You may have noticed that most USBs or their ports tend to have ‘3.0’ or ‘2.0’ written on them – and newer ones may even say ‘USB C.’ Today we will discuss the USB 2 vs 3 debate by analyzing their differences and similarities.
Let’s look at each USB standard on its own first and understand what these names mean. The USB standard itself was released in 1996, and we have so far seen three generations of this standard: USB 1.0, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0. USB 1.0 is more or less obsolete at this point, so the latter two are commonly used in modern electric devices.
This came out in the year 2000 and is quite often called the High-Speed USB. USB 2.0 was the most common USB standard for years. However, many high-end motherboards are now replacing it with USB 3.0.
This USB standard came out in 2008 and has slowly been taking over USB 2.0 as the most popular USB standard. Much of its popularity can be attributed to the improvements it makes over USB 2.0.
USB 3.0 vs 2.0
Now we will explore the differences between both standards.
USB 2.0 vs 3.0: Physical Differences
It is not difficult to tell both standards apart because their physical appearance is more or less similar. The connectors for USB 2.0 are either white or black on the inside, while those for USB 3.0 are usually blue inside.
Apart from color difference, the only other noticeable one is the number of wire connections – USB 2.0 has 4 connector wires in total and also supports half-duplex communication. In contrast, USB 3.0 has 9 connector wires in total and the addition of five extra wires gives it increased bandwidth and allows simultaneous two-way communications.
USB 2.0 vs 3.0: Speed
In terms of speed, USB 3.0 is much, much faster. While USB 2.0 has a transfer speed of merely 480 megabits per second, USB 3.0 has a much higher transfer speed of 4,800 megabits per second. In other words, USB 3.0 is about 10 times as fast as USB 2.0. The latest USB 3.1 is much faster than these two – it has a transfer speed of 10,000 megabits per second.
USB 2.0 vs 3.0: Charging
Charging speed depends on how much power a USB standard can deliver, as well as how efficient its power management is. In short, USB 3.0 provides much more efficient power management than USB 2.0 and delivers increased power.
While USB 2.0 can provide power up to 500 mA, USB 3.0 can go up to 900 mA, which thus results in higher power delivery. This means that when it comes to USB 2.0 vs 3.0 charging, devices that use USB 3.0 will charge much faster, and USB 3.0 ports will be able to support higher power-consuming devices.
Power management is better in USB 3.0 because these devices can provide more power when it is needed, and conserve it when a device is connected but idle. This is far more advanced power management than that provided by USB 2.0 devices.
USB 2.0 vs 3.0: Backwards Compatibility
Backward compatibility can be important for users that own a large number of devices that could have differing USB ports. The good news is that all USB 3.0 ports are backward compatible, meaning that if you connect a USB 2.0 device to a USB 3.0 port, it will work fine. So you can easily use USB hubs for your devices no matter if they are USB 2.0 or 3.0.
USB 3.0 devices themselves are also backward compatible, which means that if you plug a USB 3.0 device into a USB 2.0 port, it will still be read. The problem, however, is that it will be read at the speed of the USB 2.0 port – you will not be able to take full advantage of the high speeds offered by your USB 3.0 device.
In Conclusion: Which is better?
After having looked at USB 2.0 vs 3.0 in from different aspects, it becomes quite obvious that USB 3.0 is superior (and USB 3.1 is even better) – not only does it offer higher speeds and better power management, it is also backward compatible. The only disadvantage that USB 3.0 has is that it is a bit more expensive than USB 2.0.