USB 3.1 – What’s New and How Does It Compare With USB 3.0?

Over the years, data storage and transfer devices have undergone a sea change. One aspect which has remained stable is the usefulness and reliability of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) Standard. The USB standard is used not just in the storage of data of small sizes but also in the transfer of such data.

USB 3.1 – An Introduction

USB 3.1, also known as USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps), is the latest version of the standard which supports data transfer speed of up to 10 Gbps. As regards the connectors, it supports the USB-C connector type along with other connector types. 

Before we get into the question of usb 3.1 vs usb 3.0, it is important to mention that in order to achieve the high speeds supported by USB 3.1, the connector and the devices which are being used must be compatible with it. 

A look at the recent past – USB 3.0

In order to appreciate the upgrades that USB 3.1 offers, it is crucial to take a look at the features of the prevailing standard – USB 3.0.

Talking about data transfer speeds, USB 3.0, also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps), supports up to 5Gbps. USB 3.0 was a major upgrade to the earlier USB 2.0 since it offered very fast speed and hence it was also named as USBSuperSpeed. 

What’s with the name confusion?

There has always been this naming confusion since USB 3.0 is also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps). Since USB 3.1 was introduced with the maximum speed of 10 Gbps, the earlier version was renamed. USB 3.0 became USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 became USB 3.1 Gen 2. Respective transfer speeds of 5 GBps and 10 Gbps were added with the names to ensure clarity. 

Does USB 3.1 have backward compatibility?

As soon as a new USB standard is released, the first question that starts getting asked is – will it be compatible with connectors as well as older devices that do not have support for the new standard.

In this section, we cover this question in detail.

First things first, while USB 3.1 will support older devices and connectors, it will only offer higher speeds of up to 10 Gbps if the other devices are compatible with the new standard. In simple words, this means that you will definitely be able to use the new standard for data storage and transfer across older devices but will only get the benefit of the higher speeds if such devices are supporting USB 3.1

Most notably, the USB 3.1 will not be compatible with the following:

  1. USB-B 2.0 ports.
  2. USB-A or USB-B ports or cables, unless you use an adapter.

USB 3.0 vs USB 3.1 – Final Showdown

If you are a regular user, you will find that the transfer speeds are fast in both versions. For power users, of course, USB 3.1 will offer enhanced efficiency. There are people who are still using USB 2.0 and are perfectly happy with the speeds. 

So then who should upgrade to USB 3.1? In our view, professionals who deal with huge data sets like videographers and even organizations may consider upgrading to USB 3.1 since it will result in sizable benefits both in terms of time and efficiency. 

The fact that USB 3.1 is backward compatible (albeit without higher speeds in some cases) means that one can upgrade now and slowly phase out the incompatible devices as they become obsolete or their life cycle ends naturally. 

USB 3.2 and USB 4 – the Future?

Even as we are discussing USB 3.1, USB 3.2 and USB 4 are already out. While USB 3.2 offers up to 20 Gbps speed, it only works with Type-C USB connectors. USB 4 goes even beyond and offers speeds up to 40 Gbps. However, as you can imagine, these are a little in the future and it may take some time before you can go out and buy a USB 4 flash drive. 

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