Your Top Frequently Asked Questions about USB4

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Everyone’s preparing for the release of the next USB generation: USB4. USB’s promoter group announced this new standard last September, and many are expecting it to be released this year. Why is this development so important? Well, USB4 offers plenty of benefits such as Thunderbolt 3 compatibility, enhanced video management, and better transfer speeds.

In today’s world, where you have four USB 3.2 versions and two USB 3.1 types (along with their own special sets of power specs and connector types), a new USB standard can be a game changer. Since there’s plenty to look forward to in the future, it helps to break down the most commonly asked questions about the upcoming USB4 tech.

What Are the Benefits of Switching to USB4?

The new standard will sport three main advantages against its older counterparts:

  • Maximum Speed of 40 Gbps

The use of two-lane cabling will enable USB4 devices to operate at a maximum of 40 Gbps, equaling the speed of Thunderbolt 3.

  • Thunderbolt 3 compatibility

Some implements that sport USB4 can work in tandem with Thunderbolt 3–capable devices.

  • Efficient Video Resource Allocation

When using USB4 ports to transport both data and video all at once, the ports will allocate the bandwidth accordingly. For example, if the video portion only requires 20 percent of the total bandwidth to use your 1080p monitor, then the unused 80 percent is free to transfer files from an external SSD.

What Port Types Will It Use?

It’s a safe bet that USB4 will operate on Type-C connectors exclusively. You’re not going to see USB4 hubs or devices sporting Type-A ports anytime soon. And this comes as no surprise since most recent standards (like USB Power Delivery) operate solely on Type-C connectors.

Pro tip: for those who are worried about not being able to use their devices on these new connection types, never fear. Get a USB-C adapter that connects non-Type-C peripherals to the laptop and expands the number of USB ports.

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Will Every USB4 Device Operate at One Speed?

While this connection type can reach speeds of 40 Gbps, not every host or device will support this standard. Instead, they will operate at three different speeds:

  • 10 Gbps
  • 20 Gbps
  • 40 Gbps

Pro tip: when USB4 releases, expect the less expensive and smaller devices like Chromebooks and phones to sport lesser speeds. Getting units that have the maximum speed isn’t a necessity for most users, so one may want to consider this when keeping to a budget.

How Does USB4 Share Bandwidth between Data and Video?

One of the most significant benefits of USB4 is its ability to automatically adjust the resource allocation when sending data and video in a single connection. This process means that any unused bandwidth is put to good use to provide faster and more reliable transfers.

How Is USB4 Thunderbolt Compatible?

Many are still confused about Thunderbolt compatibility, but Intel is trying to clear this uncertainty on its technology. The company announced its collaboration with the USB Promoter Group to make USB4.0 Thunderbolt-compatible.

This means that Thunderbolt will underpin every USB4.0 port and device to make it automatically Thunderbolt-compatible. So individuals who have these units can now enjoy speedy data transfers and display/charging functions all in one single cable.

Is It Backward-Compatible with Older Units?

What many applaud USB tech for is the compatibility of all its generations. With that said, USB4 can work with USB 2 and USB 3 ports and devices. However, the price for this is lower speeds and less capability when combining with older connections. USB 2 ports or even the latest USB 3.2 connections won’t magically get faster speeds when hooked up to a USB4 device.

Conclusion

Everyone should get ready for the release of USB4, but don’t expect to use it anytime soon. While the USB Promoter recently released the full specs, the world probably won’t see USB4 until the latter half of 2020.

Integrating the new technology in desktops, phones, and laptops will also take a while, where even a year may seem optimistic. To give you an idea, Type-C was announced back in 2014. Fast-forward to today, many devices still don’t use this connection type.

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