What's the Difference: USB-C vs Mini USB vs Micro USB

2024 April 25

For a format with "universal" in the name, USB can sometimes feel anything but with the variety of connectors and standards involved. Many in tech have hailed the recent shift towards USB-C as a standard connector as righting the ship and moving back towards simplicity.

But for those of us who use USB connections, we know that dream isn't quite a reality yet.

How Micro and Mini USB Connectors Compare to USB-C

In our article on USB-A vs. USB-C, we covered some of the main differences between the two different USB connector formats, as well as why we predict the two will continue to co-exist for some time.

So where does that leave other USB port types, such as micro and mini USB?

First, we'll dive a bit deeper into each connector type. Then, we'll explore what the future looks like for these different ports, and which USB cable types you'll want to keep handy for now.

What's The Difference Between Micro USB, Mini USB, and USB-C?

You may remember mini USB ports from older digital cameras, PDAs, and likely have a number of micro-USB devices around the house. While many products are being redesigned for USB-C, there are still plenty of devices that still use micro-USB for charging or data.

Both mini and micro connections only have one correct orientation, which creates a hassle when plugging devices in for charging or data transfer.

There are actually two versions of both mini and micro USB, which we'll address below.

Mini USB

Mini USB was created to provide USB connection for devices that are too small to accommodate standard USB connectors.  Mini USB defines two connector types, “Mini-A”, which is intended to connect to the host, and “Mini-B” for the peripheral.   Since most hosts were large enough to support a full-sized USB-A port, Mini-A never really caught on. Today, when you use a device described as having a mini USB connection, you can assume it uses mini-B.  Mini USB is limited to USB 2 data speeds and does not support USB 3.

Mini USB connectors have been almost completely replaced by micro USB connectors. However, it's still handy to have cables on hand for USB-A to mini-B because you still may occasionally come across an older mobile or A/V device using this kind of port.

Micro USB

You can think of micro USB as a smaller, improved Mini USB. Mini USB was still too thick for the thinner phones being produced, requiring a slimmer connector.  Lifetime was doubled from Mini USB’s minimum specification of 5,000 insertions to 10,000 insertions.  Like Mini USB, Micro USB connectors came in type A and B, with Micro A intended to connect to the host, and “B” to the device. "Micro USB" usually refers to the Micro-B format, since Micro-A was not widely adopted for the host side.
Micro-B SuperSpeed is an extension of micro-B that supports USB 3 by adding more pins and making the connector significantly wider.  While newer devices are moving to USB-C, these connectors are still common for external hard drives and industrial cameras.

USB connector types before USB-C by Milos.bmx. Used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

USB Type-C: The Future of USB

The USB-C port brings a slew of advantages over older types of connections, including:

  • Higher data transfer speeds, up to USB 4 (40 Gb/s and beyond)
  • Higher power and faster charging
  • Reversible plug that can be inserted either way
  • Appropriately physically sized for small mobile devices and larger PCs

Not all USB-C cables support all features -- data rates range from USB 2 (480 Mb/s) to USB 4 at 40 GB/s, and power can range from 60 W for non e-mark cables up to 240 W for devices and cables that support USB PD EPR (Extended power range).

USB-C is becoming increasingly popular as time goes on, with most in the tech world predicting it will become ubiquitous. Especially now that Apple products are being produced with USB-C connections in lieu of the soon-to-be deprecated Lightning connectors, the market has really swung towards USB-C as a kind of universal charging option.

New smartphones are almost universally using USB-C for charging and data transfer, and many laptops can charge via USB type-C port.

Micro USB: Outdated, But Still Around

It's easy to talk about technology in terms of what delivers the best speed, performance, and overall functionality. But as any A/V professional knows, it's not that simple.  And when the rubber meets the road in the real world, you want to be prepared — so it's helpful to think about the differences between micro and USB-C in terms of consumer choices today.

How Bad is it to Ship a Device Today with a Micro USB Connector -- A Consumer Choices Case Study

Let's look at the top two recommended Bluetooth speakers on the New York Times' review site, The Wirecutter. It lists its top choice for 2024 as the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3, which charges via Micro-USB, followed by the Bose Soundcore Motion 300, which features a USB-C connection.  This gives us an opportunity to see the importance of the connector in the context of other attributes from the perspective of a product reviewer.

The fact that the leading Wonderboom does have a Micro-USB connection shows that the connection type hasn't vanished just yet, it is listed as a negative element by the review site.

"This small, round speaker has a natural sound and a cool design, and it’s built to survive outdoor adventures," the review begins, then goes onto qualify: "But it’s a little chunky, and it uses an outdated Micro-USB port for charging."

In comparison, the Wirecutter's next choice, the Soundcore Motion 300, gets praised for "convenient USB-C charging." In fact, even though reviewers preferred the Wonderboom's design, the Motion 300 is presented as an alternative to the Wonderboom 3 "if USB-C charging is a must-have."

So what's the takeaway from this real-world case study?

Right now, a consumer electronics device can still get away with having a micro USB port if it's good enough in other areas. But that window is closing.

A device not having a USB-C port is already viewed as a drawback. Some consumers are willing to compromise on other features if it means they don't need to scrounge up an extra cable.  Certainly for new designs today, there’s no reason not to use USB-C, but it may be worthwhile to keep an older design in production until the next PCB revision. Due to the similar size and footprint, updating micro-USB designs to USB-C should have minor effects on PCB layout and case tooling.

Conclusion: USB-C is the Clear Winner For new Designs

USB-C is the clear choice for powering and connecting many devices moving forward. Mobile device manufacturers looking to future-proof their processes are already onboard with USB-C connector support. 

Anyone sourcing equipment for a professional setting should look for USB-C ports, but due to the relatively long product cycles of professional equipment, USB A will be around for a long time. In computer vision and industrial imaging, USB 3 Micro-B is still the most common connector.  

However, audio-visual professionals, IT support staff, and anyone else working in BYOD environments will still want to have adapters and chargers for micro USB and mini USB devices in their toolbox for at least the near future.

Acroname for Your USB Needs

Whatever your USB technology needs, Acroname has professional USB equipment that you can trust. We're your source for cables, USB hubs, adapters, and more. 

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