What Is SuperSpeed (SS) USB?
Haul up the anchors and prepare to sail, folks - you're on the SS USB now! We'll be getting underway soon on the smooth seas of high speed data transfer.
OK, so you've probably figured out that "SS USB" doesn't refer to a ship. And it doesn't stand for "super-sized USB", although there are certainly some impressive flash drive sizes available these days.
But what is SS USB, then? It stands for SuperSpeed USB and it's here to get your data in the digital fast lane! Read on for all the info you need on this speedy data transfer technology.
What Is SS USB?
SS USB stands for SuperSpeed USB. It's actually the same thing as USB 3.0, the improved USB standard that's been around since the mid-2010s. (Its current version is known as USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 since USB standards can apparently never have enough names.) Mostly, you'll simply hear it called USB 3.0, but some technical documentation still refers to it as "SuperSpeed USB".
With a name like SuperSpeed USB, you might assume that USB 3.0 is fast, and you'd be right! Data transfer speeds on USB 3.0 can reach 5 GB/s, and the newest Gen 2x2 models can hit up to 20 GB/s. (This latest generation is also known as SuperSpeed+.)
SuperSpeed is also extremely easy to use. Just like USB 2.0, it's a plug-and-play technology that's designed to work with a huge variety of different devices. If you know how to use a flash drive or almost any other USB storage device, you know how to use SuperSpeed USB!
Moreover, SuperSpeed is backward compatible with earlier protocols like USB 2.0. You'll be limited to the transfer speed of the slowest component. A USB 3.0 flash drive will be limited to 2.0 speeds if it's in a 2.0 port, for example. But, thanks to backward compatibility, the device will still be usable.
Note that SS USB isn't the same thing as USB-C, although there's a big overlap between them. USB-C is a type of connector. It's the small, rounded plug on Android smartphone chargers and many computers. By default, USB-C is compatible with SuperSpeed USB/USB 3.0, but many USB 3.0 devices still use the older USB-A connector.
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How to Identify a USB SuperSpeed Port
There are several ways to identify a USB SuperSpeed port. Not all of them will be present on every port, so it's good to know them all:
- SuperSpeed USB ports are usually labeled with the logo in the picture above. It's the standard USB logo, with the addition of the letters "SS". For faster versions of SuperSpeed, you might see a number 10 or 20 next to the letters, signifying 10 or 20 GB/s transfer speeds.
- You might also see ports labeled with "USB 3.0" or whichever iteration of the standard they use. Remember that SuperSpeed is just another name for this standard.
- If you see a USB port with a blue connector, that also means the port offers (at least) USB 3.0 SuperSpeed performance, whether or not it's labeled.
- USB-C ports are compatible with SuperSpeed USB, although the maximum speed can vary depending on whether they're built for upgraded standards like USB 3.2.
Do I Need an SS USB Device?
USB 2.0 devices are still plenty fast for a lot of people's needs, so there's no real performance-related reason to upgrade yet if 2.0 still works for you. Eventually, USB 3.0 will probably become the dominant standard, especially as USB-C connectors become more common. But the full transition of the tech world to USB-C is still moving quite slowly.
As we note in our USB 3.0 guide, there are some groups of people who will get a lot out of upgrading to SuperSpeed USB now. Photographers, animators, audio engineers, graphic designers and other creative media pros can all benefit from the higher speeds of USB 3.0 and above. It's great for quickly transferring large files and/or many files.
Long story short: Upgrade to SuperSpeed if you need it! It's a great way to future-proof your devices, and the speed upgrade can be a big deal for people in some industries.
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