Components

USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0 vs USB 3.1: Which should you Have and Why?

As many people continue browsing through online shops trying to find the next best thing for their computers, a feature must be standing out in some of the product’s descriptions. Said feature is the compatibility with USB 3.1 and 3.2 ports. A lot of people probably even purchase the product without thinking about the inherent differences with other types of USB ports.

A lot of people have started to try and dig deeper, though. Trying to find the differences between this and the previous USB 3.0 and even 2.0 ports. All of this to see if there are some notable differences in the crowd and then beginning to consider those differences in order to make the right purchase.

Universal Serial Bus ports have been used for 20 years. These ports have constantly seen a cycle of evolution and will only continue developing further as years pass. A lot of people just think that this is an upgrade to their computer’s USB ports and nothing else but there is a lot more to it than that.

With more and more devices that allow for USB support. It’s important to learn how to keep up with the improvements, revisions and evolutions that come with the latest developments. This includes developments with the port itself and the cable, as the ports are important parts that come with motherboards themselves nowadays.

USB
USB 2.0 on the left USB 3.0 on the right

What is USB 2.0 and 3.0?

The Universal Serial Bus is an industry standard which was first introduced in January 1996. This standard basically establishes specifications for cables, connectors and protocols for connection, communication and power supply between personal computers and their peripheral devices.

Essentially, this is the way your devices like USB keyboards, mice, controllers, microphones, headphones and other sort of devices use in order to be able to connect and be able to perform input/output communications with the user’s computer.

USB Ports themselves have seen a generational evolution ever since they were conceived. Each number is a generation of the USB evolution. With USB 1.0 becoming the base of the USB standard which would only see further improvements later.

Fast forward to April 2000 with the introduction of the second generation of USB, 2.0. This unit became the standard for computers of the generation and also added a few perks like a higher maximum signaling rate of 480Mbit/s alongside a few other perks that would make it the standard for USB devices not only of that generation but also from the previous 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 devices.

USB
How to tell you have USB 3.0

Now, we advance to November 2008, nearly a decade ago. With the advent of USB 3.0 standard for ports and cables. USB 3.0 basically became the new standard for USB devices with a substantial amount of improvements over the previous 2 generations of USB standards. This also came with the now known Blue-tongued port that is now commonly seen in most motherboards.

USB 2.0 was only capable of a theoretical maximum data transfer rate of 480 megabits per second, while USB 3.0 was capable of 5 gigabits per second, or over 10 times faster. While this took a while to become a mainstream standard, it quickly gained traction and became the standard for a lot of devices.

USB 3.0 adds a SuperSpeed transfer mode, with associated backward compatible plugs, receptacles, and cables. SuperSpeed plugs and receptacles are identified with a distinct logo and blue inserts in standard format receptacles.

USB
USB 3.0 Type-A Cable

What is USB 3.1?

USB 3.1 made its first appearance in January 2013. The Universal Data Bus Group made an announcement with plans to update USB 3.0 to 10 Gbit/s (1.25 GB/s), increasing its speed by double of the previous amount instead of the usual 5Gbit/s.

Instead of updating the 3.0 model, the group decided to create a new USB specification instead. The USB 3.1 specification takes over the existing USB 3.0’s SuperSpeed USB transfer rate and is now known as USB 3.1 Gen 1. Shortly afterwards, a faster transfer rate called SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps, referred to as USB 3.1 Gen 2, makes its appearance and becomes the USB 3.1 standard.

This new structure comes with a new logo denominated SUPERSPEED+. This also comes with a new standard that’s basically an increase on the maximum data signaling rate up to 10GBit/s. This is basically done in order to compete with the first generation of Thunderbolt channel slots. However, this is a topic for another day.

Another function that the new USB 3.1 standard offers is the line encoding overhead reduction to 3% by changing the encoding scheme itself to 128b/132b. This is also compatible with previous generation cables as well. As such, it can actually be compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 cables.

USB
The USB Superspeed Logo

What is USB 3.2?

The most recent standard in USB technology belongs to 3.2. This started to make its rounds in 2017 when the USB group announced a pending update to the USB Type-C specification. This would actually double the standard of USB 3.1 speeds.

While USB 3.1 managed to get to up to 10 Gbit/s speeds. The new standard would actually double this by going up to 20Gbit/s transfer rates. As such, this was a more powerful unit that actually promised to have much faster rates than any other unit in the market.

Like every other previous revision, USB 3.2 slots are backwards compatible with USB 3.1, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 cables. However, this is only compatible with Windows 10 computers and Linux Kernel 4.15 computers. As such, it’s not going to work on previous operative systems or the difference in speeds will not be as tangible.

While USB 3.2 makes such big promises, it really hasn’t been actually implemented in public circles and there’s nothing but speculation and a public showing of the standard with a Windows 10 computer. As such, this is a theoretical USB speed for the moment.

USB
A USB 3.0 Cable

What are the differences between USB 3.0, 3.1 and 3.2?

When it comes down to USB Standards, the most discerning quality will always be the speed. The latest versions will always be faster and have bigger transfer rates than the original 3.0 standard. It’s easy to tell you have a version of USB 3.x by seeing whether or not the USB port has a blue slip on the bottom side of the port.

The updated version number reflects the addition of a new, optional 10 Gbps transfer rate. USB 3.1 has two versions: Generation 1 – “SuperSpeed USB”, and Generation 2 – “SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps”. All USB 3.1 devices are backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0.

Let’s remember that USB Generation 1 is actually another name which the original USB 3.0 is known as. USB 3.1 users also are making the Type-C connector quite popular. Soon we’ll be able to see universal USB Type-C cables connected to USB 3.1 devices that will actually show the best the standard can offer.

Technically, USB 3.2 doesn’t exist as more than a theoretical standard, at least at the time of this writing. However, USB 3.2 still has to relate to higher transfer speeds and more voltage delivery as well as retro-compatibility with previous USB 3.x versions.

USB
An USB 3.0 PCIe Add-in Card

What if I don’t have USB 3.0 or 3.1? Can I Upgrade my Computer?

A lot of users will probably find themselves wondering what they can do if their computer doesn’t meet the standards that other computers have in terms of USB ports. While this is a rather important concern. It’s also important to note that they are not entirely out of the game and can actually upgrade their computers through the PCIe on the computer’s motherboard.

Appuals offers a list with the following USB 3.0 Expansion Cards that can actually work perfectly for your computer in case you are in need of USB 3.0 / 3.1 slots.

Transferring data is a common task that many computer-users are often faced with on a regular basis. Most accessories and peripherals operate using USB to quickly transfer data, but if you’re stuck using the older version, USB 2.0, rather than the latest USB 3.0 version, you’ll likely be wishing for an upgrade.

This USB 3.0 PCI Express Card offers an easy integration with just about every kind of computer and Operating System. This also comes with the ability to add 7 different USB Ports all at once as soon as the device is connected to the Motherboard. Allowing the user to get all of the benefits from the latest USB developments. With speeds reaching up to 5Gbps for most of the fastest computers.


7 USB 3.0 Ports Limitations happen depending on the system itself
Fast Transfer Speeds of up to 5Gbps Some Compatibility Issues
Plug & Play Functionality
53 Reviews


SIIG Legacy and Beyond PCIe Card

7 USB 3.0 Ports
Fast Transfer Speeds of up to 5Gbps
Plug & Play Functionality
Limitations happen depending on the system itself
Some Compatibility Issues
53 Reviews



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Windows 10 users can rejoice and enjoy the most benefits from the Plug & Play functionality this PCIe card has to offer. The card will basically allow any computer running the Windows 10 Operating System to perform at its highest point. With an integrated SATA Connector to boost the transfer speeds even further with the help of an SSD.

One of the major problems that comes with the SIIG Legacy and Beyond PCIe USB 3.0 Adapter is the fact that there is quite a bit of limitations that can actually work against the adapter itself when put to the test of its limits. For starters, the card is often depending on a fast system to begin with so the Transfer speeds might see themselves affected once the card is plugged in a slow computer.

There is also the problem that, while this has the capability to allow for multiple Operating Systems to flawlessly run this PCIe Adapter, there are plenty of users who have needed to do a huge myriad of workarounds to make this Adapter work on Non-Windows 10 Operating Systems. While it’s possible, it definitely isn’t possible to use it on all systems right away.

Overall, this PCIe chip can offer the best choices for people who want to upgrade their computer with USB 3.0 ports. There might be quite a few limitations but most users and PC gamers will definitely enjoy hooking this Adapter to their SSD in order to have the maximum performance this chip can allow.

The Rosewill RC-509 will allow users who want to up the ante on their computers get the best adapter for the job without so many benefits like other Adapters can offer. For starters, the main detail that can be noticed is the fact that the RC-509 is equipped with USB 3.1 rather than USB 3.0. Not only that but it also comes with 2 types of ports which are Type-A and Type-C.

USB-C is the emerging standard for charging and transferring data. It’s a technology standard that has begun to spread to pretty much everything that currently uses the older, larger USB connector. USB Type-C has a new, tiny physical connector which is roughly the size of a micro USB connector. The USB-C connector itself can support various exciting new USB standard like USB 3.1 and USB power delivery (USB PD).

The novelty behind the USB Type-C is the fact that its reversible. As such, it’s a single USB connector shape that all devices should adopt, so you won’t have to keep loads of different USB cables with different connector shapes for your various devices. Even so, there is still a Type-A port for users who want to keep using the standard USB type while reaping the benefits of 3.1.


PCIe 2.0/3.0 Compatibility Limitations happen depending on the system itself
PCIe 4x/8x/16x slot compatibility Some Compatibility Issues
USB 3.1 Support Only 2 ports total
USB type-C Support
854 Reviews


Rosewill RC-509 PCIe USB 3.1 Adapter

PCIe 2.0/3.0 Compatibility
PCIe 4x/8x/16x slot compatibility
USB 3.1 Support
USB type-C Support
Limitations happen depending on the system itself
Some Compatibility Issues
Only 2 ports total
854 Reviews



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The same benefits as the SIIG Legacy and Beyond PCIe Adapter apply to this USB 3.1 Adapter provided by Rosewill. Windows 10 users will definitely see the benefits of using this Adapter right away thanks to Windows’s capabilities in terms of automatic driver installing.

The major issue comes with Operating Systems that require manual Driver Installs. While Rosewill does provide users with drivers that can be used to make the PCIe chip compatible with non-Windows 10 Operating systems. They are outdated by quite a while and will require some workarounds to make them work like intended.

Another thing that holds back this USB 3.1 Adapter is the fact that it only offers 2 USB Slots total. While the increase in Transfer rates to a whopping 10Gbps is a pretty hefty upgrade for a lot of users, it really isn’t worth it to sacrifice a whole lot of USB 3.0 ports that could be doing a major impact with multiple slots.

Overall, the Rosewill RC-509 is an alternative for users who want to trade in an amount of slots for more USB Transfer Power. While it does benefit from the fastest Transfer Rates, it definitely is held back by the amount of limitations it has thanks to its hardware. However, any users who just needs two USB 3.1 ports will definitely enjoy using this product.

For those users who don’t want to deal with things such as USB Type-C connectors. We have the best USB 3.1 PCIe card available in the market. This is provided by none other than StarTech, a company that has been known for making some good components for PCie.

This chip doesn’t fool around either, adding four USB 3.1 Type-A ports with two independent 10Gbps channels for the computer. Making it the definitive upgrade for users who want to reap the powers of the latest in USB Standard Technologies.

When multiple devices are connected, traditional single-bus USB cards share the maximum bandwidth between all ports. By employing two host controller chipsets, shared across two ports rather than four, this 4-port USB 3.1 card dedicates up to 10Gbps for each set of two USB ports. It reduces performance bottlenecks and doubles your total available bandwidth to 20Gbps.

With higher data throughput support, this PCI Express USB 3.1 card is a necessity for external hard drives, hard drive enclosures, and many other USB 3.1 peripherals. Plus, the USB card includes an optional SATA or LP4 power connector to connect to your computer’s PSU and deliver up to 900mA of power per port to USB 3.1 bus-powered devices (500mA for USB 2.0).


USB 3.1 Support Only for Windows 10 Devices
4 Different USB 3.1 Slots Only PCie x4 Compatibility
Independent 10Gbps Channels
88 Reviews


StarTech USB 3.1 PCIe Card

USB 3.1 Support
4 Different USB 3.1 Slots
Independent 10Gbps Channels
Only for Windows 10 Devices
Only PCie x4 Compatibility
88 Reviews



Check Price

Users who love using USB 3.0/3.1 peripherals such as the Oculus Rift will definitely see the major benefits from using this PCIe Adapter. This card is also quite sturdy as well, being able to work under extreme conditions paired with a Graphics Card when other PCie chips would have problems with a Graphics Card nearby.

This adapter also comes with a Low-Profile adapter. While the chip is already small, a lot of users who want to make it fit Small Form Factor PCs will definitely enjoy having the benefits of having a USB 3.0 computer without having to be forced to work with bigger build capacities.

Users who want to use this PCIe expansion for Gaming, Personal Spaces, Business and other sort of work such as Workstations/Video Edition/Virtual Reality will definitely see a ton of benefits from using this chip. It definitely doesn’t compare to having 7 slots but the benefits still come plentiful and the chip more than makes up for it for the faults it has.

This PCIe Expansion Card comes with some benefits that make it rank among the best PCIe Expansion Cards that support USB 3.0. The main benefit that most users will notice is the friendliness it has towards Budget PC Enthusiasts. The price point is definitely one of the lowest for this sort of device and it certainly wouldn’t go unnoticed.

The card itself definitely packs a lot of power in and of itself as well. With the standard 5Gbps that the USB 3.1 standard has to offer, not a lot of people would see the benefit right away until they see that 20-Pin USB 3.0 connector that basically allows the chip’s benefits to be expanded even further through front USB 3.0 ports.

This makes the amount of ports available for the device to be up to 7 ports in total. Not only that but the transfer speeds also remain the same no matter how many devices are plugged. As such, it works as advertised and only comes with benefits that improve the quality of life of USB 3.0 devices.


Plug & Play Functionality with Windows XP/7/8/10 Windows Only
7 USB Ports Total (5 Slots on chip/Expandable to 2 more slots) Minor Compatibility Issues
USB 3.0 Support
2 Reviews


QNINE 5-Port USB 3.0 PCie Expansion Card

Plug & Play Functionality with Windows XP/7/8/10
7 USB Ports Total (5 Slots on chip/Expandable to 2 more slots)
USB 3.0 Support
Windows Only
Minor Compatibility Issues
2 Reviews



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Another benefit that this card has compared to other cards on this list is the optimization it has for Low-Power Consumption and the capability to offer a more stable experience for users who want to sacrifice a SATA port. It’s a card that basically allows the users to have benefits without sacrificing much in terms of budget.

That said, this only works for Windows devices and Mac/Linux support is entirely out of question. This adapter will only work for those who seek the benefits and don’t need drivers. As such, it will be tough or impossible to make this device work on non-Windows computers. People who want to have a USB 3.0 Adapter that offers benefits on a budget will have to look elsewhere.

Overall, QNINE knows how to deliver in terms of performance quality while also allowing users to see the benefits of using USB 3.0 to the fullest. It has an expandable amount of USB slots for those who don’t have enough with just 5 ports and it also has a Plug & Play functionality that makes it compatible with Windows OS computers without needing to take any additional steps.

The Inateck PCIe USB 3.0 Expansion Card offers an easy integration with just about every kind of computer and Operating System. Fully compatible with every version of Windows from XP or newer, and there’s even specific expansion cards for easly 2008 to late 2012 Mac systems. Some Operating Systems might have some limitations in terms of Transfer Speeds but they still are compatible with this USB 3.0 Expansion Card regardless.

The Inateck PCIe USB 3.0 Expansion Card will also allow users to have up to 7 ports. Although these also require a USB 3.0 adapter to get the full 7 while the amount the user will have by default when they acquire this chip will only be limited to 5.

This card also offers a wide range of connection options for powering the card so it’s always ready to use and able to deliver promised speeds. Select from a 15 or 20-pin connector, or simply choose the 4-port, new-release version that can power itself without the need for an additional cable. The choice is up to the user for them to know what they can use to get the most benefits.


Plug & Play Functionality with Most Operating Systems Minor Compatibility Issues with Operating Systems that don’t Support USB 3.0
7 USB Ports Total (5 Slots on chip/Expandable to 2 more slots)
USB 3.0 Support
1,364 Reviews


Inateck PCIe USB 3.0 Expansion Card

Plug & Play Functionality with Most Operating Systems
7 USB Ports Total (5 Slots on chip/Expandable to 2 more slots)
USB 3.0 Support
Minor Compatibility Issues with Operating Systems that don’t Support USB 3.0
1,364 Reviews



Check Price

The real kicker for this chip is the Backwards compatibility with older USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 devices. This means you can still use your older gadgets even though they may not readily support the new USB 3.0 version. It comes included with the necessary drivers on a CD, but Inateck highly recommends simply downloading the latest version of the drivers from their website for the best experience.

The Plug & play Functionality it has is also another one of the benefits this chip has to offer. With Inateck’s chip offering a huge benefit for users who want to give a boost to old and new computers alike. This also comes with extremely powerful support for Operating Systems outside of Windows that don’t require any sort of workarounds.

The major flaw is definitely the fact that The supplied cables to connect power to the card are ridiculously short. Believe us when we say that most users are better off getting a cable on their own separately because most installations either don’t fit the cable or the cable is not long enough to actually be used on the system itself. Making this a major setback on the card itself.

Not only that but, while Inateck supplies users with drivers, they definitely could give users some help and guidance on how to download them. Many users will, unsurprisingly, find themselves not knowing what driver is the appropriate one of the chip itself and will often spend a long time browsing through useless drivers for other sort of chips.

While there are definitely some major setbacks that will definitely cripple the deal for some users. The Inateck PCIe USB 3.0 Expansion Card is a device worth having on the computer itself. It is a device that can offer the best USB 3.0 Experience for users of multiple Operating Systems that want to either upgrade their computer or give them a last boost before a major update.

 

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