USB 2.0 vs 3.0 Comparison: Do you really need USB 3.0?

usb 2.0 vs 3.0

When you are planning to purchase a USB extender or a KVM extender, you may find none of them support USB 3.0. Due to the limitation of current technology, long-distance USB extension only supports up to USB 2.0.

When your connection distance exceeds the maximum length that a cable can handle, you have to decide whether to settle with USB 2.0 or to move the devices even if it causes some inconvenience.

So what are the differences between USB 2.0 and 3.0, and whether USB 3.0 is necessary? You may have your answer. 

USB 2.0 vs 3.0

The standard of USB 3.0 was first released in 2008. It was gradually applied by PC computers, laptops, and other peripherals and became widely used in 2012. USB 3.0 cables and devices were designed to achieve a faster speed rate. 

Compared to USB 2.0, the new standard is better in data transfer speed and power management. The main differences are shown below.

  • Data transfer speed: USB 2.0 copes with data transfer at the rate of 480 Mbps and USB 3.0 can transfer at 4.8 Gbps, 10 times faster than the previous standard. 
  • Power supply and management: USB 2.0 provided up to 500 mA whereas USB 3.0 provides up to 900 mA. USB 3.0 handles power more efficiently by lowering power for idle devices.
  • Additional wires are added to USB-B and micro-B connectors in the 3.0 standard and they are not compatible with 2.0 ports.

Except for USB B and micro B, 3.0 ports and devices are downward compatible with 2.0. While using a 2.0 standard device will bring the whole setup to run at the 2.0 level.

As we can see above, USB 3.0 has a faster transfer speed. That would be helpful if you are transferring a large amount of data, for example from a USB drive to a laptop. And the better power supply is needed only when you are using a power-consuming device that runs with more than 500mA.

Even though USB 3.0 is more powerful than the prior standard, USB 2.0 is not replaced and still plays an indispensable role in the consumer electronics field. Consumers may not rush to the third generation because the price is higher while the edges are not a must in their use.

usb types

Figure 1: Different types of USB connector

USB-A Standards

Speaking of USB, different types of ports are built into different electronic devices. Among the most used are USB-A, USB-B, and type C. In the proAV industry, USB-A is the dominant connection type and it is built into almost all KVM extenders and USB extenders. The below chart shows the property of different standards for USB-A connection. 

usb standards

Figure 2: Different USB standards for type A connection

USB 1.1 would be enough for low-power, small-bandwidth devices like a keyboard or a mouse. Anyway, this is not often seen now and it may appear when there is a need for low-power use. For example, this dual monitor KVM switch offers a USB 1.1 for Hotkey keyboard connection in addition to 3 USB 3.0 ports.

usb 1.1 in a kvm switch

Figure 3: A USB 1.1 port in a KVM switch for keyboard connection

USB 2.0 has a much higher speed rate than 1.1. And it is widely used (also for other USB types) in most electronics. The maximum transmission length (of a USB 2.0 cable) goes up to 5 meters. What’s more, for a longer transmission distance, the current HDBaseT KVM extender supports USB 2.0 over an Ethernet cable for up to 100 meters.

Many astrophotography enthusiasts would use USB extenders to extend astro cameras from the PC in the study to the balcony. And a USB 2.0 device is enough for them to capture satisfying pictures.

USB 3.0 is more often seen with a type-C connection or a USB-A to type-C cable. It may be a future trend as it’s more powerful in speed rate and it is able to transmit both video and USB data.

Product Gallery

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dual monitor kvm switch  hadbaset kvm extender  usb 2.0