USB4 catches up to Thunderbolt 3 with 40Gbps data transfer speeds

USB 4 Debuts With Twice the Throughput and Thunderbolt 3 Support
Intel announces USB 4 standard
Author

05 March, 2019

USB4, scheduled for release this year, will include the best parts of both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C. This can lead to confusion for consumers. Is it familiar? That's right, Intel's Thunderbolt 3 interface is 40Gbps, but the earliest applications were put back in 2015. The USB4 architecture is based on the Thunderbolt™ protocol specification recently contributed by Intel Corporation. What does this mean?

The next generation of Universal Serial Bus (USB) input/output connectors will based on the Intel/Apple designed Thunderbolt protocol, while retaining backwards compatibility with existing devices. That isn't limited to just PC boards as you'll find in a computer or tablet, but also devices like displays and external GPU boxes.

"Intel is well on its way to making the innovation delivered with Thunderbolt 3 available to everyone".

The USB Interface Group's press release about the USB4 specification (yes this standard drops the space between the string "USB" and the generational numeral) says it will be a major update to the specification.

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The USB4 specification is coming soon, and with it, we'll see a few changes that should make our connected lives simpler. Each step forward to a new specification, and the increased speed and compatibility that comes along with it, spurs a wave of new devices that range from cheap USB flash drives to new external storage enclosures.

That means that Thunderbolt will basically underpin USB 4.0, so all USB 4.0 devices and ports will be automatically compatible with Thunderbolt devices for super-fast data transfer as well as device charging and display across a single cable as now.

USB 2.0 ports and devices are going to be around for a long time. That broadening of access to the technology could see a proliferation of today's more fringe technologies, like high-resolution displays and higher-fidelity virtual reality - not to mention even faster power delivery. "The USB4 solution specifically tailors bus operation to further enhance this experience by optimizing the blend of data and display over a single connection and enabling the further doubling of performance". Of course, it is much more open than Thunderbolt 3, because the use of Thunderbolt 3 must be strictly certified by Intel (only 463 models so far). Ultimately, consumers will be the big winners, which is quite refreshing. The 20Gbps USB 3.2, on the other hand, will be called USB 3.2 Gen 2x2.

With over 50 companies actively participating in the final stages of review of the draft specification, the USB4 specification is on track to be published around the middle of 2019. Thankfully, Microsoft is already backing the standard for Windows, as Roanne Sones, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft OS Platforms explains below. Not all new devices that come on the market support the latest USB versions.


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