USB cables are commonly included in the package for most electronic gadgets. They are used to transfer high-speed data between computers and devices, including HDTVs, camcorders, digital cameras, massive storage devices, printers, mobile phones, and MP3 players.
USB cables come in a wide array of sizes and types. Those that are compliant with USB standards have an embossed trident logo. Before selecting a specific type of cable, buyers should read the instruction manual for the device to check the specification. When purchasing USB cables at retailers such as eBay, buyers should consider the various types of connector, the factors that help them to identify which cable is required, and familiarise themselves with the signs of failure in a USB cable.
Types of USB Cable Connectors
There are various types of USB cables, each differing in their connector plugs. Each type of plug is designed to connect to the compatible port built into devices and computers or other hosts. Connector types include Standard-A, Standard-B, Mini-A, Micro-A, Micro-B, and Micro-AB, as seen in the table below.
Host or downstream connector
Rectangular shaped connector that plugs into a computer or other host
Most common connector type for a host
Usually found on large peripheral devices, such as printers and scanners
Rectangular shaped connector with the two top edges slightly curved inwards
Most common connector type for a device
Mini and Micro
Usually found on small devices like digital cameras and mobile phones
Supported by USB 2.0, but not the older 1.0 or 1.1 formats
Mini A is commonly used for USB OTG (on the go) devices, where the device plugs directly into another host rather than a computer
Introduced in 2002
Data transfer rates 40 times faster than USB 1.1, at 480 Mbps
Allows for multiple devices to be run at the same time, provided the computer has multiple USB ports
Most computers made from 2003 to 2010 support USB 2.0
Introduced in 2005
Designed to meet the growing demand for wireless connectivity of devices that use USB connections
Uses different technologies, such as Bluetooth and radio frequency, to perform the same tasks as traditional USB cords
Led to such devices as wireless mice and keyboards
Released in early 2010
Referred to as SuperSpeed USB
Technology is 10 times faster than current USB 2.0 technology
Users can expect a maximum throughput of up to 5 Gbps
Uses about a third of the energy of USB 2.0
Buyers should familiarise themselves with the different types of USB cables to ensure they purchase the right one. With the exception of USB OTG, connecting two devices with no host via a USB cable does not work because only a host can initiate communication. Similarly, buyers should avoid connecting two hosts without a device in between; this can cause high currents, short circuits, or even fires.
Factors to Consider when Buying USB Cables
When purchasing USB cables, buyers should consider the compatibility with the device, as well as the length of the cable. These factors help buyers choose the most appropriate cable and ensure proper use of the device.
Compatibility of USB Cables and Hosts
USB cable connector types are designed to fit more than one host. For example, the same cable may connect a device to an Apple Mac or Windows PC. However, buyers should take note that while the USB connector may seem like a good fit, the software within the device may not be compatible with the host.
USB Cable Length Limitations
USB cables that are under 2.0 cannot exceed 5 metres in length when connected to high-speed devices. This is due to the cable delay of 26 nanoseconds; if the USB hosts' commands are not answered within a certain period of time then they are lost. For low speed devices, such as keyboards and mice, the limit is 3 metres. Buyers that need to connect USB devices beyond the 3 or 5 metre cable limit can do this in several ways. They can use a USB power hub, USB active extension cable, or USB over Ethernet product.
USB hubs are needed when the number of peripherals outnumbers the ports available on the computer. Users can use the hub on a computer to expand the USB port or the socket into which a USB cable is plugged into. Buyers can use extension cables and up to five USB hubs connected together to extend the USB's range up to 30 metres; this number falls to 27 metres for low speed devices. It is important to note that the distance between each hub cannot exceed 5 metres.
USB hubs are either bus-powered or self-powered. Bus-powered hubs draw power from the USB interface on the host computer, while self-powered hubs draw power from an external power supply unit. Self-powered hubs are better suited for devices that require large amounts of power, as they are not forced to divide their milliamps into each port.
Active Extension Cables
USB extension cables contain electronics that reproduce the USB signal, which allows users to extend that cable length up to 30 metres, or 27 metres for low speed devices. This is accomplished by connecting up to five active extension cables together.
USB Over Ethernet
Similar to USB hubs and active extension cables, USB over Ethernet hubs are typically limited to a maximum of 30 metres. These connectors tend to be more expensive than the others.
USB Cable Failure
When the USB cable fails, data cannot transfer because the host is unable to recognise the device and initiate proper communication. The common causes of USB cable failure are incorrect cable use, damage to the cable, and overextending the cable length. This means that it is important to handle the USB cable with care to prevent damage and always use the recommended type of cable from the device manufacturer. If the cable is damaged or does not function as intended, it is best to replace it with a new one with the same specification.
How to Buy USB Cables on eBay
Purchasing a USB cable on eBay offers buyers a wide variety of choice in any price range to meet any specific budget. Buyers can search easily for USB cables by using eBay's keyword search. Type in any related key terms such as "USB cable". This is likely to render a large number of listings. For more limited search results, buyers should type in more specific key terms such as "micro USB cable". Further, you can browse the deals page for your next electronic.
Alternatively, buyers can use eBay's advanced search function. This allows them to limit their search by category or price. Buyers can also limit results to USB cables sold by Top-rated sellers. Top-rated sellers are recognised by the eBay community for their high levels of customer service. These sellers receive consistently positive feedback ratings, which are left by past buyers.
USB cables are a major component of most electronic devices and are often essential for the communication required with a host, such as a computer. Buyers should consider the type of cable when searching on eBay. The type of cable required depends heavily on the device and host being used, as well as the device's manufacturer's recommendation. Using the wrong USB cable can lead to severe damage to the device and host. Buyers should also consider the cable length. If a cable more than 5 metres long is needed, then choose a USB alternative, such as a hub or an active extension cable. With so many USB cables to choose from, buyers are certain to find the ideal fit for their digital camera, pri