Your desktop or laptop has a large number of ports and connection types, but what are they all for and how are they different? USB 2.0, USB 3.0, eSATA, Thunderbolt, Firewire and Ethernet are some of the technologies built into many of the computers sold today. So what is the fastest connection type? What type of connection is the best to consider for an external hard drive? What about support for multiple 4K monitors? In this article, we will talk about the different types of high speed data ports and how they are used.
Regardless of which computer you have, you probably have one or more of the types of high-speed connections described in this article. Let’s take a look at the different speeds for each connection type first. Please note that the rated speeds are not what you will get in real life. You will most likely be able to get between 70% and 80% of the maximum speed listed.
The USB 2.0 connection type has largely become a standard. You’ve probably used a USB 2.0 cable to connect some device or drive to your PC or Mac at some point, and you probably have a few spare USB cables lying around your house. Although USB 3.0 is already here, many PC peripherals and other devices are still manufactured with USB 2.0 connectivity.
Many devices don’t yet use either USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt. Why? Because USB 2.0 is just fast enough to handle minor tasks, and many devices simply don’t need lightning speed like mice and keyboards. Okay, great, so how fast is USB 2.0?
USB 2.0 is rated for 480 Mbps. This is approximately 60 megabytes per second. For reference, 1000 Mbps equals 1 Gbps, which is considered Gigabit.
USB 3.0 connection type is the next step for USB (from version 2.0). USB 3.0 transfer speeds are approximately 10 times faster than previous USB 2.0 speeds. So what does this mean?
USB 3.0 is rated for 5Gbps. This is approximately 640 megabytes per second.
In 2013, USB 3.1 was also released, rated for speeds up to 10 Gb / s. That’s about 1,280 megabytes per second, or 1.2 GB per second. This means that USB 3.1 speeds are about the same as a single first-generation Thunderbolt link.
It is also worth noting that the new USB Type C connection will support USB 3.1 for a maximum data transfer rate of 10 Gbps.
eSATA stands for External SATA. SATA, of course, is the type of connection that is used to connect the internal hard drive to the computer. So, inside your desktop or laptop computer is a hard drive, which in most cases is connected to the motherboard via the SATA interface.
With eSATA, an external hard drive can use the same connection type and technology to connect to a computer. The hard drive inside the computer is faster than a standard external hard drive (USB 2.0), so what speed does eSATA provide?
eSATA is rated at 3 and 6 Gb / s.
Thunderbolt cables are the newest connection type featured on this list. Originally codenamed “Light Peak”, Thunderbolt was the first technology developed by Intel. For the consumer debut of Thunderbolt, Apple Inc. added a high-speed interface to almost all of its devices in the Mac lineup, making them one of the first companies to use this technology. Thunderbolt supports more than other connection types, but we’ll come back to that later. What speeds does Thunderbolt provide?
Thunderbolt is rated at 10 Gbps per lane (x2). Thunderbolt 2 increases this value to 20 Gbps over a single link. Thunderbolt 3 doubles the bandwidth again to 40Gbps.
Firewire, or IEEE 1394, is another type of connection that has been popular for a while but has gone away in the past few years. The popularity of USB 2 and USB 3 devices has slowed the adoption of Firewire, resulting in slower connection speeds. This happened despite the Firewire 400 and 800 being faster than previous USB technologies (not including 3.0).
Firewire is rated at 3Gbps (400) and 6Gbps (800).
Ethernet is a type of connection that is used primarily for networking, so it is not designed for ultra-fast connections. However, Ethernet cables can also be used to transfer computer data.
The Ethernet speed is 100 Mbps.
Summarizing the above data, we can say that the connection types will be as follows, from fastest to slowest.
1. Thunderbolt (up to 40 Gbps)
2. USB 3.1 (10 Gbps), then USB 3.0 (5 Gbps)
3.eSATA (6Gb / s)
4. Firewire (6 Gbps)
5. Gigabit Ethernet (1 Gbps)
6. USB 2.0 (480 Mbps)
7. Ethernet (100 Mbps)
However, this analysis is not entirely accurate. As mentioned earlier, many of these maximum speeds are rarely achieved in real-world situations. Here is a diagram from Wikipedia. that summarizes the specifications for many connection types besides the ones I mentioned.
When buying an external device or a new computer, the main thing is to consider the version of the connection type. For example, if you buy a new Retina MacBook Pro laptop, you will notice that it has a USB 3.0 port and a Thunderbolt 2 port.
If you wait a bit, Apple is likely to include new Thunderbolt 3 connections in its latest MacBooks, which means you can do a lot more with these ports than before. For example, with Thunderbolt 2, you can connect up to one 4K display at 60Hz or two 4K displays at 30Hz to your computer. With Thunderbolt 3, you can connect up to three 4K displays at 60Hz or one 5K monitor at 60Hz.
Ethernet is very slow and can be used to transfer files and move folders, but its main purpose is local area network.
In my opinion, Thunderbolt and USB 3.1 (Type C) will eventually become the standard for most computers. They provide top speed with additional features such as bi-directional power and multi-monitor support. In addition, both technologies are already adopted by many major PC makers. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!