USB 3.0

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USB 3.0
SuperSpeed USB logo
SuperSpeed USB logo
Type USB
Designed November 2008
Manufacturer USB 3.0 Promoter Group (Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, ST-Ericsson, and Texas Instruments)[1]
Superseded USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
Superseded by USB 3.1 (July 2013)
Width 12 mm (A plug), 8 mm (B plug), 12.2 mm (Micro-A & Micro-B plugs)
Height 4.5 mm (A plug), 10.44 mm (B plug), 1.8 mm (Micro-A & Micro-B plugs)
Pins 9
Max. current 900 mA
Data signal Yes
Bitrate 5 Gbit/s (625 MB/s)

USB 3.0 (renamed to USB 3.1 Gen 1 in 2015[2]) is the third major version of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard for interfacing computers and electronic devices. Among other improvements, USB 3.0 adds the new transfer mode SuperSpeed (SS) that can transfer data at up to 5 Gbit/s (625 MB/s), which is about ten times faster than the USB 2.0 standard. USB 3.0 connectors are usually distinguished from their USB 2.0 counterparts by blue color-coding of the receptacles and plugs, and the initials SS.

A successor standard, USB 3.1 (renamed to USB 3.1 Gen 2 in 2015[2]), was released in July 2013 with the new transfer mode SuperSpeed+ that can transfer data at up to 10 Gbit/s (1.25 GB/s, twice the rate of USB 3.0), bringing its theoretical maximum speed on par with the first version of the Thunderbolt interface.[3][4]


The USB 3.0 specification is similar to USB 2.0 but with many improvements and an alternative implementation. Earlier USB concepts like endpoints and four transfer types (bulk, control, isochronous and interrupt) are preserved but the protocol and electrical interface are different. The specification defines a physically separate channel to carry USB 3.0 traffic. The changes in this specification make improvements in the following areas:

  • Transfer speed – added a new transfer type called SuperSpeed or SS, 5 Gbit/s (electrically, it is more similar to PCI Express 2.0 and SATA than USB 2.0)[5]
  • Increased bandwidth – instead of one-way communication, USB 3.0 uses two unidirectional data paths: one to receive data and the other to transmit
  • Power management – U0 through U3 link power management states are defined
  • Improved bus utilization – a new feature is added (using packets NRDY and ERDY) to let a device asynchronously notify the host of its readiness (no need for polling)
  • Support to rotating media – bulk protocol is updated with a new feature called Stream Protocol that allows a large number of logical streams within an Endpoint

USB 3.0 has transmission speeds of up to 5 Gbit/s, which is about ten times faster than USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/s) before taking into account that USB 3.0 is full duplex whereas USB 2.0 is half duplex, giving USB 3.0 the potential total bandwidth if utilized both ways to twenty times that of USB 2.0.[6]

Architecture and features

Front view of a Standard-A USB 3.0 connector, showing its front row of four pins for the USB 1.x/2.0 backward compatibility, and a second row of five pins for the new USB 3.0 connectivity

In USB 3.0, dual-bus architecture is used to allow both USB 2.0 (Full Speed, Low Speed, or High Speed) and USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed) operations to take place simultaneously, thus providing backward compatibility. Connections are such that they also permit forward compatibility, that is, running USB 3.0 devices on USB 2.0 ports. The structural topology is the same, consisting of a tiered star topology with a root hub at level 0 and hubs at lower levels to provide bus connectivity to devices.

Data transfer and synchronization

The SuperSpeed transaction is initiated by the host making a request followed by a response from the device. The device either accepts the request or rejects it; if accepted, the device sends data or accepts data from the host. If the endpoint is halted, the device shall respond with a STALL handshake. If there is lack of buffer space or data, it responds with a Not Ready (NRDY) signal to tell the host that it is not able to process the request. When the device is ready, it will send an Endpoint Ready (ERDY) to the host which will then reschedule the transaction.

The use of unicast and the limited amount of multicast packets, combined with asynchronous notifications, enables links that are not actively passing packets to be put into reduced power states, which allows better power management.

Data encoding

The "SuperSpeed" bus provides for a transfer mode at a nominal rate of 5.0 Gbit/s, in addition to the three existing transfer modes. Accounting for the encoding overhead, the raw data throughput is 4 Gbit/s, and the specification considers it reasonable to achieve 3.2 Gbit/s (0.4 GB/s or 400 MB/s) or more in practice.[7]

All data is sent as a stream of eight-bit (one-byte) segments that are scrambled and converted into 10-bit symbols via 8b/10b encoding; this helps the receiver to decode correctly even in the presence of electromagnetic interference (EMI). Scrambling is implemented using a free-running linear feedback shift register (LFSR). The LFSR is reset whenever a COM symbol is sent or received.[7]

Unlike previous standards, the USB 3.0 standard does not directly specify a maximum cable length, requiring only that all cables meet an electrical specification: for copper cabling with AWG 26 wires, the maximum practical length is 3 meters (9.8 ft).[8]


USB 3.0 has multiple power delivery specifications:[9]

  • 10 W: 5 V, 2 A – used in most smartphones and tablets
  • 36 W: 12 V, 3 A
  • 60 W: 20 V, 3 A – used in Chromebook Pixel 2015
  • 100 W: 20 V, 5 A


A USB 3.0 four-port hub, using a VIA Technologies chipset

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced on 17 November 2008 that the specification of version 3.0 had been completed and had made the transition to the USB Implementers’ Forum (USB-IF), the managing body of USB specifications.[10] This move effectively opened the specification to hardware developers for implementation in future products.

The first USB 3.0 consumer products were announced and shipped by Buffalo Technology in November 2009, while the first certified USB 3.0 consumer products were announced on 5 January 2010, at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES), including two motherboards by ASUS and Gigabyte Technology.[11][12]

Manufacturers of USB 3.0 host controllers include, but are not limited to, Renesas Electronics, Fresco Logic, ASMedia Technology, Etron, VIA Technologies, Texas Instruments, NEC and Nvidia. As of November 2010, Renesas and Fresco Logic[13] have passed USB-IF certification. Motherboards for Intel's Sandy Bridge processors have been seen with Asmedia and Etron host controllers as well. On 28 October 2010, Hewlett-Packard released the HP Envy 17 3D featuring a Renesas USB 3.0 host controller several months before some of their competitors. AMD worked with Renesas to add its USB 3.0 implementation into its chipsets for its 2011 platforms.[needs update] At CES2011, Toshiba unveiled a laptop called "Toshiba Qosmio X500" that included USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 3.0, and Sony released a new series of Sony VAIO laptops that will include USB 3.0. As of April 2011, the Inspiron and Dell XPS series are available with USB 3.0 ports, and, as of May 2012, the Dell Latitude laptop series, yet the USB root hosts fail to work at SuperSpeed under Windows 8. On 11 June 2012, Apple announced new MacBook Airs and MacBook Pro with USB 3.0.

Adding to existing equipment

A USB 3.0 controller in form of a PCI Express expansion card
Side connectors on a laptop computer. Left to right: USB 3.0 host, VGA connector, DisplayPort connector, USB 2.0 host. Note the additional pins on the top side of the USB 3.0 port.

In laptop computers that lack USB 3.0 ports but have an ExpressCard slot, USB 3.0 ports can be added by using an ExpressCard-to-USB 3.0 adapter. Although the ExpressCard port itself is powered from a 3.3 V line, the connector also has a USB 2.0 port available to it (some express cards actually use the USB 2.0 interface rather than the true express card port). However, this USB 2.0 port is only capable of supplying the power for one USB 3.0 port. Where multiple ports are provided on the express card, additional power will need to be provided.[14]

Additional power for multiple ports on a laptop PC may be derived in the following ways:

  • Some ExpressCard-to-USB 3.0 adapters may connect by a cable to an additional USB 2.0 port on the computer, which supplies additional power.
  • The ExpressCard may have a socket for an external power supply.
  • If the external device has an appropriate connector, it can be powered by an external power supply.
  • USB 3.0 port provided by an ExpressCard-to-USB 3.0 adapter may be connected to a separately-powered USB 3.0 hub, with external devices connected to that USB 3.0 hub.

On the motherboards of desktop PCs which have PCI Express (PCIe) slots (or the older PCI standard), USB 3.0 support can be added as a PCI Express expansion card. In addition to an empty PCIe slot on the motherboard, many "PCI Express to USB 3.0" expansion cards must be connected to a power supply such as a Molex adapter or external power supply, in order to power many USB 3.0 devices such as mobile phones, or external hard drives that have no power source other than USB; as of 2011, this is often used to supply two to four USB 3.0 ports with the full 0.9 A (4.5 W) of power that each USB 3.0 port is capable of (while also transmitting data), whereas the PCI Express slot itself cannot supply the required amount of power.

If faster connections to storage devices are the reason to consider USB 3.0, an alternative is to use eSATAp, possibly by adding an inexpensive expansion slot bracket that provides an eSATAp port; some external hard disk drives provide both USB (2.0 or 3.0) and eSATAp interfaces.[12] To ensure compatibility between motherboards and peripherals, all USB-certified devices must be approved by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF). At least one complete end-to-end test system for USB 3.0 designers is available on the market.[15]


The USB Promoter Group announced the release of USB 3.0 on November 2008. On 5 January 2010, USB-IF announced the first two certified USB 3.0 motherboards, one by Asus and one by Gigabyte.[12][16] Previous announcements included Gigabyte's October 2009 list of seven P55 chipset USB 3.0 motherboards,[17] and an ASUS motherboard that was cancelled before production.[18]

Commercial controllers were expected to enter into volume production in the first quarter of 2010.[19] On 14 September 2009, Freecom announced a USB 3.0 external hard drive.[20] On 4 January 2010, Seagate announced a small portable HDD bundled with an additional USB 3.0 ExpressCard, targeted for laptops (or desktops with ExpressCard slot addition) at the CES in Las Vegas Nevada.[21][22]

The Linux kernel mainline contains support for USB 3.0 since version 2.6.31, which was released in September 2009.[23][24][25]

FreeBSD supports USB 3.0 since version 8.2, which was released in February 2011.[26]

Windows 8 was the first Microsoft operating system to offer built in support for USB 3.0.[27] Drivers are under development for Windows 7, but support was not included with the initial release of the operating system.[28] However, drivers that enable support for Windows 7 are available through websites of hardware manufacturers.

Intel released its first chipset with integrated USB 3.0 ports in 2012 with the release of the Panther Point chipset. Some industry analysts have claimed that Intel was slow to integrate USB 3.0 into the chipset, thus slowing mainstream adoption.[29] These delays may be due to problems in the CMOS manufacturing process,[30] a focus to advance the Nehalem platform,[31] a wait to mature all the 3.0 connections standards (USB 3.0, PCIe 3.0, SATA 3.0) before developing a new chipset,[32][33] or a tactic by Intel to favor its new Thunderbolt interface.[34] Apple, Inc. announced laptops with USB 3.0 ports on 11 June 2012, nearly four years after USB 3.0 was finalized.

AMD began supporting USB 3.0 with its Fusion Controller Hubs in 2011. Samsung Electronics announced support of USB 3.0 with its ARM-based Exynos 5 Dual platform intended for handheld devices.


Speed and compatibility

Various early USB 3.0 implementations widely used the NEC/Renesas µD72020x family of host controllers,[35] which are known to require a firmware update to function properly with some devices.[36][37][38]

A factor affecting the speed of USB storage devices (more evident with USB 3.0 devices, but also noticeable with USB 2.0 ones) is that the USB Mass Storage Bulk-Only Transfer (BOT) protocol drivers are generally slower than the USB Attached SCSI protocol (UAS[P]) drivers.[39][40][41][42]

On some old (2009–2010) Ibex Peak-based motherboards, the built-in USB 3.0 chipsets are connected by default via a 2.5 GT/s PCI Express lane of the PCH, which back then did not provide full PCI Express 2.0 speed (5 GT/s), so it did not provide enough bandwidth even for a single USB 3.0 port. Early versions of such boards (e.g. the Gigabyte Technology P55A-UD4 or P55A-UD6) have a manual switch (in BIOS) that can connect the USB 3.0 chip to the processor (instead of the PCH), which did provide full-speed PCI Express 2.0 connectivity even back then, but this meant using fewer PCI Express 2.0 lanes for the graphics card. However, newer boards (e.g. Gigabyte P55A-UD7 or the Asus P7P55D-E Premium) used a channel bonding technique (in the case of those boards provided by a PLX PEX8608 or PEX8613 PCI Express switch) that combines two PCI Express 2.5 GT/s lanes into a single PCI Express 5 GT/s lane (among other features), thus obtaining the necessary bandwidth from the PCH.[43][44][45]

Radio frequency interference

USB 3.0 devices and cables may interfere with wireless devices operating in the 2.4 GHz ISM band. This may result in a drop in throughput or complete loss of response with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices.[46] Various strategies can be applied to resolve the problem, ranging from simple solutions such as increasing the distance of USB 3.0 devices from Wi-Fi routers and Bluetooth devices, to applying additional shielding around internal computer components.[47]


USB 3.0 Standard-A receptacle (top, in blue color known as Pantone 300C), Standard-B plug (middle), and Micro-B plug (bottom)

A USB 3.0 Standard-A receptacle accepts either a USB 3.0 Standard-A plug or a USB 2.0 Standard-A plug. Conversely, it is possible to plug a USB 3.0 Standard-A plug into a USB 2.0 Standard-A receptacle. Similar principle of backward compatibility applies to connecting a USB 2.0 Standard-A plug into a USB 3.0 Standard-A receptacle. The Standard-A is used for connecting to a computer port, at the host side.

A USB 3.0 Standard-B receptacle accepts either a USB 3.0 Standard-B plug or a USB 2.0 Standard-B plug. Backward compatibility applies to connecting a USB 2.0 Standard-B plug into a USB 3.0 Standard-B receptacle. However, it is not possible to plug a USB 3.0 Standard-B plug into a USB 2.0 Standard-B receptacle, due to a physically larger connector. The Standard-B is used at the device side.

Since USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports may coexist on the same machine and they look similar, USB 3.0 specification mandates appropriate color-coding and recommends that the Standard-A USB 3.0 connector has a blue insert (Pantone 300C color). The same color-coding applies to the USB 3.0 Standard-A plug.[7]:sections and

USB 3.0 also introduced a new Micro-B cable plug, which consists of a standard USB 1.x/2.0 Micro-B cable plug, with additional 5-pin plug "stacked" inside it. That way, USB 3.0 Micro-A host connector preserved its backward compatibility with the USB 1.x/2.0 Micro-B cable plugs. However, it is not possible to plug a USB 3.0 Micro-B plug into a USB 2.0 Micro-B receptacle, due to a physically larger connector.


USB 3.0 Standard-A plug (top) and receptacle (bottom), with annotated pins

The connector has the same physical configuration as its predecessor but with five more pins.

The VBUS, D−, D+, and GND pins are required for USB 2.0 communication. The additional USB 3.0 pins are two differential pairs and one ground (GND_DRAIN). The two additional differential pairs are for SuperSpeed data transfer; they are used for dual simplex SuperSpeed signaling. The GND_DRAIN pin is for drain wire termination and to control EMI and maintain signal integrity.

USB 3.0 connector pinouts[48]
Pin Color Signal name
("A" connector)
Signal name
("B" connector)
Shell N/A Shield Metal housing
1 Red VBUS Power
2 White D− USB 2.0 differential pair
3 Green D+
4 Black GND Ground for power return
5 Blue StdA_SSRX− StdB_SSTX− SuperSpeed transmitter differential pair
6 Yellow StdA_SSRX+ StdB_SSTX+
7 N/A GND_DRAIN Ground for signal return
8 Purple StdA_SSTX− StdB_SSRX− SuperSpeed receiver differential pair
9 Orange StdA_SSTX+ StdB_SSRX+
The USB 3.0 "Powered-B" connector has two additional pins
10 N/A DPWR Power provided by device (Powered-B only)
11 DGND Ground for DPWR return (Powered-B only)

Backward compatibility

USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 (or earlier) Type-A plugs and receptacles are designed to interoperate.

USB 3.0 Type-B receptacles, such as those found on peripheral devices, are larger than in USB 2.0 (or earlier versions), and accept both the larger USB 3.0 Type-B plug and the smaller USB 2.0 (or earlier) Type-B plug. USB 3.0 Type B plugs are larger than USB 2.0 (or earlier) Type-B plugs; therefore, USB 3.0 Type-B plugs cannot be inserted into USB 2.0 (or earlier) Type-B receptacles.

Micro USB 3.0 (Micro-B) plug and receptacle are intended primarily for small portable devices such as smartphones, digital cameras and GPS devices. The Micro USB 3.0 receptacle is backward compatible with the Micro USB 2.0 plug.

A receptacle for eSATAp, which is an eSATA/USB combo, is designed to accept USB Type-A plugs from USB 2.0 (or earlier), so it also accepts USB 3.0 Type-A plugs.

See also


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External links