The Definitive Guide to USB Cables
USB cables are mainly used for transferring data and charging devices. This seems to be a simple statement. Many buyers purchase cables directly thinking they’re all the same and created equal. This is not entirely true. When you purchase the wrong cables, several problems may occur, like the USB ports stop working, no sound coming out from your home entertainment system, an error prompt saying the device cannot be found, and your device not charging.
This article will give you the whole concept of USB cables – what it is, how it’s made, why you need them, and how to purchase the right one. If you’ll read throughout the article, you’ll be able to buy the proper USB cable in a single try!
Chapter I: The Fundamentals of USB
1.1 What Is USB (and what does it do)?
The USB, or Universal Serial Bus, is an industry-standard developed so computer components, such as keyboards, mice, printers, digital cameras, network adapters, disk drives, etc., can connect to personal computers. Today the USB feature is present in other devices, like gaming consoles and smartphones.
1.2 How Does USB Work?
By plugging a USB cable into the USB port of a computer, a connection is made between the electronic device and the computer. Through this connection, short-distance data transfer can be done. The computer can also supply electric power to the device it’s connected with.
1.3 What Are the Features of USB?
The USB interface went through a lot of updates due to the advancement of technology. So far, these are the features that come with USB:
- The USB is a “plug-and-play” device, which means that it can be plugged directly into the port and the connection will work right away.
- Up to 127 components can be connected to a USB host controller.
- Without a hub, a USB cable can reach up to five meters. With a hub, it can extend up to 40 meters.
- The USB 2.0 has two wires for power and a coiled pair of wires for carrying data. The USB 3.0 has four additional wires for data transmission.
- The USB 2.0 can transmit data in a single direction at a time, while the USB 3.0 can transmit in both directions at the same time.
- The USB 3.0 can provide a maximum of 900 milliamps of power.
- A USB device has a speed of up to 480 MB/s for USB 2.0, 4.8Gbit/s for USB 3.0, and 10Gbit/s for USB 3.1.
- It can generate power either from the computer or from its own supply.
- Some USB devices now can shift to “sleep mode” once the computer it’s connected to changes into the power-saving mode.
1.4 The USB Standards
USB was developed to keep up with technology. With many modernized devices, the performance of the USB also has to be updated and improved. As a result, there are four USB standards. These are:
- USB 1.1
This was the first version of USB. It was released in September 1998 and provided a master-follower interface, wherein the “master” is the computer and the “followers” are the devices connected to it. The USB can support up to 127 devices and 6 hubs or tiers.
The goal of this standard was to simplify the complication within the device by letting the host (computer) do the processing.
The data transfer speed of this standard is 1.5Mb/s for low speed and 12Mb/s for full speed. The length is only up to five meters. Due to power limitations, it doesn’t allow the use of pass-through monitors and extension cables.
- USB 2.0
This standard is an improved version of the USB 1.1. It was released in April 2000. The main difference is the transfer speed was upgraded to “high-speed,” which is capable of up to 480Mb/s. However, even though devices are marked USB 2.0, it doesn’t mean all of them can meet the full speed.
- USB 3.0
Another standard that was initially launched in September 2007; the highlight of this standard is the SuperSpeed feature. It has a fourth transfer mode, which provides a transfer rate of 4.8Gbit/s.
The USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0. Usually, the USB ports on computers and other similar devices will have the label “SS”, which means SuperSpeed or USB 3.0.
- USB 3.1
The latest and most advanced USB standard. It was launched in July 2013 and can transfer up to 10Gb/s of data.
Chapter II: What You Need to Know About USB Cables
We know how a USB cable looks like and basically what it does. But, do we really know all of its capabilities? Let’s go over the facts that we should know about USB cables:
2.1 What Are USB Cables?
USB cables are used mainly to connect computers to peripheral devices, such as printers, scanners, cameras, and more. They come with the following advantages:
- They are “hot-pluggable,” which means they can connect and disconnect while the computer is running without risking it to freeze.
- They are a universal standard, which means they are affordable and can easily be found.
- They are fast and can transfer data up to 10Gb/s.
- They both carry signals and power, so they can be used in USB-powered gadgets, like smartphones, tablets, and pads, and recharging portable components, like cameras and other USB devices.
- They come in different connector types, so it will be easy to determine which plug goes to the computer and which one goes to the device.
2.2 What Is a USB Cable Made Of?
USB cables are made up of two main parts: the cable itself and the connector. The cable comes with a few basic parts. They have two connecting ends, the wires found inside, and the sheath that surrounds the wires. The wires are usually made from silver and copper since both metals are excellent conductors. Usually, they come with a ferrite bead to minimize high-frequency noise.
The connectors are usually made from brass, but newer versions are now gold-plated. The “A” connector will be plugged into the computer, while the “B” goes to the peripheral device.
2.3 The Different Types of USB Connectors
The USB connectors are the ones that will connect to the USB ports of computers and devices to transfer data and power successfully. They come in different styles and sizes which are briefly discussed below:
- Type A – the standard, rectangular and flat interface that is found in almost every USB cable. USB Type A ports can be found in almost all computers, video game consoles, TVs, and other electronic devices.
- Type B – the standard that is almost square in shape and is widely used in printers, scanners, and other similar devices. They’re hardly seen today as many devices have switched to the smaller versions.
- Mini-USB – this is the smaller version, which was the standard for portable devices before the micro-USB was introduced. Today, they’re no longer as common, but can still be found in some gadgets, like MP3s, PS3 controllers, etc.
- Micro-USB – this is another standard for mobile devices, but also declining in popularity due to the introduction of the USB-C. They can still be found in some gadgets, like smartphones, tablets, and video game controllers among others.
- USB-C – this is the latest standard and is used in many new devices, such as laptops, smartphones, MacBooks, and even in video game consoles, like the Switch Pro Controller from Nintendo.
- Lightning – While this isn’t really a USB standard, it will be included in this list because it is Apple’s connector for their products. It has the same size as the USB-C and is the standard for Apple products released in September 2012 and later.
Chapter III: Is USB-C the Emerging USB Version? (Should you get one?)
As the latest connector type to be released, the USB-C has a lot to offer. It is smaller, fast, and reversible. Gone are the days when you can’t plug it on your first try! Due to its advanced features, even newer models of Apple products now come with USB-C ports.
The USB-C is not a new standard. It’s not the same as the USB 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1. USB standards focus on the capacity of the connection, while the USB-C focuses on the physical connection, similar to the mini-USB and micro-USB.
The goal of this connector is to replace all USB types of both the host and peripheral devices. It is even small enough not to accommodate the mini and micro USBs. It also runs the USB 3.1 standard, allowing it more power and a faster speed rate.
Since the recent models of devices come with the USB-C ports, it will be useful to have one. It’s highly likely that your smartphone comes with the USB-C port. Since this connector type is not used in all devices yet and is not physically compatible with the previous standards, you can get the USB-C to USB-A cables.
Chapter IV: What is USB-OTG? (Is it worth it?)
USB On-the-Go or USB-OTG is a standard used in many Android smartphones that lets them function as USB hosts by reading data directly from USB devices.
For example, you have a laptop, a smartphone, and an external hard drive. To move the files from the external hard drive to the smartphone, you’ll have to transfer the files to the laptop first. Then, connect your smartphone to the laptop to start transferring the files.
By using the USB-OTG, you will no longer need the laptop and you can transfer the files from the external hard drive to your phone directly.
Another example is you can use game controllers through the USB-OTG when playing certain games on your smartphone. However, they don’t work on games that were designed to be played through touchscreens, like The Clash of Clans. They do work on more classic games like Sonic 2 from Sega.
Is it worth getting? It really depends on you. If you use your phone a lot for different functions, like saving and transferring files, playing games, or even use it with your DSLR to transfer images faster, then the USB-OTG can be useful.
Chapter V: Tips on Buying the Right USB Cable
Even though you can easily find sellers and distributors, it would still be a hassle to go back and forth since your USB cables are not working. It’s going to be a waste of your time and money. So, before you buy your next USB cable, take the following into consideration:
- Always buy your USB cables from branded and reputable sellers. Don’t get tempted right away with those that are sold at really cheap prices.Chances are, they weren’t manufactured properly or they come with low-end materials.
- Only buy your cables from certified manufacturers.
- Choose a store or brand that offers technical support to their customers.
- When buying online, check the reviews of the product to see if it worked for other customers and read the specs carefully to see if they meet the required standards.
With that in mind, it’s time that you think about the features you want for your USB cable:
- Amps – When charging your devices, make sure that the charger provides enough amps for faster charging. For example:
- Android devices – 1.6 amps
- iPads – 2.4 amps
- iPhones – 1 amp
- Volts – Many are not aware, but the volts matter. Usually, USB chargers are capable of pushing 5 volts, but some can do more for faster-charging rate.
- The number of gadgets – If you’re going to buy a charger for different devices, the output must meet or exceed the required amps of the devices combined to charge. For example, an Android phone and an iPhone = 1.6 amps + 1 amp = 2.6 amps; so you’re going to get a charger with that much amps or higher, like 3 amps.
- Cable material – USB cables sold in the market are made from different materials, from the wire to the protection that encloses the entire cord. The common materials used are TPE, Nylon, and PVC.
- TPE – is a plastic material that has excellent durability and elasticity. The waste from this material is recyclable, which makes it environment-friendly. Today, most of the original USB cables that come with smartphones are made from TPE.
- Nylon – This is a special kind of material added to USB cables to improve their external tension. Also, it is to prevent the copper core found in cables of mobile devices from getting damaged due to the external tension.
- PVC – This material comes with a variety of features: durable, weather-resistant, and non-flammable. Unfortunately, this is hardly used today as it was outperformed by TPE.
- Cable length – consider where you’re going to use it so you can find the proper cord length. For example:
- 1 ft. – for desktop charging
- 3 ft. – for standard length, which is also ideal when used inside your vehicle
- 6 ft. – for nightstands and furniture
- 9 ft – for areas that are hard to reach
- Cable thickness – Consider buying a thicker cable as it will charge better compared to the thinner ones, especially when the cable is more than six feet.
If you want to learn more about how to find the best USB cables for you,
What Is a Good USB Cable?
While USB cables look similar on the outside, they might be different on the inside. For USB charging cables, some charge at a slow rate while others don’t charge at all. These are common problems consumers deal with when they directly buy USB cables without considering what makes a good one.
When you’re looking for a USB cable to charge your gadgets, like smartphones, tablets, and cameras, you must look for the following features:
- Supports USB 2.0
- The label mentions specifically that it’s a charging cable, and not only a data one.
- A high-speed data transfer rate of 480Mb/s.
- At least 24AWG/2C power conductors
- Ferrite bead (optional)
Chapter VI: How Is a USB Cable Manufactured?
If you are an electronic brand owner, you are going to need a professional cable manufacturer. There are thousands of cable manufacturers who can produce your customized USB cables. Getting to know how it’s made is going to help you find the perfect cable suppliers.
Before we go through the manufacturing process, let’s understand first what goes on inside a USB cable. It has four wires inside – usually, they’re black, white, green and red. In most electronic devices, the black wire is the ground wire, the white wire is a positive wire and indicates data, the green wire also indicates data, but is a negative wire, while the red one indicates positive wire with five volts of DC power.
However, some USB cords use different color combinations for the wires, like green, blue, orange, and white. If this is the case, the green wire indicates positive data, the blue is negative data, the orange is the positive wire with five volts of DC power, and the white one indicates the ground wire.
So, how are USB cables made?
Step 1: Cable Cutting
Often, the raw cable is long, so they have to be cut into the appropriate lengths, like one meter, three meters, six meters, and so on.
Step 2: Opening the Inner Conductor
As previously discussed, the USB cable is made up of four different wires, which can be found inside. Aside from the wires, braid and foil can be found to avoid electromagnetic interference. In this step, the inner conductor must be displayed so they can be connected to the connector. This step will involve the following:
- Stripping of the outer jacket
- The weaving and folding of the braid
- Stripping of the foil to expose the wire inside
- Stripping of the inner jacket
Step 3: Linking the Terminal and the Wire
In most cases, tin is used to solder electronic products. This is because it has useful features, like low melting point, good affinity to copper and iron surface, and excellent fluidity once melted. This step will require the following tasks:
- Tin dipping is done by dipping first the end of the conductor in soldering flux, then in the fluid tin.
- Soldering the conductor and the endpoint of the connector according to the wire’s color to indicate its usage.
- Soldering test is done to check if the soldering point passes the requirements.
Step 4: Molding
This step will involve covering back the joint of the connector and cable by using an injection molding machine. This step will include the following:
- Internal injection molding for the first layer of plastic protection
- Installing of the iron shell
- First electrical performance test for the semi-finished products
- External injection molding of the final layer of plastic protection along with the tag and logo
- Second electrical performance test for the finished products
Step 5: Final Inspection and Packaging
The final step will involve inspecting the appearance of the cables and checking again to make sure there are no defects. Defective products will then be cleared out, then the rest will be packed according to the requests of customers.
Even though USB cables look almost identical physically, they are actually different in many ways – transfer speed, connector types, functions, size, and other features. This is why it’s important that you determine first what functions you want for your USB cables to avoid problems when purchasing.
By taking note of your requirements and the tips in this post, you’ll be more confident when buying your USB cables! And if you are a brand looking to customize your own USB cables with logos, feel free to contact Koincable.!