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      • Published 12 Sept 2023
      • Last Modified 23 Apr 2024
    • 13 min

    A B2B Buyer’s Guide to USB Cables

    Discover the various types of USB cables.

    usb cable

    With so many USB types and cables available on the market, it may pose a challenge for B2B buyers to find the most suitable ones for their business needs. Whether you are an office manager trying to set up a co-working space or a floor manager looking to accommodate new manufacturing equipment, USB cables can come in handy.

    In this guide, we will go through everything from the different USB connectors available and their different applications to factors to consider before making a purchase.

    What are USB cables?

    USB cables, an abbreviation of Universal Serial Bus cables, are some of the most popular cable types available due to their ease of use, low cost of implementation, and compatibility with many operating systems and platforms. They are often used to connect a plethora of electronic devices to a computer or each other. USB cables were developed in the 1990s to help simplify the connections between computers and peripherals such as printers, keyboards, cameras, and more.

    How do USB cables work?

    A USB cable typically has four different wires that correspond to different colours. The green and white wires carry data, while the black and red wires power the cable. More specifically, the red wire acts as the positive wire and carries five volts, while the black one is the negative wire – also known as the ground wire.

    Types of USB cables: Different USB Connectors

    Each USB cable is designed with its own specific purpose and device compatibility. If you are looking to select the right cable for your business needs, the first thing to do is to understand the different USB cable types available out there. Below are different commonly used USB connectors:

    USB A (Type A)

    This is the most common USB cable type, and it has a rectangular shape. It is roughly 1.4 cm (9/16 in) in length and 0.65 cm (1/4 in) in height. These USB extension cables are typically used for connecting devices such as laptops, computers, keyboards, power adapters, mouses, and more, and it is great for setting up an office. USB sticks often feature USB A connectors as well. Type A ports and cables are compatible with all USB versions, from USB 1.0 to the latest standard.

    USB B (Type B)

    This type of USB cable is less common than type A cables. Type B cables are instead almost square and are mainly used to connect scanners, printers, routers, game consoles, and other periphery devices to computers. Type B cables and ports support nearly all versions of USBs, from USB 1.1 to USB 3.1. That said, type B cables are becoming less common as the size of electronic devices is shrinking.

    USB C (Type C)

    The Type C USB cable is a versatile and newer cable that is becoming more popular. With dimensions of 0.84 cm by 0.26 cm, this new type of cable is designed to work with smaller ports to help support thinner forms of electronic devices. These cables are reversible, meaning they allow insertion in either direction. Type C cables and ports support various protocols in addition to carrying HDMI and DisplayPort signals. They are commonly found on laptops, charging devices, laptops, docking stations, and adapters. They aim to support faster data transfer speeds in addition to delivering more power to devices.

    Micro USB

    Micro-USB connectors are smaller versions of USB A and USB B cables and are popular on mobile devices, digital cameras, tablets, Bluetooth speakers, and more. They are also reversible.

    Mini USB

    Mini USB connectors were once popular but are now less common. They come in two categories – Mini A and Mini B. These cables were often used to connect older smartphones, digital cameras, and other portable or handheld devices.

    Applications of USB Cables

    Data transfer

    USB cables enable users to transfer data between various electronic devices, such as industrial equipment, computers, laptops, smartphones, servers and more. This is important for businesses as they often require the seamless transfer and synchronisation of data, documents, and files to ensure efficient and productive collaboration and workflow, especially between various teams. Depending on the data volume and speed required, businesses can choose from different USB connectors that support various USB standards.

    Device configuration

    When it comes to businesses, USB cables help play an important role in managing and configuring devices in a variety of sectors and industries. These cables allow for efficient firmware updates, device setup, and any other configuration changes. This contributes to more streamlined and productive operations for a business, which can lead to improved performance in the long run. Organisations can also benefit from using reversible USB types, such as USB C, which can simplify the connection process and reduce the risk of damaging the ports.

    Point of Sale (POS) systems

    A Point of Sale (POS) system is both software and hardware that allows businesses to keep track of sales and accept payments. USB cables are used in POS systems in restaurants, retail brick-and-mortar stores, and other service establishments. This is because these cables assist with connecting cash registers, barcode scanners, receipt printers and card readers to make sure transactions are seamless. Companies can also use USB cable types that are compatible with multiple devices and platforms, such as USB A, which can increase the flexibility and convenience of their POS systems.

    Medical devices

    The medical and healthcare sector also makes use of USB extension cables. This is to help connect diagnostic equipment, medical devices and patient monitoring systems to computers and central databases. This way, healthcare establishments can collect, analyse, and share data, which aids in making more accurate diagnoses when it comes to patient care. Healthcare providers can also opt for USB types that are more durable and reliable, such as USB B, which can withstand frequent plugging and unplugging and ensure a stable connection.

    Industrial automation

    As market demands grow, more businesses are turning to automation to help speed up their workflow and processes. This usually entails the use of robots and other industrial machines. To get them up and running smoothly, USB cables are used to connect sensors, machinery, robots, and control systems to central computers. This helps overseers to monitor the automation process in real-time, as well as collect data that could assist with the production process. Businesses can also leverage different USB connectors that are designed for harsh environments, such as USB 3.0, which can offer faster data transfer rates and higher power output.

    Charging solutions

    USB cables are often used to charge devices such as tablets, smartphones, Bluetooth speakers, battery packs, smartwatches, and other electronics. This is essential for most businesses nowadays, as cables are used to power devices in conference rooms, workstations, and other places throughout the workplace. Moreover, establishments can take advantage of USB cable types that are capable of delivering more power and faster charging, such as USB C, which can support up to 100W of power and reduce the need for multiple chargers.

    Audio and video connectivity

    Finally, USB cables are used to transmit video and audio signals. For instance, businesses can use USB cables to connect webcams and digital cameras to computers, which enables video conferences, video recording, live streaming and more. This is essential for businesses that have teams that work in various locations and need to collaborate often or if they need to meet and work with overseas clients. USB cables can even be used to help display multimedia presentations and demonstrations. These can enhance conferences, sales pitches, and online trade shows. USB types like USB C can also be utilised to support high-resolution video and audio signals, which can carry HDMI and DisplayPort signals.

    Factors to consider when choosing a USB cable type

    With so many options on the market, picking the right USB cable for your operations is crucial to streamline your workflow. This process involves considering several important factors, such as data transfer speed, cable durability, compatibility and more. Here are several key factors to keep in mind when picking a suitable USB cable type.

    USB standard and connector type

    As mentioned, USB cables come in various types, such as USB A, USB B, USB C, micro-USB, and more. Connections also come in different editions, ranging from USB 1.0 to USB 3.0. Therefore, buyers must pick a cable that is compatible with their devices.

    Cable length

    Cable length is another important consideration buyers should keep in mind. It is recommended buyers pick a cable that is long enough to suit their needs. For most desk use, a 1.2m cable should be long enough for various applications. Some people may consider buying a longer cable, especially if they need to connect devices that may be further apart. That said, very long cables also tend to suffer from signal loss. Buyers should also consider how to store USB cables properly, as tangled or twisted cables can affect their performance and lifespan.

    Data transfer speed

    It is vital to select a USB cable that supports the desired data transfer speed. While USB 2.0 is fast enough for most situations, this may not be enough for certain applications. For instance, a videographer or video editor may require a cable that has a faster transfer speed. USB cables come in different generations, with each offering varying data transfer rates.

    Power Delivery Capacity

    Those who are looking to use a cable for charging purposes should check if the cable supports power delivery (PD). This is because PD-enabled cables can deliver higher power levels to electronic devices, meaning devices are charged at a faster rate. Some USB cable types can support up to 100W of power, which is enough to charge laptops and other high-power devices.

    Cable durability and quality

    A good quality USB cable should be made using durable materials and can last for a long time. This means looking for elements such as bend and braiding protectors that will ensure a cable can withstand multiple uses. Another element to look out for is a cable’s thickness. This is because how long a cable is and how well-protected it is will determine its lifespan. Cheaper cables tend to use thinner wires to save on costs, but this also makes them break and fray more easily. Conversely, more expensive cables tend to be thicker and better protected. Buyers should also look for different USB connectors that are sturdy and secure and can resist accidental unplugging.

    Compliance and certification

    Certifications tend to be a good indicator of quality, as this means the USB cable complies with some form of regulation. As such, buyers should consider looking for USB cables that are certified by standard organisations, for example, the USB-IF (USB Implementers Forum). This way, buyers can be sure that the cables adhere to safety and quality standards. Certified cables also have logos or markings that indicate their USB type and version, helping buyers identify the right cable for their devices.

    Application-specific requirements

    Consider the purpose of buying the cable. What is the cable going to be used for? Will it be used to charge devices, transfer data, or connect to another device? Different applications will have different requirements, such as higher data speeds or different USB connector types.

    Brand and supplier reputation

    Buyers should opt for reputable brands that are known for producing, manufacturing, or supplying high-quality USB cables. Trusted brands such as RS Components often prioritise high-performance standards and quality control. Some brands also provide USB connector accessories that can help secure the lifespan of USB connectors.

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    Bottom line

    USB cables are the backbone of many industries, whether they are used to connect users online in retail and finance or to connect machinery and equipment to electricity sources in healthcare and manufacturing. Selecting the best USB cable requires careful consideration of their connector type, data transfer speed, cable durability, and supplier reputation.

    Doing your due diligence ensures your cables will not only be compatible with your devices but will last for a long time and perform optimally. This can speed up production, making workflow more cost-effective. At RS Components, we have a wide variety of USB cables available for your B2B operations. Explore them today.

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