WHAT IS USB 3.1?
USB 3.1 is the new standard of USB connection technology. The USB 3.1 standard includes a number of new features, most notably SuperSpeed+ or Gen2 data speed. SuperSpeed+ allows USB 3.1 to transfer data at a speed of 10 Gbps. This means USB 3.1 can transfer a year’s worth of music in just 10 minutes or a Full HD movie in just 30 seconds. The new standard also allows USB 3.1 to provide power delivery, alternate video mode and data transfer through a single cable.
At the same time as the new USB 3.1 standard, the new reversible Type C connector was also developed. This connector comes with many new features, the main benefit being that it is now reversible so no matter which orientation the cable is inserted, you will always find a connection. This new technology allows a fully bi-directional cable with automatic Host and Device negotiation.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN USB-C AND USB 3.1?
USB 3.1 and USB-C, though developed concurrently, are not the same thing. USB 3.1 is an upgrade over the older USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 technology. USB 3.1 allows faster data transfer in comparison to these two previous versions. USB 3.1 is a new USB technology whilst USB-C is a connector which facilitates this technology.
USB 3.1 POWER DELIVERY
USB Type C cables support 20V 3A (60w) of power, however a new charging standard named PD (Power Delivery) has been released which can offer up to 100w (20V at 5A). New cables are required to take advantage of this technology and these use an embedded chip (e-marker) to manage power control, while still providing the SuperSpeed+ 10Gbps
data link and backwards compatibility.
USB 3.1 Power Delivery provides different rules for supplying power. The rules are automatically recognized and negotiated between the host, cable, and device. These systems require the use of active cables to allow the devices to “communicate” which rule is suitable and protect against overload.
USB 3.1 power delivery is not only suitable for notebooks but also other professional devices with a power consumption of up to 100 watts. PD can be maintained even when the USB-C connection is being used for data transfer, video or Ethernet.
USB 3.1 ALTERNATE MODE
Provides up to 100W, 5Gbps USB data transfer rates, and the simultaneous transfer of 4K video and audio data.
By using the Type C connection USB 3.1 also allows an alternate mode for additional functionality. This allows features like DisplayPort, HDMI, MHL or Thunderbolt. Please note however that the Host and Device must both support the same alternate mode.
DisplayPort Alternate Mode supports resolutions up to Ultra HD 4K 3840 x 2160. Alongside Simultaneous 4K Video & 5Gbps transfer rates.
IS USB 3.1 BACKWARDS COMPATIBLE?
USB 3.1 now supports up to 10Gbps speeds whilst remaining backwards compatible with the previous 5 Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 1 / USB 3.0) and 480Mbps (USB 2.0) standards. USB 3.1 Gen 2 also works with existing USB 3.0 connections thanks to the improved encoding method used to transmit data.
Type C has been designed in such a way it is able to operate with legacy connections via an adapter or converter cable. However not all features are available unless you use Type C on both ends.
HOW DO I RECOGNISE A USB 3.1 CABLE?
The connector for USB-C is slightly smaller than previous USB standards and looks similar to a Micro-USB connector.
WHERE WILL I FIND 3.1 TYPE C?
Most new mobile phones, tablets and laptops are now supplied with a Type C port whether it’s for charging or data transfer. One big advantage is that you no longer have proprietary chargers and you can use one charger for all your devices. USB Type C was originally used on Notebooks and in the tablet phone market before filtering through to more mainstream devices.
IS THUNDERBOLT THE SAME AS USB 3.1?
Thunderbolt is the connection and power delivery technology used by Apple to charge and deliver data to their products such as Macbooks and iMacs. USB-C is now the connector that is used with the latest Thunderbolt 3 technology. This allows Thunderbolt and USB-C to combine for an amazing 40Gbps of bandwidth. Thunderbolt 3 also uses the Type C port, however this port also offers additional functions that require specific Thunderbolt 3 Type C cables.
Using Thunderbolt 3 a single USB-C port can deliver power in both directions. So a port can charge a device or, alternatively, be charged by one. USB-C and Thunderbolt are capable of delivering up to 100 watts of power, so a single cable can be used to connect to a dock, or display, whilst your Apple device is charged simultaneously.