USB 3.1 And Type-C: What You Need To Know

August 13, 2015 - Written By Jarrett Tennis

The words USB 3.1 and USB Type-C have been thrown around a lot lately but do you know everything you need to know about the new technologies? The first thing you need to know is that the terms USB 3.1 and Type-C are not interchangeable. USB is a standard used to deliver power and data to many devices including smartphones, and USB 3.1 is the latest revision of that standard. Type-C is a type of physical connector like the Micro-USB port you likely have on your own mobile device. A device could be a USB 2.0 or 3.0 device and still use a USB Type-C connector, even though the USB Type-c connector was designed for use with the USB 3.1 standard. Confused yet? Well, it gets worse, there are already devices in the wild like the new OnePlus 2, that have USB Type-C ports, but only USB 2.0 compatibility.

The first thing to be said about USB 3.1 is its new faster speed. It can theoretically support speed up to 10 Gbps. For comparison USB 3.0 could do 5Gbps, and 2.0 only 480Mbps. What that means is that data could be transferred to your smartphone faster than it can be processed. That bottleneck limits the real world data transfer speed to only as fast as the data can be written to your phone’s drive, but either way you look at it that is fast.

USB 3.1 also supports up to 100 Watts of power while transferring data with it’s new USB Power Delivery standard. USB was never designed for the type of demands our power-hungry devices require today. There are some tablets that pull higher wattage than the typical 2.5 watts for USB 2.0 or 4.5 watts for USB 3.0, but they can’t do it while simultaneously transferring data. All this comes at a cost, however, in order to take advantage of the new Power Delivery features a device would, of course, have to support it, and a special “Full-Feature” USB cable with a microchip must be used.

USB 3.1 is a pretty impressive upgrade over the current 3.0 standard, but what everyone seems to talk the most about is that sexy new Type-C port. The port was designed for durability. The Type-C was tested for 10,000 insertion/extraction cycles which put it right on par with current Micro-USB ports. The new port can be plugged in both directions, eliminating the multiple fumbled attempts to insert the cable. With all of these obvious improvements, the USB 3.1 standard and USB Type-C connectors will be coming to a device near you. But hey, no more fighting to charge your phone in a darkened bedroom.