USB 4 Is Coming: Everything You Need To Know


USB4, scheduled for release this year, will include the best parts of both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C.

Inside of the announcement came news that USB 4 would be compatible with Thunderbolt 3 (as well as USB 3.2 and USB 2.0).

Intel has already announced that it is baking in support for the Thunderbolt 3 specification directly into its forthcoming 10nm Ice Lake processors, eliminating the need for third-party control chips.

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Intel's Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C connector, which is sort of confusing.

The USB Promoter Group revealed information about the upcoming USB4 specification today in a press release. That's finally happening, with the technology being integrated into USB 4. The physical connector of this standard will be identical to the USB-C of the Thunderbolt 3, which means that all existing Thunderbolt 3 cables should be compatible. From mobile devices to laptops and desktop PCs, billions of devices have shipped that support the interface since its inception in 1995. Thunderbolt 3 passes data across four lanes of PCIe 3.0, while also supplying eight lanes of DisplayPort 1.2 that supports up to two 4K displays at 60 Hz. That also means it's arbitrary and certification has no real value; non-certified devices and cables can perform as good or better than certified devices and cables.

Now You: What is your take on the USB standard and the new USB4?

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In what seems like an effort to confuse consumers further, hot on the heels of the reveal of USB 3.2 2×2, a new 20Gbps version of USB 3.2 that features two 10Gbps channels, the USB Promoters Group has revealed yet another new format, USB4.

But Thunderbolt 3 is a proprietary spec that belongs to Intel, which until recently limited PC makers' ability to include it in their products without paying royalties. Like USB-C it will be used for everything from transferring digital data to power supply.

According to the USB Promoter Group announcement, USB4 specifications aren't supposed to be out until sometime in mid 2019, however, with 50 plus companies actively participating, observers may start to see early implementations in device hardware soon.

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"Releasing the Thunderbolt 3 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. "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". "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". The group is also hosting the USB Developer Days 2019 event later this year.