USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0

Learn the difference between the USB 2.0 and 3.0 standards

USB cables and ports are common and easy to use, but there are different kinds of them and each type is suited for different tasks and connection needs. Here's a look at two of the most common types of USB cables and ports, USB 2.0 vs. USB 3.0, their individual advantages and disadvantages, and at how they compare.

USB 2.0
  • Older and slower than USB 3.0. (Max speed of 480 Mbps).

  • Almost all USB cables and devices that support USB also support USB 2.0.

  • Less efficient with power management.

USB 3.0
  • Newer and much faster than USB 2.0 (max speed of 5,120 Mbps).

  • 3.0 devices are more efficient with power management.

  • Devices that support USB 3.0 are usually newer computers or ones that being made today.

USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 both have their advantages and disadvantages and choosing the right one for you largely depends on your needs and budget.

USB 2.0 devices and cables are for those who have a smaller budget and don't mind slower data transfer and charging speeds. Those who opt for USB 3.0 may accept the higher price tag that comes with it because it can offer blazing fast transfer speeds, faster device charging, and the ability to handle devices with high power consumption needs.

USB 2.0: Pros and Cons

Close-up stock photo of USB 2.0 cables.
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Advantages
  • Supported by more devices and cables.

  • Cheaper to purchase flash drives.

  • Still physically compatible with 3.0 devices and cables.

Disadvantages
  • Much slower data transfer speeds than USB 3.0

  • Less efficient at power management

  • Even when used with 3.0 devices, can't reach 3.0 speeds.

Also known as "Hi-Speed USB," USB 2.0 is an older USB connection standard that came out in 2000. USB 2.0 has at least six different connector types, including:

This connection standard currently has more support among USB-enabled devices than the USB 3.0 standard. Devices that support 2.0 tend to be cheaper; a notable example being flash drives. A single USB 2.0 flash drive can cost $10 or less.

USB 2.0 devices can also be used with newer 3.0 devices and cables, but don't expect the speed of a 2.0 device to match that of 3.0 device, as it will still only max out at a transfer speed of 480 Mbps, a speed that is significantly less than the max speed of a USB 3.0 device.

According to Partition Wizard, USB 2.0 devices also tend to be less efficient at power management and consequently 2.0 devices can take longer to charge and 2.0 ports aren't as able to handle devices that consumer more power.

USB 3.0: Pros and Cons

Advantages
  • Devices that support 3.0 tend to be newer.

  • More efficient at power management. Faster charging.

  • Much faster data transfer speed than USB 2.0.

Disadvantages
  • More expensive flash drives.

  • If used with 2.0 devices, still can't reach 3.0 speeds.

  • Less devices currently support USB 3.0.

The USB 3.0 connection standard came out in 2008 and is also known as "SuperSpeed USB."

That second moniker is no accident. USB 3.0 is indeed super speedy, and is much faster than USB 2.0 with a max transfer speed of 5,120 Mbps. Devices that support 3.0 tend to be newer, higher-end, and more expensive. The increase in price when going from 2.0 to 3.0 has less to do with storage capacity and much more to do with the fact that 3.0 flash drives can offer faster transfer speeds.

Additionally, USB 3.0 devices are generally more efficient at power management and can be charged faster than 2.0 devices. 3.0 ports can also handle more power-hungry devices.

On the other hand, there are fewer devices that support 3.0. And while USB 3.0 is physically compatible with 2.0 devices, you still won't reach the speeds of 3.0, and will have to settle for the 2.0 max speed.

USB 3.0 also has at least four connector types, which include: Type-A, Type-B, Micro-A, and Micro-B.

Final Verdict: USB 3.0 has Better Charging Speeds and Data Transfer

When it comes to USB 2.0 and 3.0, one isn't inherently better than the other. Whether or not you choose one over the other really depends on what you're using it for.

If data transfer and charging speeds aren't a major concern for you and you're really just looking for an affordable storage option for small files, then USB 2.0 devices and cables may be the best option for you.

However, if you routinely work with larger files and need to move them around quickly, need a device that charges faster, and you're okay with a higher price tag, then a USB 3.0 device or cable may work best for your connection needs.