Confusion Over USB Naming Conventions: 1.0, 2.0, Full Speed, Hi-Speed?

Sometime last year, the USB Implementers Forum, Inc., the group charged with the advancement of USB technology, decided that they needed to change the way they were marketing it to the public.

Currently, there are two versions of the Universal Serial Bus. The first iteration, now at version 1.1, supports theoretical data transfer speeds up to 12Mb/sec. The second, USB 2.0, brought a much improved theoretical speed of 480Mb/sec as well as backwards compatibility, meaning all original USB peripherals can still be used.

Internal use has also shown the two specifications can also be referred to as full-speed (v 1.1) or high-speed USB. (2.0)

According to USB naming and packaging recommendations from the Web site, high-speed (v 2.0) USB products should be referred to as "Hi-Speed USB" while low or full-speed products (v 1.1) are simply called "USB." The new guidelines are to encourage vendors to use clear and consistent packaging to reduce consumer confusion between the two standards.

To aid in the effort, the group has even implemented new logos for the specifications, declaring the old version obsolete.

Despite the current guidelines, there has been some limited confusion in the computer industry on how to label products that include some form of USB. According to an article at, some major manufacturers have shipped computers with misleading specifications. From the article:

Sony and Toshiba issued laptops with USB 2 on them when they were the USB 2 that was the USB 1.1. Many peripherals were sold in the same way. The help desks did not understand the difference.

The USB Implementation [sic] Forum refuses to comment in any way on this contentious matter. But someone has plainly pointed out to them that these actions are possibly illegal and they could be charged with misrepresentation. This is certainly true under the laws of the European Union.

The confusion may have come from the side or back panel printing recommendations also listed on the Web site. Under the Low or Full Speed guidelines, it is suggested to print "Compatible with the USB 2.0 Specification" and "Works with USB and Hi-Speed USB systems, peripherals and cables" even though the device is incapable of operating at the faster USB 2.0 speeds.

When asked for comment, Apple Computer told The Mac Observer that it has no confusion about what names are to be used when referring to the USB 1.1 and 2.0 standards. On the various product specification portions of Appleis Web site, it refers to the interfaces as "USB" and "USB 2.0" (currently only available on the new iPod and the PowerMac G5) and despite being one of the many members of the forum, claims it doesnit know of any other names for the standards.