What is USB?

Short for Universal Serial Bus. It’s the most commonly used connection to connect a computer to devices.

I am sure that by now most of you know what a USB is, mainly USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. It has become an essential part in the technology world as well as your life too. From your household compliances to your gaming devices, USB is literally present in them in the form of ports that acts as a secondary power source or a port for you to play a content in your flash drive. In the speed department, you may know how both USB 2.0 and 3.0 fare and are similar to each other. But little do you know, both technology are actually far from similarity in performance wise. So in order for a clearer understanding, we created a comparison table for both technologies.

USB 2.0 & USB 3.0 Comparison

The Universal Serial Bus or as known as the USB to you, is developed and standardized in the 1990s. It is developed as a mean for communication protocols which includes connectors and cables; between computers and electronic devices. From your household electronics to your gaming consoles as well as your mobile devices, the USB is used to connect them to computers through USB ports which allows recharging and file transfer between devices thereby minimizing the need of adapters and power charges. Since its beginning, there were actually 5 versions of USB released until the year 2014. Since the released of USB 2.0 in 2000, USB 3.0 was released in November 2008, approximately eight years after which provides significant improvement over its predecessor, although USB 2.0 is still in the market. The table below highlights the differences between both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0.

USB 2.0USB 3.0
Date of ReleaseApril 2000 November 2008
SpeedHigh Speed or HS, 480 Mbps (Megabits per second)10 times faster than USB 2.0. Super Speed or SS, 4.8 Gbps (Giga bits per second)
Transmission MethodPolling mechanism i.e can either send or receive data (Half duplex)Asynchronous mechanism i.e. can send and receive data simultaneously (Full duplex)
PriceFor a similar product, the USB 2.0 version is generally less expensive than it's USB 3.0 version.For a similar product, the USB 3.0 version is generally more expensive than it's USB 2.0 version.
Power UsageUp to 500 mAUp to 900 mA. Allows better power efficiency with less power for idle states. Multiple devices can be powered with one hub.
Number of wires within the cable 410
Standard-A ConnectorsGrey in colorBlue in color
Standard-B ConnectorsSmaller in sizeExtra space for more wires
Max Cable length5 meters3 meters

                                  Where can I find USB 3.0 products?                                   

As you can see in the table above, there are a few highlights that is implemented in the USB 3.0 which gives significant improvement compared to USB 2.0.

  • Transfer rates: Clocking a transfer rate at only 480Mpbs for USB 2.0, USB 3.0 clocks a whopping rate at 4.8Gbps which is 10 times faster.
  • Additional physical bus: From 4 to 10, the amount of wires was more than doubled, therefore providing an increase in speed of transfer rate.
  • Power consumption: USB 2.0 provides only up 500mA compared to 900 mA on the USB 3.0. The increase in consumption is needed to accommodate the higher transfer speed. It provides more power when needed and minimizes consumption when not in use but connected.
  • Increase bandwidth: USB 3.0 is created in order to support two unidirectional data paths, both in receiving and transmitting at a same time whereas USB 2.0 can only handle either one direction at a time.

toshiba canvio 1tb speed comparison

Physical Differences

Although the significant differences in performance, USB 3.0 is surprisingly very easy to be identified. USB 3.0 is usually colored in blue on the inside to distinguish it from USB 2.0.

So the next time you go shopping for electronic devices, make sure you identify the version of USB it has. If you are not sure about the version, do ask for assistance from the worker or promoter of the shop as they are your best bet OR you can do your research before opting for one though.


Now from the image above, this clearly differentiates cheap USB products from pricier ones. Today, you can an 8GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive for less than RM20, whereas the price normally doubles up or increases depending on brands for USB 3.0 products.

USB Compatibility

Both USB versions are compatible but with changes in performance of course. If plugged into a USB 2.0 port, the USB 3.0 product will only perform at the same level as a USB 2.0 product, therefore not reaching the full potential of the USB 3.0.

Usually, USB 3.0 receptacles are electrically compatible with standard USB 2.0 plugs if they match physically. Given that the USB 3.0 product is a type-A plug receptacle, it should be backward compatible with USB 2.0, and USB 3.0 type-B receptacles as well, will accept USB 2.0 and earlier versions of receptacle. However, USB 3.0 type-B plugs will not be compatible with USB 2.0 and earlier receptacles. So do not misunderstand between USB 3.0 type-B plugs and receptacles.


usb types

This means that the products currently exist in the market or owned by you should be compatible with either a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 product providing that the plugs and receptacles are matched.

And just for the record, for you curios readers, the USB 2.0 is not obsolete YET whereas its predecessor, USB 1.0 is obsolete. Although reports and rumors regarding this topic is circulating already.