USB4 specs released promising double speed and sensible naming conventions

THE FINAL SPECIFICATION for the next version of USB has been released.

USB-IF, the industry body which regulates the standard announced USB4 (note new punctuation, pedants) back in March, but has now revealed more details of what it means for your peripherals vision.

The headline spec is that USB4 can handle 40gb/s – twice the speed of USB 3.2. It’s fully backwards compatible with previous generations of cable, up to their maximum speed – so for USB-C cables, that’s between 10gb/s and 20gb/s depending on generation. Come on – keep up, it’s not that hard.

For the first time, Thunderbolt 3 is to become standard in USB4 after Intel donated the spec it created to USB-IF. Given the ridiculous frontier law that seems to govern USB at the moment (just look at that naming convention – it stinks!) there’s every chance that smaller Chinese suppliers will label stuff as USB4 without Thunderbolt 3, but they’re really not meant to.

The new standard also makes better use of USB-C’s ability to be one-cable-fits all, splitting data transfer and power delivery in a way that’s easier for the machine to differentiate, and allot power appropriately between multiple devices in the same port.

If you’re thinking this feels a bit too soon after USB 3.x (or whatever it’s called this week) then you’d be right. This is just the specification, and it’s a big ol’ beast. We probably won’t see much more of USB4 until late 2020 or early 2021 when the first products are designed, manufactured and go on sale, which means that pricing is going to be a factor. We’d expect that USB-IF will continue to promote USB 3.x for some time yet, with USB4 being promoted as a premium product.

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But there’s good news on the naming convention – USB4 is the be all and end all. No sub-versions. No branding. It’ll be USB4 all the way till USB5, which probably means 2025. μ

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