Thunderbolt 3 Merges With USB to Become USB4

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A new industry standard for the popular cable specification has just been announced by the USB Promoter Group and it's going to change the way we hook up devices and transfer data.

USB4 will also be backward compatible with all USB specifications and all Thunderbolt 3 devices. This new interface introduces a new underlying protocol but is also compatible with existing USB 3.2, USB 2.0, and Thunderbolt 3.

"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 USB Promoter Group Chairman Brad Saunders in a statement.

This development should be especially welcome to those that use high-speed external docks.

One of the great benefits of basically adopting the Thunderbolt 3 standard as USB4 are that there are already lots of Thunderbolt devices available, over 450. It doubles the bandwidth of USB and enables multiple simultaneous data and display protocols.

Two-lane operation using existing USB Type-C cables and up to 40 Gbps operation over 40 Gbpscertified cables .

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If USB4 is taking the best technologies from today's ports and putting them into a single connector that could be included on even the cheapest PCs thanks to the abolition of royalty payments, then all you need to look for in your next PC purchase is a USB4 port, right? Thunderbolt 3 also provides up to 100W of power for system charging and 15W for bus-powered devices. 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.

Over 50 companies are now involved in the standard, especially those behind the USB Promoter Group - Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, ST Microelectoronics and Texas Instruments.

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.

USB 3.2 has been kicking around since 2017, but recent stirrings at MWC 2019 indicate that we should be seeing the technology actually land on shipping devices soon. It is expected that the original version will be released in the second half of this year. The USB firmware on the devices you are connecting will be able to split the data you are transferring into two individual streams on the device sending it and put it all back together into a stream of data that the device receiving it can read correctly.

"Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification is a significant milestone for making today's simplest and most versatile port available to everyone".

When will USB 4 release? "By collaborating with the USB Promoter Group, we're opening the doors for innovation across a wide range of devices and increasing compatibility to deliver better experiences to consumers".

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