB
Not all devices use standard USBcables mentioned above. Instead, some of them use a proprietary design in theplace of the Type-B plug and connector. The most famous example of thesedevices are the iPhone and the iPad, where either a30-pin or lightning connector takes place of the Type-B end. The Type-A end,however, is still the standard size.
USB versions
USB 1.1:Releasedin August 1998, this is the first USB version to be widely adopted (theoriginal version 1.0 never made it into consumer products). It has a top speedof 12Mbps (though in many cases only performs at 1.2Mbps). It's largelyobsolete.
USB 2.0:Releasedin April 2000, it has a max speed of 480Mbps in Hi-Speed mode, or 12Mbps inFull-Speed mode. It currently has the max power out put of 2.5V, 1.8A and isbackward-compatible with USB 1.1.
USB 3.0:Releasedin November 2008, USB 3.0 has the top speed of 5Gbps in SuperSpeed mode. A USB3.0 port (and connector) is usually colored blue. USB 3.0 is backward-compatiblewith USB 2.0 but its port can deliver up to 5V, 1.8A of power.
USB 3.1: Released in July 26, 2013, USB 3.1 doublesthe speed of USB 3.0 to 10Gbps (now called SuperSpeed+ or SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps), making it as fast as the original Thunderbolt standard. USB 3.1 isbackward-compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. USB 3.1 has three power profiles(according to USB Power Delivery Specification), and allows larger devicesto draw power from a host: up to 2A at 5V (for a power consumption of up to10W), and optionally up to 5A at either 12V (60W) or 20V (100W). The first USB3.1 products are expected to be available next year, and will mostly use USBType-C design.
USB Type-C (orUSB-C)
Physically, the Type-C port andconnector is about the same size as that of the Micro-B USB mentioned above. AType-C port measure just 8.4mm by 2.6mm. This means it's small enough to workfor even the smallest peripheral devices. With Type-C, a USB cable's both endswill be the same, allowing for reversible plug orientation. You also don't needto worry about plugging it in upside down.
Set to be widely available starting2015, Type-C USB will support USB 3.1 with the top speed of 10Gbps and has muchhigh power output of up to 20V(100W) and 5A. Considering most 15-inch notebookcomputers require just around 60W of power, this means in the future laptopcomputers can be charged the way tablets and smart phones are now, viatheir little USB port. In fact Apple's latest 12-inch Macbook isthe first notebook that incorporates a Type-C USB as its power port.
Going forwards, USB-C will enablestorage vendors to make bus-powered (no separate power adapter required)external hard drives of much larger capacity, since it provides enough power torun one or even multiple desktop hard drives.
Type-C USB also allows forbi-directional power, so apart from charging the peripheral device, whenapplicable, a peripheral device could also charge a host device. All this meansyou can do away with an array of proprietary power adapters and USB cables, andmove to a single robust and tiny solution that works for all devices. Type-CUSB will significantly cut down the a amount of wires currently needed to makedevices work.
Backward-compatiblebut adapters required
Type-C USB and USB 3.1 arebackward-compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. In a pure Type-C USB connection,the Type-A ports and plugs are no longer included. However, for compatibility,you'll find compatible Type A to Type C cable. On top of that there will beadapters to make Type C hosts and devices work with existing USB devices.
This is the first time adapters arerequired with USB, and likely the only time, at least for the the foreseeablefuture.USB ImplementersForum, the group responsible for the development of USB, says thatType-C USB is designed to be future-proof, meaning the design will be used forfuture and faster USB versions.
It will take a few years for Type-Cbecome as popular as the current Type-A, but when it does it will simplify theway we work with devices. There will be just one tiny cable needed for anydevice, for both data and power connections.
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