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USB A vs USB C: Key Difference

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  • 5 min read

USB stands for Universal Serial Bus and is a standard for devices you use to transfer data. Over time, new versions of USB have evolved showcasing upgraded features and transfer speeds. Two of the most well-known USB connectors are USB A and USB C.

If you are a technology enthusiast, you should understand the difference between these widely used USB connectors. In this blog post, we will explain these differences based on several parameters such as physical appearance, compatibility and connectivity, and performance. By the end of the article, you will be able to differentiate between the two USB models and gain a bit of knowledge as well.


Physical appearance

One of the easiest ways to distinguish between USB A and USB C is by their shape and size. USB A is rectangular and is only compatible with old USB A-type ports. Also, these USBs can be inserted only in a set pattern.

On the other hand, USB C or Type C is relatively smaller and can be connected in any pattern. This means that you don’t have to find the right orientation while inserting the connector. This functionality makes the USB C quite user-friendly. Moreover, USB C connectors are compatible with USB C ports and other ports including Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, Mobile High-Definition Link, VirtualLink and DisplayPort due to the Alternate Mode feature.

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Compatibility and connectivity

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USB Type C

USB A is older and hence is suitable for older laptops, desktops or other devices. While the USB C is a relatively new standard and hence has applications for almost all the latest devices.

As USB A is older, it does not support the USB 4.0 standard while still supporting the previous ones including the 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1.

USB C supports all USB standards including the 4.0 one. This translates to more data transfer speeds and less time taken to complete the process. Furthermore, USB Type C offers more power and better functionality when compared to USB A.

One minor problem with USB C connectors is that they are not compatible with USB A connectors and vice versa. Therefore if you have a laptop with a USB A port, you have to carry an adapter for USB C cable transfer.

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Performance and functionality

USB Type A connector

USB A and USB C offer different performance and functionality features, the most noticeable being the data transfer speeds. USB 4.0 standard offers incredible data transfer speeds from 20 GB/s to 40 GB/s along with power delivery support.

The power delivery feature allows users to charge their mobile phones or other devices via the USB C cable. USB 4.0 also supports other standards including the DisplayPort 2.0 and PCle 4.0 protocols and this allows for high-resolution videos and graphics card support.

USB 3.1 standard provides data transfer rates up to 10 GB/s. It also supports power delivery of up to 100 W, DisplayPort 1.4, and HDMI 2.0. This means that the USB A can provide up to 4K video output.

The USB standards 3.0, 2.0 and 1.0 offer lower data transfer speeds and limited functionality concerning video output. While USB 3.0 gives a data transfer speed of 5 GB/s, USB 2.0 of 480 MB/s and USB 1.0 of 12 MB/s. These speeds are quite low and are not suitable for today’s world. Furthermore, the older USB standards cannot be used with a USB C connector. You will need a USB A connector for these.

ParametersUSB AUSB C (Type C)
Physical AppearanceRectangular, set pattern insertionSmaller, reversible, can be inserted in any orientation
CompatibilityOlder devices, USB A portsLatest devices, USB C ports, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, Mobile High-Definition Link, VirtualLink, DisplayPort (Alternate Mode feature)
USB Standards SupportUSB 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1USB 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, 4.0
Data Transfer SpeedsUSB 1.0: 12 MB/sUSB 3.0: 5 GB/s
USB 2.0: 480 MB/sUSB 3.1: 10 GB/s
USB 3.0: 5 GB/sUSB 4.0: 20 GB/s to 40 GB/s
Power Delivery support for charging devices
Power DeliveryLimited (USB 3.1: up to 100 W)Enhanced (USB 4.0: Power Delivery support for charging devices)
Functionality FeaturesUSB 3.1: DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0USB 4.0: DisplayPort 2.0, PCIe 4.0, high-resolution videos, graphics card support
USB 3.1: DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0 (4K video output)
Compatibility IssuesCompatible with USB A connectorsNot compatible with USB A connectors, requires adapters

In conclusion, both USB A and USB C offer much to their users. However, if you want more functionalities, you should go for USB C. However, remember that not all devices have USB C ports and if this is the case, then you will have to carry an adapter. Also, USB C is not reverse compatible with USB A ports. Keep these important points in mind the next time you are buying a device.

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Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: kumarhemant@pm.me

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