What is the difference between USB Type C and USB 3.1?

 Aug 11, 2017   |    Black Box Corporation

Recent changes and advancements in USB technology mean you can choose from a greater range of USB options than ever before. The USB Implementers Forum recently renamed USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 Gen 1. They also introduced USB 3.1 Gen 2 and a new connector and receptacle called USB Type C. Understanding the capabilities of each connector type can help you decide which one is right for your applications.

USB 3.1 Technology

Currently USB 3.1 Gen 1 technology (formerly USB 3.0) is supported as standard with the latest macOS, Linux, and Windows operating systems. It provides 5 Gbps of bandwidth, 3.4 Gbps effective throughput and 900mA of power to the downstream device. Unlike USB 2.0, 3.1 is full duplex. It exists as a completely separate bus from USB 2.0, running on a different conductor in the connector and cable.

The USB 3.1 Gen 2 technology offers 10 Gbps of bandwidth, twice that of Gen 1. Gen 2 is not standard on Intel or AMD hosts, but it is typically supported through third-party drivers and controllers. USB 3.1 Gen 2 offers backward compatibility to Gen 1, though it has some minor protocol changes.

USB 3.1 Applications

USB 3.1 technology offers a substantial performance increase over USB 2.0 technology. For mass storage devices, it meets the demand for faster speeds that compensate for large video and picture files. USB 3.1 also handles the high resolution and frame rates of Machine Vision cameras on assembly lines. In video conferencing applications, USB 3.1 PTZ cameras are capable of 1080p60 and beyond without the use of a hardware codec. This decreases the cost of implementation while allowing users to bring their own devices to connect to Skype and WebEx.

USB 3.1 Connector Pinout

Like USB 3.0, USB 3.1 connectors have additional connections to support SuperSpeed performance. D+ and D- connections remain the same, along with power and ground. There are also new twisted pair balanced drivers and receivers for the SuperSpeed data transfer. On the receiver side, they are called StdA_SSRX+ and StdA_SSRX-, on the transmitter side SSTX+ and StdA_SSTX.

USB Type C

The newest USB technology, Type C, offers several benefits over USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2. Type C supports data rates up to 40Gbps and delivers up to 100W of power. The connector is reversible. Both connector and receptacle are smaller and more durable than alternatives like the micro USB. Cables are electronically marked for proper delivery negotiation to prevent too much power going across a cable that cannot support it. Type C is backwards compatible with USB 2.0, 3.1 Gen 1 and 3.1 Gen 2.

Type C ports may be providers or consumers of power. You can use the same port to connect your flash drive or charge your laptop. The power delivery mode charges smartphones and tablets faster than previous technology.

Alternate Modes

USB Type C supports alternate modes, so more than just USB data can be sent across the connector and cable assembly. Each option below supports power delivery up to 100W.

DisplayPort Alternate Mode—supports up to 4Kp60 4:4:4 with display port 1.3 Spec; simultaneous support for USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB 2.0

Mobil High-Definition Link (MHL) Alternate Modes—supports up to 4Kp60 with a single lane of data, or 8Kp60 with four lanes with super MHL 1.0 specification; USB 2.0 and 3.1 support depending on configuration

Thunderbolt 3 Alternate Mode— support for up to two displays running 4Kp60; connects PCle 3.0, DisplayPort, and USB 2.0 and 3.1 protocols depending on configuration

HDMI Alternate Mode—supports HDMI 1.4b spec (4Kp30, 4Kp60 4:2:0); cannot support simultaneous USB 3.1 data in any configuration

USB-C Market Trends

Given the benefits of USB Type C, you can expect to see increasing adoption with mobile phones and laptops. Common devices will include flash drives, docking stations, monitors and adapters to legacy connections. Two billion device shipments are expected by 2019.

Black Box has a range of USB products that make connectivity incredibly easy. Browse our selection of Plug and Play, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB Type C, or contact our experts to help you find the right solutions for your applications. 

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