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USB 4 has been announced, will match Thunderbolt 3's spec

05 March, 2019, 00:25 | Author: Lloyd Doyle
  • USB 4 Debuts With Twice the Throughput and Thunderbolt 3 Support

Why it couldn't be called "USB 4" (with a space) versus "USB4" (no space) is another question, but if it ultimately makes things less confusing in the long run, we'll give the USB Promoter Group a pass.

The USB4 architecture is backwards compatible with USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3.

That 40Gbps speed has been available to users of Thunderbolt 3 for a few years now.

As part of the convergence, Intel said it has released the Thunderbolt specification to the USB Promoter Group, which will let other chip makers build silicon that's compatible with the I/O technology without paying royalties.

The primary goal of USB is to deliver the best user experience combining data, display and power delivery over a user-friendly and robust cable and connector solution. That's because the USB-C port can be a Thunderbolt port, but it can also be a standard USB 3.x port. It'll have a lot of the same functionality as Thunderbolt 3 as well, including simultaneous data and display delivery: "As the USB Type-C connector has evolved into the role as the external display port of many host products, the USB4 specification provides the host the ability to optimally scale allocations for display data flow", the USB Operator Group said today. It is likely that other manufacturers will do the same eventually thanks to the royalty-free nature of USB4. So this year, we'll be getting USB 3.2 2×2 Type-C cables with 20Gbps speeds and dual-lane bandwidth, in a year or two, we'll start to see USB4 roll out with Type-C and 40Gbps speeds. Thunderbolt 3 is already well supported in various OSes like Windows 10, MacOS and Linux.


50 companies including Intel, which co-engineered Thunderbolt with Apple, contributed to the new standard. 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). The company has certified over 450 devices, including docks, displays, storage, and external graphics enclosures. Intel also hosts plugfests, during which interoperability with numerous new devices is tested, and workshops. The USB firmware on the devices you are connecting will be able to split the data you are transferring into two individual streams on the device sending it and put it all back together into a stream of data that the device receiving it can read correctly. That's finally happening, with the technology being integrated into USB 4.

"Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification is a significant milestone for making today's simplest and most versatile port available to everyone".

The new specs are to be finalized prior to USB Developer Days 2019 in the second half of the year.

What's the USB 4 release date?

Brad Saunders, USB Promoter Group Chairman offers the following statement.

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