If you’re wondering if all USB-A to USB-C cables is made equal, the answer is no. Not in the slightest.
To demonstrate our argument, we looked at two six-foot gray-braided Amazon Basics USB-A to USB-C cables that are essentially identical in appearance and, shockingly, cost about the same amount. A USB 3.1 model will cost you at least $12.40, while a USB 2.0 model will cost you at least $11.90.
The three criteria we used to evaluate pure USB-C cables were charging performance, data transfer performance, and monitor cable performance. However, our testing of the USB-A to USB-C cables we’re evaluating today revealed that they only differ in one important way: data transmission speed.
Charging is just fine with both
Is it true that a USB-A cable’s charging is important? For the most part, not nearly as much as using a USB-C cord. Unlike USB-C to USB-C connections, which can charge at speeds ranging from 5 to 100 watts, most phones and tablets only charge at 18 watts. If you’re lucky, they’ll charge at 15 watts, but if you’re not, they’ll charge at 10 watts.
There are some USB-A to USB-C cables that can deliver 40 watts or even 200 watts, but these are uncommon. Even Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro, when charged by USB-C, is restricted to 18 watts. When you connect one of these Amazon Basics cables to the iPad Pro and use an older Apple USB-A charger, you’ll get a charge of around 12 watts or less.
These charging rates are low enough that it’s simply not as critical of a comparison as it is with USB-C to USB-C cords.
USB-C to USB-A or other legacy connectors must use the same gauge wire as all USB-C cables, according to the USB-C standards.
We decided to put both cables to the test with a normal 2.1 amp, 5-volt load using an OEM Apple 10 watt charger. We also put both cables through their paces with a 4.5 amp load at 5 watts on an OEM Huawei charger, utilizing Huawei’s proprietary SuperCharge protocol.
Which is the superior cable? Because it can offer more voltage, the Amazon Basics USB 3.1 USB-A to USB-C cable is the “winner.”
With the Apple charger, the USB 3.1 cable was able to deliver roughly 10 watts, whereas the USB 2.0 cord delivered 9.8 watts. The USB 3.1 cable delivered 19.5 watts with the higher-amp Huawei charger, compared to 18.7 watts with the slightly cheaper USB 2.0 cable. That’s about 2% to 4% more for the better cable, which isn’t much, but it’s still better than the other. We should point out that these aren’t the greatest we’ve seen.
If you’re having trouble hitting “fast charge” speeds with either of these cables, it’s almost certainly a problem with your charger or device (or both).
The USB 2.0 and USB 3.1 cables were also subjected to a physical examination. Both are virtually identical and are even designated the same—which is incorrect.
The Amazon Basics USB 2.0 cable has the correct High-Speed USB trident on the USB-A plug, indicating that it can transfer data at 480Mbps. The Amazon Basics USB 3.1 cable, on the other hand, had the standard 480Mbps USB 2.0 icon, rather than the USB trident mark with a “SS” to indicate it could reach 5Gbps. Even though the USB 3.1 cable is speedier in actuality..
Looking at the USB-A connector is one technique to detect the difference between a conventional cable and a SuperSpeed USB 3.1 cable. A USB 3.1 cable should be blue to show that it can transfer data at super-fast speeds, which Amazon does perfectly here.
Additional wires inside the connector that are exclusively seen in USB-A SuperSpeed cables can also be found. Both cables use the preferred one-piece extrusion for the USB-C connection. Avoid cables with a folded and stamped construction, such as the cheap connector below, which we found at a dollar store.
Both Amazon Basics cables are “double braided” for a more upscale appearance, and they have very stiff plastic strain relief where the cable connects to the connectors. Although they appear to be virtually identical, the USB 3.1 is significantly heavier. The USB 3.1 cable weighs 83 grams, while the USB 2.0 cord weighs 49 grams. The extra weight is most likely due to the additional wires required for USB 3.1.
Because of the bigger wires, the Amazon Basics USB 3.1 cable is also physically thicker. It’s a little less malleable as a result, but neither is too stiff.
What’s on the inside
People buy cables for the color, braiding, or design, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Most significantly, according to our USB Cable Checker 2.0, both Amazon Basics cables have the correct 56K Ohm resistors inside. The 56K Ohm resistor is found on all USB-C to USB-A cables, and it prevents a device from blowing up your computer’s ports by sucking too much power.
All of the wires inside the cable are connected correctly and lead to the correct location. We also used an AVHzY CT-3 and the USB Cable Checker 2.0 to perform a rapid resistance test.
File transfer performance
Because charging speeds aren’t important here, the only factor to consider on a practical level is the speed with which these Amazon Basics USB-C connections can transport data. To do so, we used Crystal Disk Mark 8 on a USB 3.2 10Gbps port on an MSI Prestige 14 Evo laptop, as well as an Asus ROG Strix USB 3.2 drive cabinet with a WD Black NVMe SSD inside. The ROG Strix cabinet can also reach speeds of 10Gbps.
As expected, the USB 2.0 cable proved sluggish. The USB 3.1 cable, which Amazon rates at Gen 1 (5Gbps) speeds, was a pleasant surprise. That didn’t seem to matter, as we saw performance comparable to Gen 2 (10Gbps) cables.
And the winner is…
We strongly recommend purchasing the Amazon Basics USB 3.1 cable, which can make a file transfer take only a few seconds rather than a few minutes because most people use their USB cord to transfer data—even if only rarely.
After all, why not? You’re just paying about 50 cents more for a far more capable cable. Sure, it’s a little heavier and less malleable, but there’s no reason to pay almost the same money for two cables with such a significant performance difference. To be honest, we’re not sure why Amazon sells the USB 2.0 cable at all, especially since it’s the same price as the faster version.