For anyone who has used or currently uses a modern electronic device, there is a better-than-good chance you are connecting, charging, or both using micro USB or USB-C.
Ever since micro USB was released in 2007, it has been the gold standard for every major electronic device. At least it was, until USB-C was released in 2014, which promised to not just add faster charging but faster data speeds and 4K streaming. While the growth of USB-C hasn’t been as meteoric as micro USB, it’s fast becoming the standard charging port as new devices are released around the world.
Micro USB vs. USB-C: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Data Transfer Speeds
|Up to 480 Mbps
|Up to 10 Gbps
|Up to 9 watts of power
|Up to 100 watts of power
|Specially shaped to only be used in one orientation
|Double-sided for use in any orientation
|USB 3.0 Technology?
|Yes (only with micro USB type B)
|USB 3.1 Technology?
Micro USB vs. USB-C: What’s the Difference?
Micro USB technology was created in 2007 and remains widely accepted around the electronics industry for power charging and data transfers. This technology connects the host (micro USB) to the peripheral (electronic) and is often found in smartphones, gaming consoles, digital cameras, GPS devices, and more.
While there are micro USB formats available (micro-A, micro-B, and Type-C), the emphasis has long been on micro-B, which is the most common format globally. Micro USB is best known for allowing up to 9 watts of power and data transfer speeds of up to 480 Mbps.
Type-C USB, released in 2014, is best known as USB-C and is the direction most electronic manufacturers are heading in with new products. In fact, USB-C has likely already overtaken micro USB as the most common USB type and is found on any number of electronic devices including recent smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles (Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 5), speakers, smart home devices, keyboards, and more. The European Union has even declared that it will require USB-C use in all electronic devices for charging by 2024 including Apple’s iPhone and iPad hardware.
As far as the actual hardware, USB-C is a 24-pin USB connector with a reversible connection. This type of connection means that it doesn’t have a head or tail so you can never plug it in wrong. Micro USB only supports 5-pins and has a distinguishable head and tail and so it can only plug into devices one-way before risking potential damage to both the plug and hardware.
This is one area where you can clearly see the differences offered between micro USB and USB-C. Micro USB is available to transfer data up to 480 Mbps, which is a theoretical speed limit under the most optimal conditions. While not slow by any means, this limitation is very much surpassed by the theoretical data speed promise of USB-C. The maximum transfer speed for USB-C is up to 10 Gbps, or 20 times faster than micro USB.
The primary distinction here is that micro USB utilizes USB 2.0 technology for the most part and is therefore limited to the 480 Mbps data transfer speed limitation. USB-C is ready out of the box with support for USB 3.0 which provides up to 5 Gbps of speed as well as USB 3.1, which is the USB that provides support for up to 10 Gbps of speed.
There is one caveat here as there is a small subset of micro USB plugs that utilize USB 3.0 technology and therefore offer speeds up to 5 Gbps. Unfortunately, it’s limited in use and not being mass-produced as USB-C continues to be more widely adopted.
Like data speeds, power is another area where the difference between micro USB and USB-C is clearly defined. At its absolute best performance, micro USB can only charge up to nine watts of power for some devices while the default is only 7.5W of power. This is best discovered as you look at smartphone fast chargers available on Amazon that only promise a certain charge percentage using micro USB even if a smartphone or tablet can support faster charge times.
On the other hand, USB-C is capable of much faster speeds with smartphones, in particular, regularly seeing charging speeds up to 18W. Other devices, like laptops, can use USB-C for even faster speeds that can hit upwards of 100W of power while charging.
No matter what, you are almost always assured to get maximum power delivery with USB-C so long as you use a cable and charging plug that can support faster charging speeds. Alternatively, fast charge plugs are available for purchase everywhere online in the event you purchase a new device that supports USB-C’s faster charging speeds.
This is already being shown in practice as USB-C is already the charging standard for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, and the MacBook Pro — a promise of where USB-C is going in the future. One of the most important benefits of USB-C when using devices that are this expensive is that it will not overcharge these devices and damage their batteries.
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While it’s unlikely that many people will ever find themselves at the end of a cable or device’s lifecycle, micro USB and USB-C both offer a pre-defined lifecycle. The good news is that this cycle is thought to be around 10,000 insertion and removal cycles which should be more than enough to outlast the lifespan of a device or three. Because of its better compatibility, USB-C is believed to be the better option for lasting longer, but as far as a hardware lifespan, you shouldn’t have any concerns with either option for the length of device ownership.
When looking at compatibility, it’s pretty easy to see how both micro USB and USB-C are different but it’s important to understand why. Micro USB was initially designed with the intention of allowing a smaller connection plug that would allow hardware manufacturers to make slimmer/more compact devices.
If you look back at devices that used USB-A prior to the rise in popularity of micro USB, it’s pretty clear that devices did in fact get slimmer. The biggest limitation of micro USB was that it only allowed insertion one way and plugging it incorrectly could risk damage to both your device/hardware or the plug itself.
Taking a look at USB-C and right from the start you can see why it’s quickly risen in popularity due to its easy compatibility with devices. As this format offers a one-size-fits-all for all devices, it’s no surprise that it’s become and continues to grow as the new standard for all electronic devices around the world. The best part is that there is a significant decrease in the risk of damage because you do not have to consider how it’s plugged in as there is no defined top or bottom (head or tail).
Price isn’t likely to be as much of a factor between micro USB and USB-C when looking at devices, but when it comes to buying additional cables, there is a clearly defined price difference. Whether it’s because the technology is newer for USB-C, purchasing extra cables for this format is likely to cost between $10-$20 on average for a new cable. For micro USB, you’ll likely find pricing between $5-$10 for a new micro USB cable, which makes USB-C at least twice as expensive while it’s still the less common of the two cable formats.
Video may not be top of mind when you are looking at the similarities and differences between micro USB and USB-C, but it’s a notable factor all the same. Micro USB doesn’t really offer much in the way of video support, so it’s not much of a consideration in this space. USB-C does support up to 4K video output, so it’s definitely noteworthy. Using Thunderbolt 4 cables or a USB-C connection can handle displaying 4K video on at least two monitors or a single 8K monitor at a time. You can also use USB-C to output or mirror a display from devices like the iPad Pro to a television so you can work or watch on a bigger screen.
Micro USB vs. USB-C: 6 Must-Know Facts
- A micro USB connection is only capable of data speeds up to 480 Mbps while a USB-C connection is capable of processing speeds up to 10 Gbps under optimal conditions.
- The micro USB connection includes both a head and tail so it can only be inserted into devices one way while USB-C is a reversible design so it can be inserted either way.
- A USB-C connection can provide up to 100W of power whereas a micro USB can only provide upwards of 9 watts.
- The connection on a USB-C cable can support 4K/8K video output while microUSB does not offer any support for video output.
- The Apple Lightning cable is a similar design to the USB-C as it is reversible but is only used on Apple support devices and accessories.
- The Thunderbolt 4 is often confused with USB-C as the former can support data speeds of up to 40 Gbps and 100 watts of power but they are the same cable format so they can be used interchangeably in the same outlets.
Micro USB vs. USB-C: Which One is Better?
When it comes to the question of whether micro USB or USB-C is better, the answer is pretty simple, and that is USB-C.
As it’s already becoming a global standard and replacing micro USB wherever possible, there are more than 700 companies that are part of the consortium helping to define where USB-C will become available including Apple, Intel, Samsung, Microsoft, Dell, and HP.
Further solidifying the idea that USB-C is the better of the two options is the European Union declaring that USB-C must be the standard for all electronic devices by 2024, which makes USB-C the official connection type in 27 countries. For this reason and with the understanding that it’s a more reliable connection, USB-C is definitely the better option.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©FellowNeko/Shutterstock.com.