USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) an organization behind the implementation of Universal Serial Bus (USB) that has been responsible for the development and standardization of the specifications for several of the USB innovation. The Forum recently announced this week that it had finalized the complete technical specification for the USB4 complete next-generation hardware.  One of the most imperative aspects of USB4 that it has been dispensed with added upgrade acronym and version that it’s all set to merge USB with Thunderbolt 3, an Intel Designed interface which has seen slower adoption despite its rising potential. That has been one reason why many businesses where looking for USB solution that combines Intel Thunderbolt spec with USB consortium. However, the challenge for business is that Thunderbolt 3 is listed as an option for USB4 devices, so it means some would-be having or some won’t.  For USB users and device makers this would be a much bigger challenge, and maybe most of the device makers might look to adopt Thunderbolt 3.

USB4 will be using the same form factor as USB Type-C that has already been used in all of the modern Android phones and even in Thunderbolt 3. USB4 would even be compatible with USB3.2, USB2.0 along with Thunderbolt. This would remove the bottleneck for USB4 usage making it compatible with existing USB type-C device that can connect to any machine featuring a complete USB4 bus while the connection speed will be depended on the connected cable’s rated speed.

What is USB4?

One of the primary advantages we gain with support of Thunderbolt 3 the new connection will be supporting both data and display protocols. It will mean that USB-C port will be replacing the big bulky DVI port on Monitors and all monitors will even be supporting the multiple USB4 ports that will act as a hub. The new USB4 will offer new standard for makers,  dual-lane 40 Gbps transfer speed, double the rate of USB3.2 with it’s already set current spec that is more than eight times that of USB 3. That offers Ethernet speed that would be more than enough for keeping any high definition monitor feed running along with plenty of bandwidth for other types of data moment.

USB4 even has a better resource allocation for all types of definition video and data, so if a user is using USB4 port to move data and video at the same time the port will allocate bandwidth accordingly. This will allow the computer to use both external GPU in very self-contained case along with that it offers a Thunderbolt 3 and an external SSD.  It could mean that we could now see rapid change in server designs because what made them bulky and large could now be externally connected. GPUs or other cards that won’t go easily into the 1U or 2U case can now be externally attached and run at speed that is comparable to any internal device.  However, it’s going to take sometime before we see PCs with complete USB4 ports and servers will future be extending that period of implementation. It took several years for makers to implement USB3 into PCs and uptake for the USB-C has been pretty slow. USB2 thumb drives are still in bulk of the market for many devices, and many of motherboards are still shipping with USB2 on them. USB4 will harmonize the usage for both servers and PCs with added potential of unifying the interface that will get rid of all bulky cables along with oversized plugs and provides a throughput that can satisfy every user requirement from laptop user to server admin.  

Charging has certainly been an issue when it comes power-hungry devices such as smartphones and laptops, the current crop of USB3.2 Type-C devices will be supporting the USB-PD power delivery protocol. A more Intelligent negotiation of charging rates that will be supported in current devices with a better form of faster charging and better battery life for devices.  Power-hungry devices can charge up to 100W while much lower power devices such as headsets can opt for much lower trickle charge rate, conserving battery on the laptops and phones on powering them. 

Why USB4 will not be complete speed power?

Not all the USB4 devices will support the complete 40Gbps rate as provided in the specification, some devices USB4 will be designed for 10Gbps, 20Gbps, or 40Gbps signaling rate. There is not a complete proposed clear branding indication that will be changing the physical port color for a higher speed connection. So consumers will need to look closely at all the specification of USB port while buying a device. USB4’s lowest transfer rate is even equivalent to USB 3.1’s SuperSpeedPlus that offers 10 Gbps. It’s higher 20Gbps, and 40 Gbps rates will need a dual-lane cable but with 40 Gbps rate will be adding much higher cost and 40 Gbps-certified cables. The current latency challenge will be prominent with port compatibility and even makers usage of server performance to handle the input of data. For example, a 1080p USB4 display port might advertise a requirement for 3GBps of data that would be prioritized over other peripheral connected to the same port. It can result in frame drop or other latency issues from occurring with storage device and display connected via the same port of cable.


USB4 faster-signaling rate probably isn’t going to directly lead to everything become faster- when it comes to connectivity, storage devices, external disks, and thumb drives will still be subjected to limits of the actual underlying media. The extension will mean that Thunderbolt 3 from only select Intel devices that hopefully provide the added change for laptops and PCs is welcome change and it mandatory USB-PD support. The USB4 specification is available today, but we don’t expect to see OEMs rolling out the first USB4 devices until sometime in 2020 with widespread availability more likely for early 2021.

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