Universal Serial Bus or USB has been around for a long time and is used to connect a wide variety of devices from storage to input hardware. The purpose of USB is to make connecting external devices easier by creating a standardized connector to replace the multitude of connectors at the back of a PC. The USB Implementers Forum was founded by a group of seven major IT companies to support and promote the development and high-quality standard of USB devices. Their naming and qualifications of USB revisions have been adopted by nearly all the major IT companies around the world.
Since the widespread introduction of USB 1.1 in 1998, there have been multiple revisions which have enabled higher transfer speeds and more power for peripherals to use. The most recent revision is USB 3.1, which has been split up into Gen 1 and Gen 2, but what exactly is the difference between the two?
USB 3.0 was launched in 2008, it provided an unprecedented increase in transfer speeds (up to 5Gbps) and added more power to connect more peripherals. In 2013 another major leap was made with the introduction of USB 3.1, doubling the speeds to as much as 10Gbps!
When USB 3.0 became USB 3.1 Gen 1
Recently however, the USB-IF organisation published an article where they announced that USB 3.0 connectors capable of 5Gbps (SuperSpeed) would now be classified as USB 3.1 Gen 1. While the new USB 3.1 connectors, capable of 10Gbps (SuperSpeed+) would now be classified as USB 3.1 Gen 2.
USB 3.0 is now called USB 3.1 Gen 1 (Speed up to 5Gbps)
USB 3.1 is now called USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Speed up to 10Gbps)
As usual, tech companies around the world have started adopting this new classification. (Apple and Kingston to name a few) On our latest generation of Z170 GAMING motherboards you will find both USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 connectors with their newly designated names by the USB-IF organisation.
Type-A and Type-C connectors
Next to the new naming of the USB revisions, you might also have noticed the new Type-C connector being mentioned more and more. The Type-A connector is the USB connector found on most devices these days. However, as everyone who has ever connected an USB device knows, the connector has to be positioned in a specific way to allow you to plug it in.
You will not run into this problem with the Type-C connector, which is symmetrical. This means it will fit no matter which way is pointing up!
Not all USB Type-C connectors are created equal
One word of caution when you see that shiny new Type-C connector on your new motherboard or notebook: Type-C is not automatically linked to USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds (up to 10Gbps). Some products with the Type-C connector still only support USB 3.1 Gen 1 speeds (up to 5Gbps).
So when you're shopping for a new product that includes a Type-C connector, always check if it has USB 3.1 Gen 1 or Gen 2 specifications!