USB 4 Debuts With Twice the Throughput and Thunderbolt 3 Support


The USB 4 specification is soon to be released.

To further expand the range of devices using the Thunderbolt 3 specification, Intel has contributed its protocol to the USB standards committee, which integrated the protocol into USB 4. However, there is a bit of a sour note becuase that's exactly the same speed as Thunderbolt 3, meaning that there will be no enhancement for current Thunderbolt 3 devotees on a standard that will be several years old already. The USB Promoter Group, the standards body in charge of the USB specification, has formally introduced the USB4 specification in draft form today, with hopes of finalizing the standard within the next few months.

"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. The USB interface has had its challengers over the years, but its royalty-free model and broad use, along with a steady cadence of higher speeds through improved specifications, has staved off the competition.

KitGuru Says: Thunderbolt hasn't caught on in the same way that USB has. The new two-lane operation using existing USB Type-C cables supports up to 40 Gbps data transfer when certified cables are used. However, given the open nature of USB4 versus the closed Thunderbolt 3 system, you should expect to see an explosion of compatible devices offering 40 Gbps speeds at more affordable price points. 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. That tight level of integration builds upon the existing Thunderbolt 3 support in Windows 10 and macOS.

Intel is wise to open up its Thunderbolt protocol, as it will make it available to more users - an essential step for its continued success.

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. Intel also hosts plugfests, during which interoperability with numerous new devices is tested, and workshops. 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".

USB 4 is coming, and it's gonna make your gadgets transfer content a whole lot faster.

In recent years, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has developed this weird habit of releasing specification updates that are often tremendous steps forward but are obscured by confusing, misleading, or downright bad naming.