USB 3.0 is the third major version of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard for interfacing computers and electronic devices. Among other improvements, USB 3.0 adds the new transfer mode SuperSpeed (SS) that can transfer data at up to 5 Gbit/s (625 MB/s), which is about ten times faster than the USB 2.0 standard. USB 3.0 connectors are usually distinguished from their USB 2.0 counterparts by blue color-coding of the receptacles and plugs, and the initials SS.
A successor standard, USB 3.1, was released in July 2013 with the new transfer mode SuperSpeed+ that can transfer data at up to 10 Gbit/s (1.25 GB/s, twice the rate of USB 3.0), bringing its theoretical maximum speed on par with the first version of the Thunderbolt interface.
USB 3.1 Type C is the latest Connector Shape for USB Devices.
USB Type-C is a new, tiny physical connector. The connector itself can support various exciting new USB standard like USB 3.1 and USB power delivery (USB PD).
The standard USB connector youíre most familiar with is USB Type-A. Even as weíve moved from USB 1 to USB 2 and on to modern USB 3 devices, that connector has stayed the same. Itís as massive as ever, and it only plugs in one way ó so you have to make sure itís oriented correctly when you plug it in.
USB Type-C ports can support a variety of different protocols using ďalternate modes,Ē which allows you to have adapters that can output HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort, or other types of connections from that single USB port. Essentially the mess of USB, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, and power ports on typical laptops can be streamlined into a single type of port.
The USB Power Distribution specification is also closely intertwined with USB Type-C. Currently, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices often use a USB connection to charge. A USB 2.0 connection provides up to 2.5 watts of power ó thatíll charge your phone, but thatís about it. A laptop might require up to 60 watts, for example.
The USB Power Delivery specification ups this power delivery to 100 watts. Itís bi-directional, so a device can either send or receive power.
The physical USB Type-C connector isnít backwards compatible, but the underlying USB standard is. You canít plug older USB devices into a modern, tiny USB Type-C port, nor can you connect a USB Type-C connector into an older, larger USB port. But that doesnít mean you have to discard all your old peripherals. USB 3.1 is still backwards-compatible with older versions of USB, so you just need a physical adapter with a USB Type-C connector on one and and a larger, older-style USB port on the other. You can then plug your older devices directly into a USB Type-C port.
Realistically, many computers will have both USB Type-C ports and larger USB Type-A ports for the immediate future ó like Googleís Chromebook Pixel. Youíll be able to slowly transition from your old devices, getting new peripherals with USB Type-C connectors. Even if you get a computer with only USB Type-C ports, like Appleís new MacBook, adapters and hubs will fill the gap.