USB file transfer is undoubtedly a useful file transfer system but it can be frustratingly slow at the time. The USB4 is already been lauded to solve a lot of these problems.
However, there is a bit of mix feeling from users who are so used to the old USB configuration. No Worries USB4 is compatible with USB 2 and USB 3 as it makes use of the USB Type-C connector.
USB4 Everything You Need To Know
There is much to know about the soon to come to USB technology.
Connectors and cables
Although you can still connect to the old-school devices with USB Type-A or USB Type-B connectors to new USB4 laptops and hubs, you’ll need to do so with dongles. The older, non-reversible connectors will not be able to support USB some features. Features such as Power output, intelligent charging protocol that controls charge rates.
Although existing USB 3.x charging cables will continue to work fine. You will need new USB4 cables to take advantage of the full power and data delivery offers.
In 2017, Intel released the specs for Thunderbolt 3 for third-party use. Thunderbolt matters because its incredibly high 40Gbps signaling rate allow for peripheral, externally connected GPUs, as well as high-throughput, low-latency connections to more traditional peripherals such as storage and displays. USB4 also offers Thunderbolt 3 compatibility but dependent on the manufacturer’s discretion. The USB spokesperson, Brad Saunders, says he expects computers will offer Thunderbolt 3 compatibility but not phones and tablets.
Another problem is that, while the use of the standard is royalty-free, use of the trademark is not. If OEMs want to advertise their devices as Thunderbolt 3 compatible, they’ll still need to be certified by Intel which involves a decidedly non-free hardware validation process. If Intel continues requiring this direct validation in order to use the Thunderbolt brand, we may see new terms arise to inform consumers of the presence, or absence, of compatibility with Thunderbolt 3 devices.
USB4 low, medium, and high speeds
Not all USB4 devices support the full 40Gbps rate in the specification. USB4 devices may be designed for 10Gbps, 20Gbps, or 40Gbps signaling rates. There is, unfortunately, no proposed, clear branding indication, such as a change in the physical port color for higher-speed connections. So consumers will need to look closely at spec sheets if they want the highest rates available.
USB4’s low transfer limit is equal to USB 3.1’s SuperSpeedPlus, also at 10Gbps. Its higher 20Gbps and 40Gbps rates require dual-lane cables; the 20Gbps rate will work with any USB 3.2 Type-C dual-lane cable, but the 40 Gbps rate may need higher-cost, 40Gbps-certified cables.
The protocol also specifies rate control for multiple devices attached to the same port. This means that more devices can be connected to a single port before significant latency and throughput problems crop up. For example, a 1080p USB4 display might advertise a requirement for 3Gbps of data, which would then be prioritized over other peripherals connected to the same port. This can prevent frame drop or other latency issues from occurring with a storage device and display connected via the same port and cable.
USB4 fast charging for all
Some, but not all, of the current crop of USB 3.2 Type-C devices support the USB-PD power-delivery protocol. But on USB4, USB-PD is mandatory for all devices. Intelligent negotiation of charging rates brings both faster charging and better battery life to the devices that support it. Power-hungry devices like phones and laptops can charge up to 100W, while much lower-power devices such as headsets can opt for a much lower trickle charge rate, conserving battery on the laptops and phones powering them.
Conclusions and availability
USB4’s faster signaling rate probably isn’t going to lead to everything being suddenly faster, in particular, storage devices such as external disks and thumb drives will still be subject to the limits of their actual underlying media. It’s not at all uncommon to see cheap USB 3.1 thumb drives topping out at 30MB/sec or less than even USB 2.0’s 480Mbps rate, let alone 3.1’s 5Gbps.
The extension of Thunderbolt 3 from only select Intel devices to hopefully the majority of laptops and PCs is a welcome change, as is mandatory USB-PD support.
Although the USB4 specification is available today, it will roll out by 2020, aims to become popular by early 2021