Can USB 3.0 be Used for Projector Display?

septembre 25, 2020

Can USB 3.0 be Used for Projector Display?

Have you ever wondered what type of USB do projectors use? Can I plug a USB 2.0 into a USB 3.0 port? We understand your doubt. USB’s have become a standard method of data transferring between devices for the past 30 years. They are ubiquitous in our daily life.

In this article, we will look at USB and projectors, explaining how USB's work, and the relationship between modern projectors and USB technology. We’ll also see the different types of USB technology, with its implementations and industry effects. We’ll touch on the projector and USB compatibility, explaining what are the most common types found in the current market.

As a final note, we will compare the 2 most common means of portable storage that are currently compatible with most projectors and other devices - USB drives and SD cards.

USB Specifications and Projectors

When talking about USB and projectors, it’s important to understand their relationship with USB interfaces. Since its inception, USB created a standard that would eliminate most of the proprietary annoyances of certain manufacturers.

By having a standardized system, almost all manufacturers and tech companies were able to further promote extensive integration with one another. This is why you can charge your American smartphone with a Chinese projector through USB cables and ports.

Most modern projectors will have USB compatibility as a standard. This means that they will be able to handle most types of USB storage and data (e.g. movies, slideshows, TV shows). Most modern projectors have the USB-C type cables that are used by smartphones and tablets, they will allow you to directly interface your projector with your device - in turn gaining access to excellent data transfer speeds and power supply capabilities.

What does USB Stand For?

USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. It’s a form of industry-standard specifications for computer devices. That is to say, the USB specification will dictate the specific build of connectors, ports, cables, communication, and power supply. This is the main reason why you can find USB almost anywhere.

USB is NOT a form of storage, instead, it is the medium by which storage is transmitted to other devices. That is why USB sticks are simply miniature hard drives with USB ports attached to them. They are commonly used for a great number of people.

Types of USB and Projector Compatibility

USB technology, like most other industry-standard specifications, has evolved. There are currently 4 established generations of USB technology, all of them become increasingly efficient in terms of data transfer speeds, manufacturing, and compatibility.

USB 1.0 /1.1

This standard was the first iteration of USB technology. It allows the data transfer to speed up to 12 Mbit/s, a considerable improvement from previous industry-standard port and receptor technologies. Today, USB 1.0 compatible projectors have largely been phased out of production. You can still find some projectors from the early 2000’s era that are still USB 1.0 compatible.

USB 2.0

In the year 2000, USB 2.0 was introduced to the industry with great success. Its adoption was slow at the beginning, due to the implementation of more expensive manufacturing techniques and further optimizations to the specifications. It allows a maximum data transfer rate up to 480 Mbit/s - an almost 40x increase in speed from its previous iteration.

The upgrade from 1.0 to 2.0 was necessary because of the increased performance and data sizes that were introduced at the turn of the millennium. Most computer companies realized that this trend will continue to increase, thus creating the need for a system that could handle much larger (and faster) data transfer and power supply rates.

Most projectors found in the market today are almost entirely compatible with USB 2.0 technology, taking full advantage of the faster data transfer rates.

USB 3.0/3.1/3.2

The USB 3.0 (and its upgrades) was introduced in 2011. The speed of transmission rose to 5 Gbit/s, and with an entry into extremely fast and efficient data transfer speeds came a new industry standard name - SuperSpeed.

These types of USB specifications and protocols become frequently used in 2020, as most devices that emphasize the increasing demands of PC and mobile performance begin adopting this standard.

However, the USB 2.0 standard remains the most widely used in the world. This is due to the passing of time making the production of USB 2.0 much cheaper, efficient, and accessible - eventually replacing the USB 1.0 standard entirely. As of today, USB 3.0 is slowly gaining traction as a definitive replacement for all USB 2.0 interfaces.


USB 4 is the latest iteration of the USB specification standard. It was unveiled in 2019 and can handle speeds that go up to 40 Gbit/s, which is up to 8x faster than USB 3.0.

USB 4 is the only one that exclusively uses thunderbolt 3 interfacing technology, which will make USB 4 an industry-standard - prone to define our coming decade with the massive adoption of smartphone and PC devices throughout the world.

To date, there aren’t many projectors that have fully integrated USB 4 technology within their features.

USB and Projector Compatibility

In today’s market, projectors and USBs go hand in hand. Just like in the computer market, the USB 2.0 standard is still widely used for lower-end and budget devices. Most high-end devices with advanced performance use the USB 3.0 standard.

It is important to understand that USB 3.0 is backward compatible with both USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 - the only caveat is that the USB 3.0 cable or adapter will only run at the speed that determined by its port.

If you plug a USB 3.0 cable into a USB 2.0 port, it works only with the speed of USB 2.0, which is about 8 times slower. Thankfully, for most of our media needs, the speeds that USB 2.0 and even 1.1 provide are still quite fast and relevant to the general data needs of most people.

USB vs SD Storage: Which is Better for Projectors?

Modern projectors tend to be compatible with both USB and SD types of storage. However, have you ever wondered which one is better suited for a projector? Before we hit the question, let’s take a closer look at SD and USB storage, and let us see how they both stand up against each other.

SD Cards and Projectors

SD or SDD stands for Secure Digital Cards. It’s a type of storage device that uses flash memory to store data. SD cards are usually very small. Most of them range from 12 to 33 millimeters in thickness. SD cards are one of the standard features in most modern projectors, which are normally used for storing digital data.
The storage capacity is one of the best traits of SD cards, in which the capacity may vary from 2GB up to 1TB. There are also many types of SD cards with different sizes that fit most modern devices. The different types of SD cards are:

  • SD
  • mini SD
  • micro SD
  • SDXC
  • micro SDXC
  • SDHC
  • mini SDHC
  • micro SDHC

We strongly recommend that you check your projector’s SD card type before attempting to use an SD card.

USB Drives and Projectors

USB storage drives use the same type of flash memory technology as SD cards. The only difference is that they come with a USB port included (hence the name). They are typically focused more on office work (because of their USB and PC interface) and therefore come with lower storage capacities. The data transfer rates of USB are faster than SD’s though, so keep that in mind when choosing a projector that suits your needs.

Which One Should I Use with My Projector?

All in all, you should pick the storage medium that better suits your needs. Neither one is better, but if you want to be sure, simply check what type of storage mediums your projector supports. If your projector can support both types of storage, you’ll have the option to choose faster transfer rates coming from USB, as well as the versatile and tiny high storage capacities of SD cards.


This concludes our thorough look within the world of USB technology. In terms of the basics of how to use a USB with your projector, we have learned that the best way to use a USB is to have a compatible USB cable, peripherals, or storage - which fits the compatibilities of your projector.

You should be able to stream your media easily and comfortably by using any USB medium. It’s a very effective technology that is an industry-standard for a reason. USB has and will continue to be an important feature of most of our modern devices, without it - we would be hard-pressed to enjoy the amazing data transfer rates that we enjoy today.

Remember that USB technology is highly integrated with almost all electronic devices. So your projectors, tablets, PCs, smartphones, and laptops will all surely have at least one USB port for you to use.

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