USB 3.0 Cable Specs & Compatibility – Q&A

Posted by: on Apr 12, 2015

USB 3.0 Cable Specs & Compatibility – Q&A
Photo courtesy of Erik Valind

Wondering about USB 3.0? Many people are. As more and more devices begin to introduce USB 3.0 SuperSpeed, questions arise about whether 3.0 cables are right for their gear. Here’s a simple  list of Q&A’s to help you quickly identify the benefits and challenges inherent in USB 3.0 cables today.

Can I buy a USB 3.0 cable and plug it into my existing camera and computer to achieve faster transfer file speed?

No, most DSLR cameras utilizing USB 2.0 are the Mini-B format, where as USB 3.0 utilizes a different style connector most common being the Micro-B.

Both cables feature a Male-A on the other end which plugs into any computer’s USB port.

If I want to take advantage of USB 3.0 transfer, what cameras are currently available?

For a complete list of cameras using USB 3.0, check our Camera Compatibility Guide. Be sure to consult your manual as well as the camera manufacturer blogs and forums to ensure whether your model is currently or will soon offer USB 3.0 functionality. 

If I have a USB 3.0-compatible camera and cable, will it perform much faster than I experienced with USB 2.0 cables. 

Yes and No. If your camera, cable and computer are all USB 3.0, then the image transfer speed for comparable size files should be 3x-10X faster. USB 3.0 is capable of speeds of up to 5Gbps (gigabits per second); compared to USB 2.0’s 480Mbps (1,000Mbps equals 1Gbps).

Considering this, the increased speed will only be achieved if all components are USB 3.0. Most computers, except for the most recent models still have USB 2.0 ports so with one element not at USB 3.0 the maximum transfer speeds will be at USB 2.0. USB 3.0 is backwards compatible to USB 2.0 standards.

I upgraded to a USB 3.0 camera and now I am having problems tethering?

Many computer manufacturers, mostly in an attempt to be as efficient with power as possible, are either under powering or dynamically powering their USB 3.0 ports. In attempts to help with the situation, some camera manufacturers have updated firmware adding a level of uncertainty and complexity to the issue. The solution is the Tether Tools TetherBoost. To learn more, read Why does my USB 3.0 connection fail?

How far can I daisy chain my USB 3.0 cable?

USB 3.0 standards recommend connecting maximum one 15′(4.6m) USB 3.0 cable with one 16′(5m) USB 3.0 Active Extension Cable for a total of 31′(9.6m).  Unlike USB 2.0, which can go distances up to 80′(24.4m), USB 3.0 requires more power than USB 2.0 to achieve the high speed transfers. The shorter total distance being the tradeoff for the speed. 

Even though my Camera and/or my Computer is currently USB 2.0, should I purchase a USB 3.0 Extension cable because I plan to upgrade everything to USB 3.0 at some point in the future and don’t want to have to buy another cable when I do?

Possibly. Although USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 not all computers provide the needed power output from the USB ports. Some USB 2.0 ports may not have enough power to ensure strong file transfer which may cause delays in image transfer, disconnect the tether session, or cause your tether program to not read your camera. If you run into this issue test the various USB 2.0 ports on your computer as some ports provide more power than others.

The other thing to consider is total cable distance needed. USB 2.0 can be tethered a total of 80′(24.4m). USB 3.0 has higher power requirements and can go at total of 31′(9.6m). If you need to tether longer than 31′ you may better off using USB 2.0 cables.

My USB 3.0 cable doesn’t stay in the camera during tethering because of it’s shallow design. Is there a way I can secure this connection?

Yes! By utilizing the Tether Tools’ JerkStopper Camera Support you will be able to take the tension off the cable to help it stay in the camera port. 

We hope this has been helpful. If you would like information about USB 2.0 cables, please visit the USB 2.0 Cable Specs and Compatibility Q&A post