What Is USB 3.0? [Everything You Need To Know]

Daniel Attoe
Daniel Attoe

Updated · Aug 24, 2022


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You might wonder what type of USB cable you use daily to charge your phone.

With so many standards and connectors, it is no surprise you are uncertain.

Moreover, not that many people know the difference between all the versions and types, so worry not.

Below, you’ll find the answers to all of your USB-related confusions and much more.

What Is USB 3.0?

To begin, Universal Serial Bus, or USB, is a standard for interfacing computers and electronic devices released in 1996. Nowadays, it is widely used in laptops, smartphones, keyboards, flash drives, and many others.

USB 3.0 is the third major version. It offers several benefits over the older standards, such as: 

  • Increased data transfer rates
  • Improved power efficiency
  • Compatibility with more devices

The most significant advantage of USB 3.0 is speed. You can transfer large files, such as HD video or high-resolution photos, ten times faster than before. It is also notably more efficient than other common connectivity standards, such as Wi-Fi and Ethernet.

Additionally, with USB 3.0, your device charges faster and runs for extended periods, as these ports provide up to 4.5 watts of power.

In July 2013, USB 3.1 was introduced, allowing users to benefit from double the transfer speed. Later on, in September 2017, USB 3.2 came out, offering even faster rates and additional benefits. 

Are 3.0 USB Ports Backward Compatible?

One of the most appealing features of USB 3.0 is its backward compatibility with older standards.

That means devices equipped with a USB 3.0 connection can still work with those that support USB 2.0. That is good news, as users don’t need to replace their old devices and peripherals, but there are still some limitations.

Namely, data transfer rates are limited to those of USB 2.0. Also, the higher power output of USB 3.0 is not available. Therefore, devices that require this power level will not function properly.

Nevertheless, the possibility of using USB 3.0 devices with older hardware is a significant selling point.

How Is USB 3.0 Different Than USB 2.0?

Since its release, the USB standard has undergone several significant revisions.

Speed is the most crucial difference between each successive version. USB 3.0 has a transfer speed of 5000 mb/s, while USB 2.0 has a limit of just 480 mb/s.

Consequently, USB 3.0 is better for tasks that require a quick transfer of large amounts of data, such as video editing or file backups.

Another difference between the two versions is power consumption. USB 3.0 devices are more energy-efficient, meaning they can operate for longer on a single charge. That is particularly beneficial for devices such as laptops and smartphones.

Finally, a USB 3.0 port is evident by its physical appearance. It has a teal blue plastic insert, while USB 2.0 ports and plugs are black. 

That helps users differentiate the standards and easily identify what is compatible with their computer's USB ports.

USB 3.0 Connectors

Let’s take a look at the USB connector types compatible with USB 3.0 ports. Keep in mind that each device must have the correct type to function properly.

USB Type-A

USB 3.0 type A ports and connectors are the most common and recognizable ones. You’ll see them on computers, gaming consoles, smart TVs, etc.

These connectors are also often used for charging cables for laptops, phones, and other portable devices.

One downside is that they can be difficult to insert into a device if the port is recessed.

USB Type-B

Type-B connectors are less common and usually work with devices that require a more secure connection, such as digital cameras and external hard drives. 

They are also often found on printers, scanners, and other large peripheral devices.

A potential issue is that these connectors can be challenging to remove from a device once inserted.

USB Micro-A

The Micro-A USB 3.0 connector is mainly used for mobile devices like phones and tablets. It is similar in shape to Type A but much smaller, roughly one-third the size.

Regardless of its minimalistic design, it still supports a speed transfer rate of up to 5000 mb/s.

USB Micro-B

USB Micro-B is a bit larger than Micro-A. However, they are also primarily used for mobile devices, GPS units, and external hard drives.

Similar to Micro-A, it transfers data at 5000 mb/s.

Wrap Up

When USB 3.0 rolled out in 2008, the standard immediately became one of the fastest means to transfer data. 

With the correct USB 3.0 cable, you could get transfer rates of up to 5GB/s, which is more than ten times what was previously possible.

And if that doesn’t satisfy your needs, you may consider the newer and faster successor standards — 3.1 and 3.2. That way, you’ll charge your phone or backup all your favorite photos in no time.


How do I know if I have a USB 3.0 port?

The fastest way to determine that is to examine the color of the physical port. USB 3.0 ports are typically blue. 

Alternatively, you may check the specs of your device. If listed as compatible, it likely has a USB 3.0 port.

Is USB 3.0 the same as USB-C?

No, the major difference between USB 3.0 and USB-C is that the former is a USB standard, while the latter is one of many types of connectors available. 

USB-C has a distinctive, ovular look. It is also reversible and can be inserted into a port on either side.

Are USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports the same?

No, USB 3.0 is a newer, faster, and more efficient standard. You can tell the ports apart by the coloring on the inside — 3.0 is blue, and 2.0 is black.

Additionally, you can see a different number of connector wires. The older version has four, while its successor has nine.

What is the USB 3.0 port used for?

A USB 3.0 port supports data transfer speeds of up to five gb/s, making it ideal for high-speed tasks, such as video and audio streaming, gaming, and data backup.

It is also backward compatible with older USB versions and can be used with a wide range of devices.

So, if you ever wonder what USB 3.0 is good for, the answer is practically everything.


Daniel Attoe

Daniel Attoe

Daniel is an Economics grad who fell in love with tech. His love for books and reading pushed him into picking up the pen - and keyboard. Also a data analyst, he's taking that leap into data science and machine learning. When not writing or studying, chances are that you'll catch him watching football or face-deep in an epic fantasy novel.

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