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USB-A vs. USB-C: we analyze these connections to know the differences

Surely they sound to you because they are the best known USB standards, but do you know exactly what they are and how they work? In this comparison between USB-A vs. USB-C we explain how both ports differ so that you know what they can do for your devices and peripherals.

What is USB-A?

USB-A vs. USB-C

?Type A? USB connections refer to the physical design of the USB port. Each USB connection consists of a port on the device host, a connection cable and a receiving device. USB-A has a traditional port design host USB and one of the easiest to recognize on devices.

It is a horizontal port with the "bottom" part dedicated to pin connectors. This unilateral USB connection design makes it only work when the cable is inserted the right way, no matter how many times you have to try.

Curiously, there is no port host USB-B The USB-B design is the receiver port located on the devices you are connecting to the computer host Type B connections are also easy to recognize because they are square designs, almost like the shape of a small house. If you observe a Type A cable, see the Type A connection at one end and the Type B connection at the other.

In addition, there are also smaller designs, such as USB Mini A and USB Micro A, which have different port designs, but these are not as important for our comparison.

USB-A vs. USB-C: how they differ

USB-A vs. USB-CMaurizio Pesce / Flickr

USB-C is a new port design officially announced in 2014, although it took several years to reach the most widespread consumer devices, as we are seeing today. USB-C was made to be a completely new type of USB port that will solve many of the problems of the old USB-A port. The key features of USB-C are:

  • A thinner design that can fit into a port no matter which direction you insert it, created to replace the A, B, mini and micro connections at the same time.
  • A 100-watt and 20-volt connection that is much more powerful than the previous port and can comfortably power even larger devices.
  • Potential for transfer speeds much higher than USB-A.
  • Support for power transmission so you can charge the devices located at both ends (with the correct cables) and charge the larger devices.
  • Compatibility with video streaming with much higher quality, including the ability to stream 4K video to a screen.
  • Compatibility with alternative modes that allow many different adapters for specific connections, such as HDMI or VG, or older types of USB connections.
  • Compatibility with Thunderbolt 3 connections, which means that a USB-C port can function as a Thunderbolt 3 port with additional hardware.

USB-C is a better connection?

USB-A vs. USB-C

With the appropriate data standard (see below), USB-C is faster and more versatile than USB-A. Over time, you can expect USB-C connections to replace all older USB-A connections and similar ports. However, this will probably lead to years.

For now, the USB-A port tends to integrate with the USB-C in many computers, so there are no compatibility issues. People still have older smartphones, controls, receivers, televisions, keyboards and all kinds of peripherals that require a USB-A / B connection.

Most people don't want to buy an adapter just to make the USB-C compatible with all their devices. As the older ones are no longer used, the USB-C will become the access port that everyone uses (we are already seeing how this begins to happen in some sectors).

Where does USB 3.1 fit in all this?

USB-A vs. USB-C

USB 3.0 or 3.1 refers to specific data protocols for USB connections: instead of describing the physical port, it describes what type of data the port can handle. With the arrival of USB 3.0 there was a remarkable change, which required a modification of the USB-A design so that it could acquire more capabilities and faster speeds.

USB 3.1 is normally divided into USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 and offers many of the data enhancements that USB-C supports, including speeds up to 10 Gbps and new charging capabilities.

To make things more confusing, the USB-A and USB-C ports can support a variety of standards, from USB 2.0 to USB 3.1 Gen 2. Worse, not everyone uses the same names for these protocols, so USB 3.1 Gen 1 is sometimes called USB 3.0. The novelty is that USB 3.1 is compatible with all other USB connections, although an adapter for the USB-C ports may be necessary. You should also ensure that your USB cables and devices support the data capabilities of version 3.1 whenever possible.

Do you already have a headache? Let's simplify things with some important points to remember:

  • USB-A and USB-C may have different data standards (up to USB 3.1), which indicate the ability to support data.
  • USB 3.1 is compatible with other standards, although adapters may be needed, which makes it a good standard to consider.
  • Only a USB-C connection can use the full potential of USB 3.1 Gen 2.
  • Cables and devices must also be compatible with the USB data standard: if you have a USB 3.1 port, the cable and the connected device must also be compatible with standard 3.1 to make the most of it.

But here does not end our comparison USB-A vs. USB-C or connections and nomenclature: the USB 3.2 standard is already underway and will make things even more confusing with different types that have their own names.