USB4: faster and more convenient

The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) announced that they had finalized the technical specifications for the upcoming USB4, which will beat all preceding USB’s made available to the market.

Initially announced in March, today’s specs announcements brings USB4 closer to reality.

The USB, as we know it, or the Universal Serial Bus is almost a household tool in today’s generation as it serves as the interface that enables communication between devices and a host controller such as a personal computer (PC). It connects devices such as digital cameras, keyboards, printers, scanners, media devices, external hard drives, and flash drives.

Typical USBs come in varying shapes, but they’re generally rectangular. Usually, the average person doesn’t really have much to say about it, but USB4 will change all that. Today, the USB-IF claims that the next-generation USB4 standard will be faster and bring improved compatibility with the finalized specs. USB4 promises a host of benefits that include faster transfer speeds, better management of video, and optional compatibility with Thunderbolt 3.

Currently, there is an overwhelming variety of the USB: four different versions of USB 3.2, two types of USB 3.1 and a host of connector types and power specs, and the idea of a new standard doesn’t help. However, the USB-IF wants to unify all of the previous versions into one single device along with their different specs to make it all easier for everyone else.

The most prominent feature USB4 will most likely be its two-lane operation where both ends will be using the existing Type-C cables. That means that you will not have to spend more time watching which end inserts where.

Specs-wise, the USB4 will be boasting three efficiency-oriented characteristics:

  • 40Gbps operation over 40Gbps certified cables
  • Multiple data and display protocols that efficiently share the maximum aggregate bandwidth.
  • Backward compatibility with USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3.

Primarily, the highlight of the new standard is its dual-lane 40Gbps speed, matching Thunderbolt 3’s transfer rate and doubling that of USB 3.2’s.

Thunderbolt3 has already introduced the 40Gbps transfer speeds in the past, but that particular connectivity has found itself out of reach by some because of its limitation to Intel-standard devices.

With the USB4, it will practically be merging USB’S universal connectivity and Thunderbolt 3’s high-speed transfer rate, allowing creative professionals and power users streamlined video editing, animation, and modeling workflows. While the average user can experience making data backups and transfers faster and easier.

However, even if USB4 can hit theoretical speeds of up to 40 Gbps, not all USB devices or hosts will support that standard.

Particularly, there will be three speeds: 10 Gbps, 20 Gbps, and 40 Gbps. Expect smaller and less-expensive devices such as phones and Chromebooks to use one of the lower speeds and, for laptops, it can also depend if it is compatible with being able to match the 40Gbps rate.

Regarding the backward compatibility feature of the USB4, consumers can use the device with previous USB 3.2, USB 2.0, and Thunderbolt 3 compatible devices. In other words, you’ll be able to use any existing USB type-C device with a machine featuring a USB4 bus. The new connection will be similar to USB3, where it will support both data and display protocols.

Another hiccup to put into mind, however, is that with backward compatibility, older generations will co time does perform in the way they are made. So it won’t matter if you are using a USB4-compatible device if you still have a USB 3.1 cable whose maximum transfer rate caps at 5Gbps.

Lastly, on the specs front, USB4 maximizes the speed capabilities, allowing you to multitask efficiently.

Mainly, the device builds on the capabilities of Type-C where you can use it while displaying images on a monitor and transfer files at the same time. Only now, USB4 manages it better with better video bandwidth allocation.

For example, you have a monitor using 8Gbps of power; the rest of the 32Gbps can be used for other purposes such as transferring files between devices.

There are a lot of significant innovations coming with this new standard but don’t expect it to hit shelves any time soon despite the specs being announced already.

Tentatively, a September 2020 release can be expected, but it can come much later because of the 12 to the 18-month manufacturing process.

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