USB Cable Types

There are various types of USB cables depending on their plugs and receptacles. Read this Buzzle article to learn more about USB cables, their types, and their uses.
Developed by Intel, the Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a specification for enabling communication between various electronic devices and a host controller. The primary concept behind inventing the USB was to replace all various serial ports with a standard connecting port. Through it, various external devices, like keyboards, mice, flash drives, printers, and other digital media devices can be connected to a computer. Since its inception, USB has become extremely popular, and a standard connection technique used by most people. Other than connecting external devices to computers, It is also used as a power cord between an adapter and a device. USB has a standard design which is followed across all major electronics and computer industries.

The cables consist of only plugs, while devices have receptacles to insert the plugs. The cables have a maximum length of 5 meters as data transferring is not possible with longer cables. Host systems have Type A receptacles, and if at all devices have receptacles, then are of Type B. Normally, a USB cable has a Type A plug on one end, and a Type B plug on the other. However, there are different types of USB cables with differing plugs and receptacles, as described further.

Types of USB Cables

When the first USB cable was first created, it had only the standard Type A and Type B plugs, as well as receptacles. After the USB 2.0 was invented, it came with additional mini Type B plugs and receptacles. Type A connectors are flat and rectangular in shape, and plug into downstream ports on the host system. These types are mostly found on devices which have a USB connector permanently fixed on them. Type B connectors are square and beveled at the corners, and are plugged into upstream sockets. These connectors are used when devices need to be plugged in at one end of the cable. Smaller devices like PDAs or digital cameras come with mini Type A or mini Type B connectors. Recently, a micro-USB connector was launched and used in latest mobile phones and PDAs.

Type A to Type A
This cable is used to connect two host devices or hubs with each other. Both USB devices need to have the Type A connector. The cable is a passive one, and can be useful for connecting scanners, printers, or hubs with the host system, generally a computer. However, this cable is not useful for connecting two computers via USB.

Type A to Type B
This is the most common of all cables, and connects any standard peripheral device to a host system. The flattened connector is the Type A connector which is plugged into downstream sockets on the host system. The Type B connector is square in shape and its corners are beveled. It is plugged into upstream sockets on devices.

Type A to Mini B
This cable is used to connect smaller devices, like mobile phones and digital cameras, to a computer. The Type A connector is flat and rectangular in shape, and is connected into downstream ports on the host system. The mini-b connector is small, a little bit square and is plugged into upstream sockets present on certain devices, like digital cameras and cell phones. It should be noted that not all small devices can be connected using this cable, and is therefore essential to go through user manuals of digital and video cameras to know their compatibility.

Type A to Mini B (4 pin)
This is the latest addition to USB and is exclusively used to connect Sony devices to a host system. It has a flat-headed, rectangular shaped Type A connector at one end and a mini Type B connector which is small and a little square in shape at the other end. Sony video cameras and digital cameras use this cable along with very few other leading brands. Check the manual before purchasing this cable.

Type B to Type B
This cable has Type B connectors on both ends. One end has a bracket assembly which can be screwed on to a wall plate, while the end has the usual Type B connector. This type of cable is used mostly by AV installers, since it helps in connecting a laptop to a separate wall plate instead of connecting it directly to a white-board.

Of late, wireless USB has become popular among users as it provides more power efficiency. However, USB cables are still very much in use as people trust a wire to provide assured connectivity. Knowing the various types of USB cables will surely help while purchasing a new one.
Blue USB Cable
Micro USB Cable
USB Cable
Close-up of White USB Cable