USB 2 vs 3 – What is the Difference Between USB 2.0 vs 3.0?

USB 2 and USB 3 are common in our everyday lives. They may look similar at first glance; however, they are not the same. USB 2 vs. 3 – what is the difference?

The differences between USB 2 and USB 3 are as follows:

  1. Color
  2. Number of wires
  3. Bandwidth
  4. Power usage
  5. Backward compatibility
  6. Data transfer rate
  7. Price

Read on to learn more about USB 2 and USB 3, as well as their differences.

USB 2 vs 3 – What is the Difference Between USB 2.0 vs 3.0?

You have probably been using USB 2 for so many years now, and perhaps you do not see any reason to upgrade to USB 3. This is especially true if your USB 2 is working fine. Besides, would you even notice whether you are using version 3 or not?

The answer is yes; you will notice it since there are several major differences between the two. Let me explain each of these differences below.

1. Color

Perhaps the most basic difference between USB 2 and 3 is the slight difference in their appearance. If you notice a blue “block” inside a USB port, it is a USB 3.0 port. The USB 2.0 port has a white or a black “block” in it.

The difference between USB 2 vs 3 (USB 2.0 vs 3.0) in terms of the block’s color is basically to distinguish the version of the USB port that you are using.

usb 2 vs 3

2. Number of Wires

There is a big difference in terms of the number of wires in a USB 2 vs USB 3. USB 2 has four connector wires, whereas USB 3 has five more wires, for a total of nine. These wires are related to the bandwidth. As the number of wires increases, the bandwidth increases as well.

The nine connector wires incorporated in USB 3.0 allow the simultaneous occurrence of two-way communications. This gives the USB 3 greater performance and is one of the main reasons why it is gaining in popularity.

3. Bandwidth

Bandwidth performance is one of the major differences between USB 3 vs 2. The increased number of wires in USB 3 has improved its bandwidth.

USB 2 provides a one-way communication path. In which case, you can send and receive data using the same pathway. This only goes to show that sending data or receiving them should be done one at a time. You can’t send and receive at the same time.

USB 3 makes use of two different unidirectional data pathways. One of the pathways is used mainly for sending data, while the other path is used mainly for receiving. Thus, allowing you to send and receive data all at the same time.

4. Power Usage

The difference between USB 2 vs. 3 also lies in its capacity in terms of milliamperes (mA). USB 2 can only provide a maximum of 500 mA current. With USB 3, its maximum current is 900 mA.

The capacity of USB 3 also extends to its delivery of USB power. It conserves power even if the USB flash drive is connected and left unused.

5. Backward Compatibility

If you connect a USB 2 drive to a USB 3 port, the drive will work as expected. If you connect a drive with a version older than USB 2 to a USB 3 port, it will, nonetheless, work normally. This is what backward compatibility means.

Should you be wondering if a USB 3 drive will work if connected to a USB 2 port, the answer is yes. However, you will not be able to maximize the features of the USB 3 drive as it will only exhibit the features of USB 2. In which case, sending and receiving of data is done using a one-way communication pathway only.

Therefore, if you want to maximize the features of USB 3, both your drive and port should be USB 3.

6. Data Transfer Rate

It is important to identify the difference between USB 2 vs 3 speed. This can be explained by the difference in the data transfer rate of these two USB versions.

The maximum transfer speed capacity of USB 2 is 480 megabits per second (Mbps). With USB 3, the maximum transfer speed capacity is 4,800 Mbps. Needless to say, that USB 3 works approximately 10 times faster compared to its older version.

In fact, USB 3.1 has recently been released on the market. One of its key features is its data transfer rate that is two times faster than USB 3. This makes it 20 times faster than USB 2.

differences between usb 2 and usb 3

7. Price

We can’t deny the fact that there is a substantial difference in the features of USB 2 vs 3. So, when it comes to their prices, we expect version 3.0 to be more costly than version 2.0.

A USB 2 flash drive with an eight-gigabyte (GB) data storage more or less costs US$10. Whereas, if you buy a USB 3 drive with the same data storage, it can more or less cost you US$40.

So to recap, what are the differences between a USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0? USB 3.0 has a blue color inside; whereas, USB 2.0 has a white or black block inside. USB 3.0 is faster than 2.0. USB 3.0 has more wires, and this means it has better bandwidth.

USB 1 vs 2 vs 3 speed: USB has a faster speed than USB 2. USB 2 has a faster speed than USB 1. USB 3 is about 10 times faster than USB 2. USB 1 devices can only achieve 12Mbps speed.

Next, let’s look at other information regarding USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0.

USB 2 and 3 – Other Information

USB or Universal Serial Bus was developed to standardize how peripherals are connected to personal computers, regardless of the computer brand. Among the peripherals that you can connect using a USB are the following:

  • Network adapters
  • Disk drives
  • Portable media players
  • Printers
  • Video cameras
  • Computer mouse
  • Computer keyboards

USB 3 may have been released in the market for more than a decade now. But USB 2 is still being widely used by many computer users worldwide.


It was in April 2000 when USB 2 was released in the market. If USB 1 was launched with a Full Speed signaling rate of 12 Mbit/s, USB 2 was launched with a High Speed signaling rate of 480 Mbit/s or 60 MB/s. This High Speed feature is also often called the High Bandwidth feature.

Through the Engineering Change Notice (ECN), the USB specification was modified. Among these modifications are as follows:

  • The connectors called Mini-A and Mini-B
  • Modifications to the Micro-USB Cables and Connectors Specification 1.01
  • Link Power Management Addendum ECN that provides a feature called the sleep power state
  • Battery Charging Specification 1.1 that improved compatibility with chargers
  • Battery Charging Specification 1.2 that focuses on the increased current
  • On-The-Go Supplement 1.3 to allow communication between two USB devices using a single USB host
  • InterChip USB Supplement


It was in November 2008 when the USB 3 specification was released. If USB 1 was known for its Full Speed and USB 2 for its High Speed, USB 3 was introduced to have a SuperSpeed transfer mode. This transfer mode is associated with cables, receptacles, and backward compatible plugs.

There is a distinct logo incorporated in SuperSpeed plugs and receptacles for easy identification. Moreover, they are distinct for having blue inserts in receptacles with standard format. The transfer mode of the SuperSpeed bus has a nominal rate of 5.0 Gbit/s. This is in addition to the existing transfer modes.

USB 3 also has sub-versions. In July 2013, the USB 3.1 was launched with two variants. The first variant is the USB 3.1 Gen 1 version, which is actually the SuperSpeed transfer mode — or the very first version of USB 3. The second variant is called the USB 3.1 Gen 2, which features the SuperSpeed+ transfer mode.

In September 2017, the USB 3.2 was launched. This version preserves all the features of USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2. However, it also introduces additional SuperSpeed+ transfer modes involving the USB-C connector. This version significantly increases the bandwidth.

The UASP protocol was also introduced when USB 3 was launched. It offers a more rapid and efficient transfer speed compared to the Bulk-Only-Transfer (BOT) protocol.

usb 3 versus usb 2

History of the USB 2.0 and 3.0

Not many people know that Intel Chief Client Platform Architect Ajay V. Bhatt is the one who developed the USB, together with his Intel team.

Bhatt admitted that it was a major challenge to convince computer companies to adopt the USB model. Nonetheless, he succeeded in doing so, even allowing it to become an industry standard. According to him, what made those companies agree was the fact that Intel offered the USB at such a low cost.

He may have successfully led the USB’s design and development, but Intel has officially owned the patent. This factor, however, does not bother him at all. After all, he works for Intel, and they work as a team. Besides, he has been widely recognized for all his achievements and accomplishments while working for Intel.

The Rectangular Design of the USB

USB users are quite vocal about the difficulty of plugging USB devices into the port, and Bhatt is completely aware of this. However, Bhatt stands firmly by his invention. While it is possible to incorporate a reversible feature, it will require additional wires and circuits. Thus, making it more expensive. Do users want to buy costly USB hardware? Certainly not.

Some users suggest that it should instead feature a circular design, which Bhatt’s team can easily do. However, Bhatt still prefers the rectangular design to allow users a 50-50 chance to plug the device correctly. This would not be possible with the circular design. Hence, his firm decision to stick with the rectangular design.

Conclusion – USB 3 vs USB 2 – What is the Difference Between USB 3.0 and USB 2.0?

There are several differences between USB 2 and USB 3. The differences between them are as follows:

  1. Color
  2. Number of wires
  3. Bandwidth
  4. Power usage
  5. Backward compatibility
  6. Data transfer rate
  7. Price

Since USB 3 is the latest version, it has better features than USB 2. With a power transfer of 900 mA and a transfer rate of 4.8 Gigabyte per second (Gbps), it is indeed an improved version of USB 2.

With the launching of USB 3, it does not necessarily mean that you cannot use your USB 2 drives and ports anymore. USB 3 was developed in such a way that it is compatible with the older versions. You may not be able to maximize the features of USB 3. However, you can still successfully transfer data with a USB 3 drive and a USB 2 port — or vice versa — using the features of USB 2. This is called backward compatibility.

Inevitably, with all the impressive features of USB 3, it is expected to be more pricey than USB 2. And if the cost is an issue for you, you do not have to force yourself to shift to USB 3. If you use USB drives to store small files only or you don’t use them very often, there is no reason for you to shift yet to USB 3.

However, there will come a time when USB 3 will completely take the place of USB 2. In which case, you don’t have a choice but to shift to this latest version.

If you are a person who frequently transfers huge files, then you are highly recommended to shift to USB 3. Undoubtedly, you will witness a significant improvement in speed and efficiency. Again, even if it is more costly than USB 2, you are guaranteed to maximize its usage. Surely, you will find real value for your money.

Besides, as I have mentioned earlier, USB 3 will eventually replace USB 2 completely. In which case, there’s no harm in shifting to the latest version.