USB4 spec announced, will be based upon Thunderbolt 3

Today's announcement didn't include the USB 4 specification, which a press release from the USB Promoters state is now in the "final stages of review" by more than 50 companies.

The USB Promoter Group says that USB4 will be backward compatible with previous iterations, including USB 3.2, Thunderbolt 3, and USB 2.0. Intel started certifying devices with support for Thunderbolt 3 in 2015, and in 2017 it made a decision to open the standard. This time around, the USB4 architecture is based on the Thunderbolt protocol specification, doubling the bandwidth of USB and enabling multiple simultaneous data and display protocols. In 2019 Thunderbolt 3 displays, networking products, docks, eGFX, PCI expansion, storage devices, and other adaptors are all numerous.

USB4 will provide double the bandwidth and reach up to 40 Gbps with two-lane operation and over cables certified to handle the high speed, the USB Promoter Group said. Intel's contribution comes without royalties, meaning that other chip manufacturers can build supporting silicon without paying a fee. In some instances - especially when it came to the power delivery system - early devices were not compliant with the standard we have today and don't offer any real method of fast charging or bi-directional power delivery. If you're still rocking USB 3.0 ports, those top out at 5 GBps throughout (according to Tom's Hardware), which the 40GBps USB 4 will blaze past. Thunderbolt 3 is already well supported in various OSes like Windows 10, MacOS and Linux. To ensure consistent performance and quality standards, Intel manages a mandatory Thunderbolt 3 certification program that uses third-party test labs for verification.

While Thunderbolt 3 offers a range of benefits, and is in use in a broad range of hardware - from docks and displays, to storage and external GPUs - it's interesting to note there are now only a little over 450 certified devices in the market. Previously, companies implementing TB3 had to pay royalties to Intel because it was a proprietary technology. Intel also hosts plugfests, during which interoperability with numerous new devices is tested, and workshops.

How Fast Is USB 4? It is expected that the original version will be released in the second half of this year. So, consumers need to understand that although technically "USB 3.2" runs over USB Type-A or USB Type-C, you'll only get the full performance of USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 over a USB Type-C cable.

"Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification is a significant milestone for making today's simplest and most versatile port available to everyone", said Jason Ziller, General Manager, Client Connectivity Division at Intel.

What's the USB 4 release date? "By collaborating with the USB Promoter Group, we're opening the doors for innovation across a wide range of devices and increasing compatibility to deliver better experiences to consumers".

  • Fernando Stephens