The dongle life seems set to get even more complicated, eventually.
In an effort to advance USB technology, while confusing consumers, the USB Promoters Group has revealed another new format called USB4. This is 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
In a recent press release, Intel and the USB-IF revealed USB4, the next-generation version of USB that’s set to utilize dual channels in order to hit 40Gbps data transfer speeds. Intel says that current 40Gbps-certified USB-C cables will also be compatible with this recently announced upcoming format.
More importantly though, Intel says that Thunderbolt 3 will soon be available to all manufacturers through a new open licensing system, potentially expanding its reach significantly. Currently, only 463 devices support Thunderbolt 3, with Apple’s various MacBook laptops being some of the most notable devices to feature the technology.
USB4 is set to feature Thunderbolt 3 compatibility as well. This means that the simultaneous transfer of data and display protocols would theoretically be possible with a USB4 port and cable that supports Thunderbolt 3.
“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,” said Brad Saunders, USB Promoter Group Chairman in a recent press release. “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.”
As expected, USB 4 is also still compatible with USB 2.0 and all forms of USB 3.2. That said, it’s unlikely that we’ll see products featuring USB4 anytime soon given that the technical specifications for USB 3.2 2×2 have only just been revealed. The official technical specs for USB4 likely won’t be published until mid-2019, which means the upcoming port format won’t hit hardware until 2020. When USB4 ports and compatible cables do eventually start to hit the market, the new port format seems set to be the one cable to rule them all.
Effectively, this means that 40Gbps will soon be the new universal standard for all future and USB ports. Further, it’s likely that Thunderbolt 3 will soon be featured in more devices now that Intel has adopted an open standard for the port format and plans to directly layer it on top of USB4. This new transfer speed works with the USB-C port standard, so users don’t have to worry about a new port size to facilitate these new speeds.
Image credit: Intel