USB 2.0 vs. 3.0: What’s the Difference?

USB 2.0 VS. 3.0 illustrasion

It can be confusing to pick one when all the USBs can provide a wide range of advantages. Further, USB devices are very useful to our everyday lives. It can be for swapping out peripherals on computers, upload photos, or charging a phone.

While they all look pretty similar, they are very different from one another. USB 2.0 and 3.0 have five prominent differences among others.

Specifications

Before going ahead with comparing these two USBs, take a look at their specifications. Checking out the specifications can give a better idea about these accessories.

USB 2.0

Speed 480 Mbps (high speed)
Signaling method Polling mechanism (half-duplex)
Maximum cable length 5 meters
Standard A connectors Grey color
Standard B connectors Smaller in size
Power usage Up to 500 mA
Number of wires within the cable Four
Release year April 2000

USB 3.0

Speed 4.8 Gbps (high speed)
Signaling method Asynchronous mechanism (Full duplex)
Maximum cable length 3 meters
Standard A connectors Blue color
Standard B connectors More space, making room for more wires
Power usage Up to 900 mA
Number of wires within the cable Nine
Release year November 2008

Difference in Features

USB 2.0 on white background

As you can see in the specifications above, USB 3.0 offers a superior speed to USB 2.0. Further, it provides backward compatibility that 2.0 does not.

So, it is safe to say that 3.0 is better than 2.0 in many ways. However, the data transfer speed will be 2.0 levels when you connect USB 3.0 to the 2.0 port.

That makes it quite harder to see which is better for you. This section will compare the two comprehensively to help you make a better judgment.

1. Data Transfer Rate

USB 2.0 has a maximum transfer speed of 480 Mbps, whereas 3.0 has 4,800 Mbps. It makes USB 3.0 about ten times faster than the former. Further, the recent version of USB 3.1 offers a 10,000 Mbps data transfer rate.

2. Power Usage

USB 2.0 can provide 500 mA current while 3.0 can provide 900 mA current. Hence, USB 3.0 can deliver more power when required. It can also convert power when you disconnect it from the flash drive when you are not using it.

3. Bandwidth

USB 2.0 uses a one-way communication path which means the received and sent data uses the same pathway. Therefore, you can either send or receive data at once. On the other hand, USB 3.0 can do both simultaneously since it uses separate unidirectional paths for each function.

4. Backward Compatibility

USB 3.0 ports are backward-compatible while 2.0 is not. So, you can connect USB 2.0 to USB 3.0 ports. At the same time, you can connect USB 3.0 to 2.0 ports, but it will have a slower transfer rate than the USB 2.0 port.

5. Number of Wires

USB 3.0 has a total of nine connector wires, while 2.0 only has four. The additional five wires increase the bandwidth of 3.0 when compared to 2.0. It also adds to the many advantageous features of 3.0, making it more popular than the USB 2.0.

Design

USB 3.0 on white background

USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 look very similar to one another. However, there are many differences in terms of designs.

The USB 3.0 connectors are colored blue inside, while 2.0 connectors are black or white. So, when you want to distinguish the two, you can look at the USB port color inside.

Speed

As mentioned earlier, USB 3.0 is ten times faster than 2.0. However, the number is a theoretical reference as the transfer speed depends on the specific drive.

For instance, the data transfer rate is limited to the speed of the flash memory. You can test the speed using several tools online.

It is better to set your own benchmarks and test the speed yourself since the manufacturer’s quote may not always be true. Alternatively, you can look it up on forums or blogs to get a better insight into the speed of the particular drive you want to purchase.

Price

USB 2.0 costs very less when compared to USB 3.0 as the former offers fewer features. So, if you want to pick a cheaper USB drive, you can choose the USB 2.0. You will find USB 2.0 for as low as ten dollars on Amazon or other e-commerce websites.

USB 3.0 can be a little expensive, especially if you want a drive with the fastest transfer rate. On average, it can cost about 40 to 50 dollars. Nonetheless, you can find affordable USB 3.0 products if you do not mind settling for less durability.

As expensive as USB 3.0 sounds, it can transfer documents of large size in less time, which can be extremely beneficial.

If you just want a drive that moves around files occasionally, then USB 3.0 is not worth the money it costs. Also, if all your device has USB 2.0 ports, spending on 3.0 will simply not be worth it since the speed depends on the ports as well.

Final Verdict

USB 3.0 outperforms USB 2.0 when it comes to all the important factors. Nonetheless, the performance of the former exceeds at a higher expense.

As you update your devices, there will be more devices with USB 3.0 ports or newer when compared to USB 2.0. Hence, it is better to invest in USB 3.0, even if it costs a little more for now.

Nevertheless, if you do not plan to update the devices any time soon and deal with only small file sizes, 2.0 can be an excellent choice.

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