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USB Cables 101 | A Guide to USB Connector Types

Initially developed in the 1990s as a standardized method of connecting computers with keyboards, displays, and other peripherals, Universal Serial Bus (USB) cables have transformed how electronic devices exchange power and data. USB simplifies and streamlines connections between a wide range of devices and is a necessary component of many tools we use daily.

Today, there are several USB connector types, each of which is further classified according to its power specifications. In this guide, we’ll discuss the most common types of USB connectors and the key selection considerations to help you identify the right product for your needs.

USB Types

The Most Common USB Connector Types

Modern USB cables facilitate data communication and power delivery and are significantly faster than previous generations. However, they also come in multiple connection types, which are largely incompatible with one another. This makes it essential to identify the right USB type for your device’s port. Below, you can learn more about the different types of USB connectors.

USB A-Type

Type A Type B USB

Widely regarded as the standard connector type, USB Type-A connectors are very common. They feature a flat, rectangular interface that joins directly to host devices, held in place using friction. A-Type connectors are durable enough to establish continuous connections but also user-friendly enough to be easily connected and disconnected. In most cases, IT peripherals have a USB Type-A connector that plugs into a PC. USB A-Type is also available in micro variations.

USB B-Type

USB Type-B connectors have traditionally been used with printer cables but are now more commonly used in cell phones and other peripheral devices like external hard drives. They feature a square interface and are available in several types:

  • Micro-USB B
  • USB Mini-b (5-pin)
  • USB Mini-b (4-pin)

USB Mini-B

Developed in the early 2000s, the USB mini-B features a slim profile and a snug fit. While it was initially used in early smartphones, digital cameras, and GPS navigation systems, it is less popular today due to the rise of micro USB technology.

USB Micro-B

As a very small 5-pin connector, the micro USB connector type is commonly used with small electronics like smartphones, game controllers, and power banks. USB micro-B is also widely used in Android smartphones that lack a USB-C receptacle.

USB Type C

USB C-Type

The newest type of connector, USB C-Type provides a one-size-fits-all solution for replacing older, larger USBs. It features a reversible, symmetrical interface and a sleek, slim design. It can also be adapted to support legacy connectors.


USB Revisions and Specifications

In addition to being categorized by type, USBs are further classified according to their power specifications. Each new version offers increased bandwidth and compatibility with an even broader range of devices and applications.

USB 1.1

While now obsolete, the USB 1.1 was the first widely used consumer USB. It enabled a maximum bandwidth of 12 Mpbs and was compatible with basic devices, like computer mice and keyboards.

USB 2.0

Also known as the high-speed USB, version 2.0 improved the bandwidth to 480 Mbps. This upgrade allows it to be used for higher bandwidth devices, such as transfer cables, adapters, and mass storage equipment. USB 2.0 also features backward compatibility with USB 1.1 devices.

USB 3.0 (aka USB 3.1 Gen 1)

Referred to as the SuperSpeed USB, 3.0 offers bandwidth improvements, jumping to a maximum of 4.8 Gbps. It also offers backward compatibility with legacy devices.

USB 3.1 (aka USB 3.1 Gen 2)

USB 3.1 can be identified by the switch to blue connectors. These products are capable of transfer speeds up to 5 Gbps and have been incorporated into products like the Apple MacBook.

USB 3.2

Updates have enabled these USB-C connectors to achieve 20 Gpbs.

USB 4.0 (aka USB4)

Initially launched in 2019 with a maximum data transfer rate of 40 Gbps, USB 4.0 connectors output a power of 100 watts. These USB-C cables feature the SuperSpeed logo, SS40, which stands for SuperSpeed 40 Gbps.

USB4 Version 2

The latest version of this specification, launched in 2022, features the highest-ever data transfer rate: 120 Gbps. Since this version is still very new, these USB-C cables may not be easily purchased yet.

USB Power Delivery Standards

USB Power Delivery Standards

With each USB advancement, devices achieve enhanced power delivery standards and improved communication capabilities.

USB 1.1USB 2.0USB 3.0USB 3.1
Also Known AsUSB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 2
Release Date1998200020082013
Speed/Transfer Full Speed

High Speed SuperSpeedSuperSpeed
Rate12 Mbit/s480 Mbit/s5 Gbit/s10 Gbit/s
PowerN/A5V, 1.8A5V, 1.8A20V, 5A
Max Cable Length3 Meters (9’10”)5 Meters (16’5”)3 Meters (9’10”)3 Meters (9’10”)

USB Type-C

As discussed earlier, newer developments in USBs offer a simple and comprehensive solution for data transfer and power supply for any device. A USB Type-C connector fits into one multi-use port to charge multiple devices simultaneously. It also offers backward compatibility to support previous USB standards (2.0, 3.0, and 3.1).

Type-C 3.1 features a reversible cable that enables two-way data and power transfer, along with 10 Gbps bandwidth and power up to 20 V at 5 Amps, or a total of 100 W. This is enough power to charge a laptop or operate a 4K monitor. Since this technology is nonproprietary, USB Type-C connectors are quickly becoming the new standard for many operating systems. For example, Intel’s Thunderbolt switched to USB Type-C ports while remaining compatible with USB 3.1. Apple MacBooks also now feature Type-C ports.

Important Considerations When Choosing a USB Cable

Selecting the right USB cable requires consideration of several factors, such as:

  • Cable length: If the cable length is too long, USB signals can deteriorate and significantly impact usability. However, the ideal length varies based on type.
  • Data transfer speed: USB cables must be able to deliver the transfer speeds needed to accomplish the tasks you’re performing. For example, USB 2.0 is fine for basic needs, but USB 3.0 and above is better for faster file transfer. Check your device’s data transfer capabilities and consider the cable’s frequency of use before deciding on a USB cable.
  • Durability: Cables that will be used frequently, such as charging cables, must be more durable than those only intended to be used occasionally. Durable cables usually have reinforced connectors and/or braided exteriors.
  • Certifications: USB cables can be tested according to USB-IF quality standards. Certified cables will offer a descriptive bandwidth and power rating.
  • Trusted manufacturer: Get USB cables from trusted manufacturers that can meet your data transfer and charging needs. Well-constructed USB connectors offer longer and more reliable service.

High-Quality USB Cables from Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable

Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable has over 100 years of experience delivering high-quality cable solutions. In addition to offering an extensive collection of standard USB connectors, we also create custom USB-C cables according to diverse data transfer and charging needs. Contact our team to learn more.

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A Guide to USB Cables

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below, you can explore some of the most common questions our team is asked about USB cables. If you’re looking for information not listed here, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us—we’re happy to help.

Coaxial Cable Guide: What Is It, Types, & Uses

A standard shielded cable has a simple design of spiral-wound or braided strands inside an insulative jacket. But what is a coax cable? Learn more about coaxial cables, how they work, and how to choose the appropriate option for your application.

Hardline Coaxial-CableWhat Is a Coaxial Cable?

Cylindrical in shape, coaxial cables consist of four parts:

  • External jacket
  • Protective conducting shield
  • Insulating dielectric material layer
  • Internal metal conductor

“Coaxial” refers to the geometric axis the outer shield and inner conductor share. Unlike simple shielded cables transmitting low-frequency signals, coaxial cables offer superior transmission and reception capabilities, conducting alternating currents of radio frequency (RF). They’re a common choice for cable television, broadband Ethernet, and commercial radio transmissions.

How Do Coaxial Cables Work?

The central metal conductor transmits RF signals, with the surrounding layers facilitating. The dielectric insulator ensures that the spacing between the conductor and shield layer remains consistent for the full cable length while keeping their two signals from coming into contact and canceling out. The metal conducting shield safeguards signals against EMI and signal loss, creating a magnetic field with the conductor. Finally, the plastic cable jacket offers protection and insulation for the internal components.

While traditional shielded cables are used to transmit lower frequency signals, coaxial cables function as transmission lines, conducting alternating currents of radio frequency signals. With superior transmission and reception capabilities, coaxial cables are commonly used for broadband Ethernet, cable television, and commercial radio.

What Are The Different Types of Coaxial Cables?

Coaxial cables differ in design depending on their end use. Shorter cables often appear in household applications such as AV systems or personal Ethernet connections, while longer cables can connect entire radio and television networks or long-distance phones. Micro/mini cables are also frequently used in various consumer, military, aerospace, and medical devices.

Below are some of the most common coaxial cable types and the applications they support.


Polyethylene Dielectric CoaxConstructed using copper, silver, aluminum, or steel for the center conductor and one of these materials for a shield, these thick cables (≥ ½-inch diameter) are used for high-strength transmission in applications such as military signals or broadcasting radio between a ground-level transmitter and an antenna or aerial receiver. Hardline cables may contain a dielectric buffer such as polyethylene foam or pressurized nitrogen to prevent arcing and moisture contamination. Shield materials vary from piping to rigid or corrugated tubing.


Also called “leaky cables,” radiating cables have a similar structure to hardline but with the addition of slots cut into the shield, tuned to specific wavelengths or radio frequencies. By allowing a pre-determined amount of “leakage” between the transmitter and the receiver, these cables can be implemented in locations where antennas are not feasible.

Twin Axial Coax CableTwinaxial

Also known as “Twinax,” these cables share the same structure as coaxial cables but have two central conductors instead of one. They are used for high-speed, short-range signaling applications, such as network hardware with SFP+ interfaces.


Triaxial Coax CableAlso known as “Triax,” these cables share the same structure as coaxial cables but have an added layer of insulation and a second conducting sheath. These cables are more expensive than standard coaxial cables but provide greater bandwidth and less interference for television production or applications exposed to interference-inducing electromagnetic forces.


With a PTFE-supported dielectric and a shield made of a solid conductor instead of stranded wires, semi-rigid coaxial cables offer better dielectric properties for enhanced performance at high frequencies. Compared to rigid cables, however, semi-rigid lines are limited in size and frequency transmission.

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Rigid Line

Rigid coaxial cables contain two copper tubes and a PTFE dielectric buffer supported at both ends of the cable as well as at various intervals throughout which prevents bends. Ranging from ⅞-inch to 8³/₁₆-inch diameters, rigid lines are much bigger than semi-rigid cables and have the power capacities to operate TV and FM frequencies with multi-channel transmission.


Made with either a copper clad steel (CCS) or bare solid copper (BC) center, RG-6 cables are probably the most common coax cable, as they are used to relay cable television signals. Derived from the WWII military-specification “Radio Guide,” they are available in four different application-specific variations:

  • Plain — For standard indoor/outdoor house wiring
  • Flooded — Contains an additional water-blocking gel for underground conduits
  • Messenger — Contains a steel wire to bear the tension of the aerial drop of a utility pole
  • Plenum — Surrounded by a Teflon-based outer jacket to meet the fire codes of ventilation ducts

Coaxial Cable Connector Types

There are also an array of connector varieties available, with options including:

  • Bayonet Neil-Concelman (BNC) connectors. Miniature to subminiature in size, these RF coaxial connectors allow you to quickly connect with and disconnect from television, radio, RF equipment, and testing instruments.
  • Threaded Neil-Concelman (TNC) connectors. These miniature coaxial connectors operate at frequencies as high as 12 GHz. A weatherproof option, TNC connectors are applicable in creating RF/antenna and cellphone connections with minimized stability and leakage issues.
  • Subminiature version B (SMB) connectors. Featuring an easy snap-on design on the coupling, SMB connectors are a tinier variety of SMA coaxial connectors. Ideal for semi-rigid cables with infrequent connections, they offer enhanced electrical performance, from DC to 4 GHz.
  • 7/16 Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) connectors. These threaded RF coaxial connectors are compatible with cell network high-watt transmissions. 7/16 DIN connectors are also applicable for defense projects and antenna systems featuring several transmitters.
  • QMA connectors. Offering quick-lock and -disconnect capabilities, QMA coaxial connectors are a type of SMA connector and share matching internal structuring.
  • Micro coaxial (MCX) connectors. Compared to SMB varieties, MCX coaxial connectors have an OD of approximately one-third the size. Their operational frequency ranges from DC to 6 GHz, a good option for television tuner cards, wireless internet, digital cellular needs, GPS, and RF hardware.
  • Radio Corporation of America (RCA) connectors. You’ll find these red, white, and yellow cords behind your television. Also called cinch connectors, RCA connectors are recognizable for their male connector end encompassed by a ring.

>> Learn More About the Different Types of Coaxial Connectors

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Key Factors to Consider When Selecting a Cable infographic

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Coaxial Cable

A coaxial cable’s radio guide (RG) number doesn’t always tell the whole story; there are a number of other factors to consider when selecting a cable for your unique application.

  • Application — How will you be using your cable? Certain types are designated for specific applications, such as signal transmission for military operations, while others are designed for general use. Consider if your application will require short- or long-range transmission, as well as high or low frequencies.
  • Impedance — Impedance refers to an electrical circuit’s resistance to alternating currents, expressed in ohms. Impedance should match throughout all components of a coaxial cable system to help prevent echoes, signal attenuation, and ghosting television images.
  • Environment — Cables installed underground should pass through waterproof pipes to protect the jackets from liquid and vapor permeation. Users can also employ waterproof cords with self-amalgamating tape. To provide relief from sunlight and corrosive vapors, some manufacturers make use of hardened polyethylene cables, as well as tin and silver coatings.
  • Working voltage and power rating — A coaxial cable’s voltage travels through the center wire or conductor. Each cable has a calculated maximum or “peak” voltage, which is then slightly reduced as a safety precaution.
  • Signal loss at specific frequencies — Coaxial cable lines can be susceptible to signal loss at very high frequencies (VHF) and ultra-high (UHF) frequencies. Some manufacturers provide a foil or braided shield for VHF and UHF interference protection.

Common Applications — What Are Coaxial Cables Used For?

Coax cables have myriad applications across industries. Common coaxial cable uses include:

  • Transmitting data while preventing attenuation loss
  • Amplifying cellphone signal for enhanced cell reception indoors
  • Connecting high-speed broadband internet between a cable line and a modem
  • Connecting televisions, home video equipment, and radios to antennas, satellites, and related receivers
  • Providing television or internet service to individual offices, apartments, or residences from a primary cable line

Stranded Wire vs. Solid Wire in Electrical Applications

Solid and stranded wires see frequent use in electrical equipment, such as cable assemblies and wire harnesses. Solid wires consist of a solid core, whereas stranded wire consists of several thinner wires twisted into a bundle. Each has distinct advantages, with the right choice for an application depending on the specific project details. Some of the factors that may influence the choice between stranded vs. solid wire include:

  • Amperage load
  • Use case
  • Costs
  • Metal type
  • Wire gauge

Learning more about the difference between the two types of wires will make it easier to determine the best choice for your needs. The following information should help to inform the selection process.

What is Stranded Wire?

stranded wire

These thin, bundled wires are compressed and insulated with non-conductive materials. Stranded wire is more flexible, making it ideal for connecting electronic components in cramped spaces or for twisting and bending to fit intricate geometries. Stranded wire is more flexible and malleable than solid wire, and it won’t split or sever. It is often used for indoor applications such as electronic devices, circuit boards, and speaker wires.

What is Solid Wire?

Solid metal core wire is a much heavier, thicker product than stranded wire. It is ideal for outdoor use where more durability and higher currents are required. This rugged, low-cost wire is resistant to weather, extreme environmental conditions, and frequent movement. It is often used for carrying high currents throughout building infrastructure, vehicle controls, and various outdoor applications.

Stranded vs. Solid Wires: The Key Differences

Comparing stranded vs. solid wire involves exploring the advantages and disadvantages of the two very different types of wire. A comparison narrows down the choices based on how the specific wire characteristics relate to their expected use and the project requirements. You must first determine your application’s requirements for weather resistance, flexibility, and resistance to splitting or severing. Then, choose the wire that most closely meets those needs. 

Some key differences of stranded vs. solid copper wire include:

  • Stranded vs. solid wire current capacity. Solid wire is thicker, which means less surface area for dissipation. The thinner wires in stranded wire contain air gaps and greater surface area with the individual strands, translating to more dissipation. When choosing between solid or stranded wire for house wiring, the solid wire offers higher current capacity. 
  • Routing. Stranded wires offer superior bendability and flexibility, making them easier to route around obstacles than solid wires.
  • Flexibility. Stranded wires are more flexible and can sustain more vibration and flexing without breaking. Solid wires may require more frequent replacement than stranded wires in applications with significant movement or vibrations.
  • Cost. The production costs of solid wire are much lower than stranded wire, which makes solid wire the more affordable choice. Printed Cable Jacket Portfolio
  • Ease of manufacturing. The single-core nature of solid wire makes it much simpler to manufacture. Stranded wires require more complex manufacturing processes to twist the thinner wires together. 
  • Distance. For longer runs, solid wires are the better choice because they feature less current dissipation. Stranded wire will perform well over shorter distances.
  • Superiority. When it comes down to stranded vs. solid wire, there is no clear choice. Each option offers distinct advantages in particular situations.

Wire Solutions From Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable

Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable has been a leading manufacturer of high-quality standard and custom electronic wire, molded cable assemblies, wiring harnesses, cable, and power supply cords for over 100 years. Our longevity is due to our versatility, adaptability, and commitment to continuous improvement in processes and products. Our many industry certifications are a testament to our commitment to quality and innovation, including:

  • ISO 9001
  • RoHS
  • CE Mark
  • NEC
  • UL
  • CSA
  • VDE
  • LF
  • MIL-Spec

When you partner with us, you will gain the full expertise of our entire team to ensure the success of your project. For more information on our capabilities and product lines, please contact us or submit a quote request today. 

Heat Shrink Tubing: What is It and How is It Used?

Custom Cables

Heat shrink tubing — also called electrical shrink tubing — is a critical protective and organizational product used in various electrical arrays. This blog post will answer the question: What is heat shrink tubing used for?

In general, heat shrink tubing is a common element in most electrical setups that insulates electrical components from external factors such as moisture, dust, abrasion, and sharp objects that might otherwise damage wires and electrical components. This type of damage ultimately results in shorts and failures. It will also bind loose wires, connectors, joints, terminals, and splices together, creating more organized and manageable bundles. Using color-coded heat shrink tubing helps to facilitate easy wire and component identification.

What Is Heat Shrink Tubing?

Cable TypeHeat shrink tubing is a thermoplastic tube that shrinks when exposed to heat. When placed around wire arrays and electrical components, heat shrink tubing collapses radially to fit the equipment’s contours, creating a protective layer. It may cover parts of individual wires or bundle entire arrays and protect against abrasion, low impact, cuts, moisture, and dust.

To create heat shrink tubing, plastic manufacturers first use extrusion to make a tube of thermoplastic material. The materials used in heat shrink tubing vary depending on the intended application. Once the desired plastic has been extruded, the material is heated and forced to expand, increasing the tube’s diameter. The expanded tubing is allowed to cool to room temperature and set.

This expanded thermoplastic tube is then placed around the wires or other desired components and heated to a specific temperature. The heat causes the tube to soften and shrink back to its original extruded size, effectively enclosing the wires or other components within a tight layer of protective plastic.

Benefits of Heat Shrink Tubing

Product-tinned-wireVersatile and easy to use, heat shrink tubing offers many unique benefits, including:

  • Protection against abrasion, low impacts, and sharp cutting edges
  • Defense against water, chemicals, dust, and other intrusive contaminants
  • Organization of wires and cables into easy-to-handle bundles
  • A smoother texture and finished appearance
  • Electrical and thermal insulation
  • Enhanced structural support for less strain on wires, connectors, and components
  • Compatible with color additives to aid wire identification

Heat Shrink Tubing Materials

Heat shrink tubing can be manufactured from a wide range of thermoplastic materials and is often combined with additives to enhance specific characteristics. Common materials used for heat shrink tubing include:

  • Polyolefin: Polyolefin is the most popular material for shrink tubing due to its thermal resistance. It is more expensive than PVC but capable of withstanding temperatures as high as 125-135°C. This property makes it ideal for manufacturing, industrial, and mechanical applications with high operating temperatures.
  • Adhesive-Lined Polyolefin: To provide a more secure tube that will not slip in critical conditions, manufacturers have created a polyolefin heat shrink tubing with an adhesive inner layer that melts and adheres to the wires and components inside the tube to fill voids and ensure a close fit. An added adhesive offers more support and increased protection from moisture and harsh conditions.
  • PVC: PVC is less expensive than polyolefin but has a lower temperature threshold of approximately 105°C. PVC is durable, strong, and highly abrasion-resistant. It can be manufactured with high clarity, bright colors, and flame-retardant qualities, making it a highly versatile and cost-effective option for low-temperature applications.

Other materials used for heat shrink tubing include PTFE, FEP, elastomers, silicone rubber, and Viton®. The best material type depends mainly on the conditions in which the equipment will operate and the shrink needed to create the desired seal.

Quality Heat Shrink Tubing From Consolidated Electronic Wire and Cable

Whether for low-impact indoor applications or heavy-duty industrial settings, heat shrink tubing materials can protect and organize wires, connectors, and other electrical components. At Consolidated Electronic Wire and Cable, we offer a comprehensive selection of heat-shrink covered wires, cables, and parts to meet the needs of virtually any application.

To learn more about the best heat shrink tubing for your application or to ask about our selection of quality electronic components, contact us today.

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