Everything we need to know about USB-C and Thunderbolt 3

Everything we need to know about USB-C and Thunderbolt 3

Everything we need to know about USB-C and Thunderbolt 3

If you look around you today, you can find at least a few devices with a USB Port. find the On average, almost 3 billion USB ports are launched every year. This level of popularity has made this port the most successful type of external connection in the world.

In fact, hardware manufacturers are very cautious about using the new standard USB C are confident that Intel announced in 2015 that Thunderbolt 3 (Thunderbolt 3), the company’s proprietary port that was once thought to replace USB, will use the same connector as USB C. This means that all Thunderbolt 3 ports will act as a USB-C port, and all Thunderbolt 3 cables will act as a USB-C cable.

In this article, in addition to explaining the nature of USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, we will provide the necessary explanations about USB Type A and Type B interfaces, the difference of USB type and version, and different types of Thunderbolt standards.


Before the release of Thunderbolt 3 Thunderbolt 2 and the original Thunderbolt used the same cable and port, which was the Apple Mini DisplayPort and could reach a maximum data transfer speed of 20 gigabits. seconds in the second generation and 10 gigabits per second in the first generation. The cable with these old Thunderbolt standards was considered active; In the sense that it was considered a device that needed an electrical connection to perform its task. For this reason, the operation of most devices equipped with Thunderbolt 1 and 2 required an external power source. This issue made the Thunderbolt connection an expensive solution; Because the price of the required cable alone was more than 10 times the price of a USB cable of the same size.

year of release maximum speed Port type
Thunderbolt 2011 10 Gbps Mini DisplayPort
Thunderbolt 2 2013 20 Gbps Mini DisplayPort
Thunderbolt 3 2015 40 Gbps (short cable)

20 Gbps (long cable)

USB Type C

Finally, Intel released Thunderbolt 3 to solve the problems of the first and second generations of Thunderbolt. Introduced in 2015. The difference between Thunderbolt 3 and previous generations is as follows:

  • Mini DisplayPort connection has been abandoned in favor of USB Type-C connection.
  • All Thunderbolt 3 cables work as a USB Type-C cable.
  • All USB Type-C cables work as a Thunderbolt 3 cable, provided they are of the right quality.
  • The maximum data transfer speed in Thunderbolt 3, provided that the cable size is half a meter or shorter, reaches 40 Gbps with a double increase compared to the previous generation.
  • For cables of one meter and longer, Thunderbolt 3 supports their passive (cheaper) type, which has a maximum data transfer speed of 20 Gbps, and their active (more expensive) type, which achieves a speed of 40 Gbps.
  • Thunderbolt 3 with Previous versions of Thunderbolt are backward-compatible; But due to the use of the new port, a conversion is required to use old Thunderbolt devices.
  • Any device equipped with USB Type C, if connected to a Thunderbolt 3 port, will have normal operation.
  • Since devices equipped with Thunderbolt 3 are required to They use separate Thunderbolt chips, they will not be compatible with USB Type-C ports. The sign that the USB Type-C port supports the Thunderbolt standard is the presence of a symbol like a lightning bolt next to it.
  • All versions of Thunderbolt provide the possibility of connecting up to 6 devices to a host at the same time, and in addition to data, the possibility of video transmission There are also high resolution and audio signals.


In the world of USB things are somewhat more complicated; Because there are more versions than Thunderbolt. Typically, these versions refer to the speed and performance of the USB cable; While USB type refers to the physical shape and structure of ports and connections. First, we explain the USB type.

Type A end (left side of coin) in USB cables remains the same in different versions

USB Type A

USB Type A which is known as USB A standard is also known as USB standard designed specifically for the USB standard and has a flat rectangular shape.

In a typical USB cable, the type A connector or A male connector is connected to a host such as a computer and in A host USB port is where a male type A connector connects to, called a female port A. Type A ports are often used in host devices including desktop computers, laptops, game consoles, audio and video players, etc. Peripheral devices such as phones and tablets rarely have a Type A port.

Currently, different versions of USB including USB 1.1, USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 use the same Type A design. they take. This means that the USB version used in a device or host does not matter, and a type A interface is always compatible with a type A port. For example, an external hard drive equipped with a USB 3.0 port is fully compatible with a USB 2.0 port and vice versa.

USB Type A port for USB 3.0 (blue) and USB 2.0 (black) on the back of a computer

Similarly, various peripherals such as mice, keyboards or network adapters that are equipped with hard-wired USB cables are always connected to the Type A interface. use. This is also true for wireless gadgets such as flash drives. USB 3.0 interfaces and ports are equipped with more pins than USB 2.0. This is due to higher speed transmission and higher power output. However, the arrangement of these pins is such that it does not prevent the connection of older versions.

It is necessary to remember that there are also smaller type A connectors and interfaces such as mini type A and micro type A; But very few devices use them.

Types of USB Type B. From left: Standard B, Mini B, Micro B, USB 3.0 Micro B, and USB 3. 0 Standard B

USB Type B

Type B interface is on the other side of the standard USB cable and connects to peripherals such as printers, phones or hard drives. External Connects This connector is also known as Type B Male. On the other hand, the USB port placed inside the peripherals is also called Type B female.

Since the peripherals are made in many different shapes and sizes; Type B interface and its corresponding port are also associated with different designs. Currently, there are 5 popular designs for USB Type B ports and interfaces. Since the Type A end of a USB cable remains unchanged, the Type B end is used to designate the cable name.

  • Standard Original (Standard B): This design was originally developed for USB 1.1 and was also used in USB 2.0. This standard is mostly for connecting large peripherals such as printers or scanners to a computer.
  • Mini USB (USB Mini B): Mini USB is significantly smaller in size. Mini USB Type B ports are found on older portable devices such as digital cameras, phones, and older portable drives. This design is no longer used today and will soon be phased out.
  • Micro USB (USB Micro B): This standard is somewhat smaller than mini USB. Most phones and tablets used micro USB until the last few years; But this design is now being replaced by USB C, and today’s phones and tablets use this port to transfer power and data.
  • Micro USB 3 (USB 3 Micro B): This standard has the widest design and is often used in portable USB 3.0 drives such as external hard drives. Samsung also used this design in the Galaxy Note 3 a few years ago; But due to its large and ugly shape, it was not very popular. Usually, the type A interface at the end of the Micro USB 3 cable is blue. USB 3 Standard B: This design is very similar to the B standard; However, it is designed to transfer data at USB 3.0 speeds. Usually, both sides of the cable are blue.

In addition to these 5 designs, there is another unusual port and connector called USB 3 Powered-B. This design has two additional pins to provide more power for the peripheral device. There is also a rare micro-type AB port, which allows the device to act as both a host and peripheral device.

Dedicated USB cables for Samsung and Apple devices

Dedicated USB

Maximum speed Maximum power output Power direction Cable specification Supply date
USB 1.1 12 Mbps No span/> No Type A to Type B 1998
USB2 0.0 480 Mbps 5V, 1.8A Host to peripherals type A to type B 2000
USB 3.0 (USB 3.1 gen 1) 5 ​​Gbps 5V, 1.8A Host to Peripheral Type A to Type B 2008
USB 3.1 (USB 3. 1 gen 2) 10 Gbps 20V, 5A bidirectional Both sides Type C

Reverse connection capability

Type A to Type C


USB Versions

USB 1.1: This version was released in August 1998. Version 1.1 was the first widely used version of USB; Because the original version 1.0 was never used in consumer products. This version could transfer data at a maximum speed of 12 Mbps; However, its practical speed was only 1.2 Mbps most of the time. Currently, version 1.1 is widely deprecated.

USB 2.0: This version was released in April 2000. The maximum speed of version 2.0 in “high speed” mode is 480 Mbps. Version 2.0 supports a maximum power output of 5V and 1.8A and is also backward compatible with version 1.1.

USB 3.0: This version in November It was released in 2008. USB 3.0 can reach 5 Gbps in “SuperSpeed” mode. The USB 3.0 port and its interface are usually blue, and in this way you can distinguish it from USB 2.0. Version 3.0 is backward compatible with version 2.0 and the maximum power output of its port is 5V and 1.8A. This version is sometimes called USB 3.1 Gen 1.

USB 3.1: This version, which is called USB 3.1 Also known as USB 3.1 Gen 2, it was released on July 26, 2013. The speed of USB 3.1 is doubled compared to the previous generation and reaches 10 Gbit/s in “Super Speed ​​Plus” mode, which is equal to the original Thunderbolt standard. USB 3.1 is also backward compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. USB 3.1 uses 3 power profiles and allows large devices to supply their power up to 2 amps and 5 volts, and optionally up to 5 amps and 12 volts (60 watts) or 20 volts (100 watts). ) through the host. The first products equipped with USB 3.1 with USB type C design were launched late last year.

A type C USB cable from Aukey with a type A connector at the end

USB Type C

Type C port size and interface are physically similar to USB micro B. The dimensions of a Type-C port are approximately 8.4 x 2.6 mm, and with this small size, it is possible to place it inside the smallest devices. With type C, both sides of the USB interface will be similar to each other and will work in both directions; As a result, the user can connect it to the device upside down without worrying.

Since two years ago, USB type C has been widely welcomed and used in many phones and tablets. Many new memory devices also use USB C ports instead of USB B ports. Almost all devices that support USB 3.1 use the USB C port. USB 3.1 can reach a maximum speed of 10 Gbps and its maximum power output is 20V (100W) and 5A. Most current 15-inch laptops require approximately 60 watts of power; As a result, it will be possible to charge them in the future like mobile phones with a small USB port. Apple’s new MacBooks have only one USB C port, which is used to transfer everything from power to data to video and audio.

USB Type C also allows two-way power transfer; As a result, in addition to charging the peripheral device, the peripheral device can also charge the host device. All of this means you can ditch your proprietary conversions and USB cables and use a small but powerful port that’s compatible with all devices. USB Type-C significantly reduces the need for different types of wires that are currently necessary for devices to work.

One port for all

USB Type-C and USB 3.1 are backward compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. In a perfect USB Type-C connection, there is no need for Type-A ports and connectors. However, there are Type A to Type C cables for some purposes. In addition, there are conversions that make Type-C devices and hosts compatible with current USB devices.

This is the first and probably only time USB connections require conversion. USB Implementation Forum, the group responsible for USB development, says that USB Type-C is designed to meet future needs. Is; This means that this design will be used for faster versions of USB in the future.

It will take a few years for Type-C to catch up to the current popularity of Type-A in host devices; But when this is achieved; The way we use devices will become much easier. Even some mobile phone manufacturers such as HTC have now removed the 3.5 mm headphone jack from their products and developed headphones based on the USB type C interface, which will probably cause this audio jack to go away even more. With the addition of Thunderbolt 3 to USB C, we will finally have only one type of port and cable to connect all peripheral devices to each other and to the computer. Thanks to USB-C support, Thunderbolt 3 is expected to slow down and this standard will be abandoned in the future.

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