USB 3.1 Gen 1, Gen 2, And USB 3.2: What's The Difference Between Them?

With the advent of USB 3.x ports, a lot of confusion has been generated since, unlike previous versions or revisions of these ports, generations have now been added as well. Well, here you will be able to know what is the difference between USB 3.1 Gen 1, Gen 2, and USB 3.2.

Types of USB standards

Types of USB standards
Types of USB standards

Since its launch, USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports have evolved with the appearance of new versions What:

  • usb1.0: They were the first to come, with a transfer speed of 1.5 Mbit/s or 188 KB/s.
  • USB 1.1: It was the first revision of the previous standard and it came with some improvements, such as a speed of 12 Mbit/s or 1.5 MB/s.
  • usb2.0: It also meant a change in terms of speed. This new standard reached 280 Mbit/s or 35 MB/s. Furthermore, this standard could also be used to charge devices with 2.5W power.
  • usb3.0: After 2.0 the new 3.0 would arrive, with a new speed escalation up to 4.8 Gbit/s or 600 MB/s. All thanks to its additional contacts compared to previous versions, although it is still backward compatible like all standards.
  • USB 3.1: version 3.x had a first revision also known as SuperSpeed ​​and that reached 10 Gbit/s or 1.25 GB/s of transfer. In addition, it is typical that it is used in USB-C type.
  • USB 3.2: is the second revision of 3.x. It was presented in February 2019, although the first compatible peripherals and equipment would not arrive until 2020. This is another great leap in speed, reaching 20 Gbit/s or 2.5 GB/s.
  • usb4.0: Also introduced in 2019, but not used until 2021. It is also called USB4 and again doubles the transfer rate to 40 Bbit/s or 5 GB/s.

In addition, the current USB can charge with up to 100W of power, which far exceeds loads of the first standards.

Types of USB connectors

Types of USB connectors
Types of USB connectors

In addition to the port standards, there are also types of connectors, which are male and female. In any case, the existing types are:

  • USB Type A: It is the most used in all types of equipment and peripherals. It is a rectangular connector with a colored tab inside (blue for USB 3.0).
  • USB Type B: This type of connector is not as common, with a squarer shape, but it has been used for some printers, MFPs, and scanners. Just like Type A, USB-B is also differentiated with a conventional format for USB 1.x and USB 2.x standards and with a blue inner tab for USB 3.x.
  • USB Type-C: It is the most modern type of all, with a profile as small as a micro USB. However, it can be connected to one side or the other, since it is symmetrical, unlike the other types.
  • Mini-USB: Designed to be smaller in size and to work well on smaller devices such as digital cameras, mobile phones, etc. However, it has been deprecated for a few years.
  • Micro USB: It is the successor to the Mini USB and it has been more popular in small devices, although it has once again been replaced by USB-C.

I would also like to point out that there is USB OTG or On-The-Go. It is a special USB port that is present in some mobile devices, among others, and that allows you to connect peripherals such as USB hard drives, flash drives, keyboards, mice, etc.

USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2: Comparison

USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2: Comparision
USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2: Comparision

Now as to the generations, the truth is that they differ in speeds. For example, USB 3.1 Gen 1, or first generation, can reach up to 5 Gbit/s of data transfer. While USB 3.1 Gen 2, or second generation, can reach double, that is, 10 Gbit/s. The USB-IF organization decided to use different names for USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 strictly for marketing purposes. At first, they wanted to name USB 3.1 Gen 1 SuperSpeed ​​and Gen 2 SuperSpeed+, but these names were less commercial and they decided to better use the generations to differentiate them.

On the other hand is USB 3.2, which, as we have seen previously, is indeed a new, improved version of the standard, not only in speed but also in other specifications. This new version 3.2 also has several different builds, to add even more confusion for users. However, with the following table it will be more clear:

 USB 3.2
Gen 1×1
USB 3.2
Gen 1×2
USB 3.2
Gen 2×1
USB 3.2
Gen 2×2
formerly as
USB 3.1 Gen 1
and USB 3.0
USB 3.1 Gen 2
USB-C only

As you can see, some of these double-digit generations are nothing more than a reputation for the previous ones. USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2, which are now included under these other terms. It’s all a bit complicated, but I think it’s clear with this table.

USB 3.1 Gen 1
USB 3.1 Gen 1

To make matters more complicated, Intel and Apple developed a hardware interface based on USB but in parallel with USB-IF. It is the so-called Thunderbolt. While the Thunderbolt 1 and 2 version used the same Mini DisplayPort or MDP type connector, from the Thunderbolt 3 version a USB-C connector began to be used.

This raises another issue, and that is that new generation Thunderbolt ports are compatible with USB-C device standards, but cannot use Thunderbolt features. To take full advantage of Thunderbolt technology, both the port, the cable, and the connected device must all support Thunderbolt.

USB4: the present and the future

USB4: the present and the future
USB4: the present and the future

usb4 It is already here, it has timidly appeared on the market, but little by little it will become as popular a standard as the previous versions. This technology can reach data transfers of up to 40 Gbit/s and will be compatible with Thunderbolt 3, in addition to only using the USB-C connector, without the possibility of A, B, mini or micro. This also standardizes the connector to avoid further confusion and improve compatibility.

As to technical characteristics, USB4 designs stand out for:

  • It can be used both to connect screens for streaming video, data for storage drives, etc., and also to charge battery-powered devices. It would also be compatible with DisplayPort 2.0 and 8K displays.
  • It is compatible with both existing USB and Thunderbolt products, making it more universal.
  • More host flexibility to configure bandwidth and manage power to suit system needs.

Now it’s time to think about the future USB 5, whose specifications are now being designed. But this is just science fiction for now…

Also, read about Thunderbolt 4: What Is This Technology?

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Abram left his e-business studies to devote himself to his entrepreneurial projects. In 2017, he created the company Inbound Media and wrote articles about high-tech products for his Chromebookeur site. In 2019, Chromebookeur was renamed Macbound and became a general purchasing advice site. Today, Abram manages the development and growth of Macbound, surrounded by a young and talented team.

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