25 February 2022,Comments:78
Since the introduction of USB 3.0, making sense of USB marketing names has been a source of frustration for consumers. This is largely due to the fact that each new USB standard absorbs all previous 3.x specifications and at the same time gives them new monikers. Now that the original USB 3.0 has received two major updates, we are now at USB 3.2.
Different USB 3.2 Speeds
The latest USB specification brings us four speeds altogether and they are as follows:
- USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 defines data transfer rate at 20Gbps over two lanes at 10Gbps each, hence the name SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps on its official namesake logo. This speed mode requires the use of certified, full-featured USB-C cables.
- USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 is alternatively known as USB 3.1 Gen 2. Providing a single lane of 10Gbps, it can work with either USB-C cables or legacy USB 3.0 Type-A cables. This mode – marketed under SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps – is also the fastest speed that Thunderbolt 3 supports natively. Note that passive cables are mostly 1m or shorter in length in order to maintain optimal signal quality transferring data in USB 3.2 Gen 2×1. You’ll find most USB SSDs – in particular NVMe variants – take full advantage of said USB mode potential.
- USB 3.2 Gen 1×2 takes advantage of dual-lane operation capability of a certified USB-C cable, providing two lanes of 5Gbps. This mode, introduced as part of the new specification, boosts 10Gbps transfer rate over a passive USB-C cable of 3m in length. If you need 10Gbps over a longer distance, USB 3.2 Gen 1×2 might be an option (if you can find the host and device that support this particular mode).
- USB 3.2 Gen 1 is basically USB 3.0 that was superseded by USB 3.1 Gen 1. The maximum theoretical data transfer is 5Gbps. It can also work with either legacy USB 3.0 Type-A or USB-C cables. Mini drives, dual-headed drives, and everyday flash drives run at 5Gbps as this USB speed mode already has more than enough bandwidth for the slower NAND and HDD.
In the real world, we’ve seen second-generation USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 (aka SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) SSD from Crucial manages to push the real-world performance close to 800MBps (or 6.4Gbps) whereas USB 3.2 Gen 1 (aka SuperSpeed USB 5Gbps) equivalent can reach close to 400MBps (or 3.2Gbps). USB 2.0 is still widely used; it delivers both Hi-Speed and Full-Speed modes that operate at 480Mbps and 12Mbps respectively. (Note: the unit is in bits per second.)
When taking into account protocol overheads, latency, and flow control, the fastest USB 3.2 Gen 1 device should operate at near 450Mbytes per second whereas a USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 device – in best case scenario – should perform at 1.1Gbytes per second under ideal conditions. But your mileage may vary depending on the system. The new Gen 2×2 and 2×1 mode also reduce the overhead from 20% to just 3% with the USB 3.2’s new 128b/132b encoding scheme; hence, you see better effective throughput.
Real-world USB 3.2 Gen 2 Performance
To illustrate how fast USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 (10Gbps) is in real-world scenarios, we compared the speed of five USB SSDs in the bar graph below. These drives, save for Kingston DataTraveler Max, are all NVMe SSDs behind a USB 3.2 2×1 bridge chip. It’s worth mentioning the Kingston is a rare breed for it is the first thumb drive that integrates both SSD controller and USB interface in a single-chip solution. Note that laptops with built-in USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 ports are far from ubiquitous so we didn’t bother to include the new class of SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps SSDs even though they are close to twice as fast.
The current testbed as of this writing is a 2018 Apple MacBook Pro running the latest Windows 10 21H1 as of this writing. Results are shown in megabytes per second, based on our sequential non-compressible file transfer tests that involve copying back and forth a single 10GB MP4 and a folder of 5GB JPEGs. These USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 (10Gbps) SSDs with support for UASP are undisputedly the performance leaders in their class. To sum up, you can expect the top sequential transfer rate in the 700 to 800MB/s range under real-world conditions with these USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 devices.
Real-world USB 3.2 Gen 1 Performance
For storage devices that cannot leverage the bandwidth available with the latest USB specs, manufacturers will keep using USB 3.2 Gen 1 with speed of 5Gbps. The graph below illustrates how fast USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) drives perform in real-world scenarios. For the purpose of this comparison, we picked two drives that bridge with a SATA SSD; a thumb drive with SATA to SSD controller; and a pair of mini USB drives as well as two external 3.5″ hard drives.
In this comparison, SSD-class drives – namely the Samsung T5 and Sandisk Extreme Pro V1 – are the first batch of external drives that deliver close to the limit of its USB 3.2 Gen 1 interface. Both of them are at heart SATA SSDs; hence, their native speeds won’t go any faster than 550MB/s. By going the USB route, these drives approximately take a 10-percent performance penalty. And like the Kingston DataTraveler Max, the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX is an SSD packaged in a thumb drive-form factor except the latter is at least three generations behind.
Both the Samsung Fit Plus and PNY Elite-X Fit are classified as old-fashioned thumb drives. These mini USB drives aren’t exactly built for speed. Expect write performance to be on par with that of a USB 2.0 drive. Yet they come in handy if you need a quick storage boost for your laptop without needing a major upgrade. Without USAP, these aren’t designed to run applications as efficiently as any SSD-class USB drive but they are more than adequate for moving media files in a timely fashion.
For capacity larger than 1TB, nothing beats hard disk drives. 8TB options shown here managed speed at around 180MB/s. By no means are the Seagate Backup Plus and WD My Book slow; traditional hard disk drives are particularly reliable in long-term archival backup as well as incremental backups that likely demand more storage space consumption.
This bar chart is by no means an exhaustive comparison of USB drive speeds but it should give you a fairly good idea how each storage type performs in real-world scenarios. We intend to add more drives periodically. So, please let us know in the comment below what you would like us to add in this comparison.
Fastest USB 3.2 SSDs on Amazon
|Crucial X8 1TB Portable SSD – Up to 1050MB/s – USB 3.2 – External...||7,155 Reviews||$79.99||See it on Amazon|
|OWC 1TB Envoy Pro Elektron USB-C Portable NVMe SSD||27 Reviews||$159.00 $149.00||See it on Amazon|
|SAMSUNG SSD T7 Portable External Solid State Drive 1TB, Up to 1050MB/s, USB...||20,999 Reviews||$139.99 $89.00||See it on Amazon|
|SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD - Up to 1050MB/s - USB-C, USB 3.1...||64 Reviews||$119.99 $99.99||See it on Amazon|
|WD_BLACK 1TB D30 Game Drive SSD - Portable External Solid State Drive,...||663 Reviews||$149.99 $119.99||See it on Amazon|
Pricing is last updated by Amazon on 2022-11-29 at 22:00. When you buy through Amazon affiliate links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
USB Duplicators By Nexcopy
Nexcopy manufactures a variety of PC-based and standalone USB duplicator solutions.
PC based systems support advanced USB functions such as write protection, CD-ROM partition and multi-partition creation, while standalone systems are ultra-fast, high speed USB copiers duplicating gigabytes of data quickly and accurately.
Does USB 3.2 make a difference? ›
The new transfer speeds boast an impressive 2.4GBps making it almost 2.5x faster than USB 3.0. USB 3.2 is only available on USB-C connectors because it utilizes extra pins that were designed for the reversibility of USB-C.How fast is USB 3.0 in the real world? ›
The theoretical transfer speed of USB 3.0 is 4.8 Gbit/s (600MBps) vs. 480 Mbit/s (60MBps) which is a 10X improvement. Sustained transfer speeds (real life) for external hard drives are about 85MBps for USB 3.0 and about 22MBps for USB 2.0, so about a 5X improvement but still a significant advancement in transfer speed.How fast is a USB 3.2 port? ›
USB-C Lanes and Speeds
USB 3.2 takes advantage of all four lanes to achieve a 20 Gbps data rate. The naming convention recently adopted for USB 3.2 incorporates speed x lanes. For example, USB 3.2 Gen 1x2 means 5 Gbps x 2 lanes, for a connection speed of 10 Gbps.
With the arrival of USB 3.2, the industry dominant USB-A connection was beginning to phase out in favor of USB-C. Since USB-C supports higher data transfer speeds and could charge other peripheral devices faster, it has naturally become the main USB connector in utilizing USB 3.2 Gen 2.Is USB 3.2 same as Thunderbolt? ›
Various USB standards, including USB 3.2 and USB4, also use the USB-C connector type, and these cables and ports are cross-compatible with Thunderbolt™ 4.What should you use USB 3.2 for? ›
Firmware engineers and software developers can use the increased bandwidth of USB 3.2 to replace dedicated trace and debug ports. USB 3.2 allows the use of an existing Type-C connector, standard USB cables, and PCs/laptops to capture high-bandwidth trace and debug data.What is the fastest USB technology? ›
- USB 1.0/Low-Speed: 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps)
- USB 1.1/Full-Speed: 12 Mbps.
- USB 2.0/Hi-Speed: 480 Mbps.
- USB 3.0/SuperSpeed: 5 Gbps.
- USB 3.1/SuperSpeed: 10 Gbps.
USB 3.0 has a throughput of 5 Gb/s. Typical HDD's have a read speed of around 160 MB/s, which doesn't fully utilize USB 3.0's throughput. On the other hand, typical SATA-based SSD's have typical read speeds of 500 MB/s (which approaches but does not surpass USB 3.0's throughput).Is USB 3.2 Always Type-C? ›
All USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 products use the Type-C connector, but not all USB-C ports are USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. A USB-C port can be either 20Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 or 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2.Is USB faster than Ethernet? ›
USB vs Ethernet Transfer Speed
In general, for the fastest speeds, USB is capable of surpassing that of Ethernet. USB transfer speeds typically range from USB 1.1 at 12 Mbps, USB 2.0 at 480 Mbps, USB 3.2 at 10 Gbps, and the latest USB4 up to 40 Gbps.
Are USB 3.1 and 3.2 cables the same? ›
The version numbers are confusing and don't mean much as USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.2 Gen 1 are all interchangeable and operate at 5 Gbps while USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB 3.2 Gen 2 are the same, operating at 10 Gbps.Does USB 3.2 require a special cable? ›
Of course, in order to enjoy that increased speed, you will need USB 3.2-compatible devices. However, what you won't require is a new cable.What is the difference between USB-C and Thunderbolt? ›
The Thunderbolt 3 cable doubles the max data transfer speed of USB-C, running as fast as 40Gbps. While it has a default charging speed of 15 watts (six times faster than USB-C's default speed), if you connect your device with USB PD, you achieve about the same 100 watts of power as USB-C.Is Thunderbolt the same as USB-C? ›
USB-C ports and Thunderbolt ports are universal, but they're not entirely the same. Thunderbolt ports are fully compatible with USB-C devices and cables, but Thunderbolt ports offer several features that make them stand out from USB-C ports.Can USB 3.2 be used for display? ›
Cables with more wires offer more features
They also provide additional features. For example, USB 3.2 connections can also offer DisplayPort capabilities, provided the hardware and cable are compatible. This makes 4k video output, data transfer, power output, and even power input possible over a single cable.
Under the USB 3.2 specification, released 22 September 2017, existing SuperSpeed certified USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 cables will be able to operate at 10 Gbit/s (up from 5 Gbit/s), and SuperSpeed+ certified USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 cables will be able to operate at 20 Gbit/s (up from 10 Gbit/s).Is USB4 out? ›
USB4 (aka: USB 4.0) is a specification by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), which was released in version 1.0 on 29 August 2019.Will a USB 3.2 device work on a 3.0 port? ›
USB 3.2 devices are backwards compatible with all existing USB products. What you'll sacrifice is throughput; two products with different USB capabilities will operate at the older's transfer speed.Can you plug in a USB 3.0 on a 3.2 port? ›
The USB 3.2 standard is backward compatible with USB 3.1/3.0 and USB 2.0.Can a USB 3.2 be used in a 2.0 port? ›
One of the most user-friendly aspects of USB is that its primary shape—the classic rectangle (Type-A) —is physically compatible with all earlier versions. This means USB Type-A plugs in versions 3.0, 3.1 or 3.2 will fit into old USB 2.0 ports and vice versa.
Can I plug USB 3.2 into Thunderbolt? ›
WORKING TOGETHER. USB-C cables can be shared between USB 3.2 Type-C and Thunderbolt™ 3 computers. However, if you are using a Thunderbolt™ 3 device on a Thunderbolt™ 3 computer you must use a Thunderbolt™ USB-C cable in order to utilize the full 40Gb/s throughput.What is the difference between USB 3.2 Gen 1 and Gen 2? ›
USB 3.2 Gen 1: originally known as USB 3.0, and previously renamed to USB 3.1 Gen 1. It's the original USB 3.0 specification, and it can transfer data at up to 5Gbps. USB 3.2 Gen 2: Previously known as USB 3.1, and then later as USB 3.1 Gen 2. It offers speeds at up to 10Gbps.What is a Thunderbolt connection? ›
Thunderbolt™ ports provide high bandwidth for connecting high-speed devices. Thunderbolt™ cables help to ensure a quality connection between the device and a PC. Thunderbolt™ accessories make it easy to expand the capabilities of your PC with docking options and external devices.How many watts can USB 3.2 provide? ›
The power capabilities of USB 3.2 and beyond
USB 2.0 delivered 5V at 500 mA, for a total power output of 2.5 watts.
Since USB 3.2 has double the throughput (20 Gbps) of USB 3.1 Gen 2, the updated standard has been designated as USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. In order to achieve a data transfer rate of 20 Gbps, USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 employs up to two high-speed 10 Gbps channels.