USB4 spec finalized, brings Thunderbolt 3 compatibility and speeds up to 40 Gbps
USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has finalized the specification for the new USB4 format (and yes, that is how it will be written – not USB 4.0). In addition to the more modernized naming scheme, the new standard will end a lot of the consumer confusion around current USB naming arrangements and performance levels. After all, how many people know off the top of their what the differences are between USB 3.0, 3.1 Gen 1, 3.1 Gen 2 and 3.2 are, particularly the latter three given they all use same Type-C connector. Not only that, but the Type-C connector is also shared between USB 3.1 Gen 1, 3.1 Gen 2 and 3.2 and the not fully compatible Thunderbolt 3 standard.
USB4, thankfully, changes all of this – except for the Type-C connector, which stays. If you’ve been following the development of the latest USB specification you will know that the USB-IF have been targeting Thunderbolt 3-like bidirectional transfer speeds of 40 Gbps. Given that this is exactly the same speed and functionality of Thunderbolt 3 you might also have been wondering how this was going to play out. Happily, USB-IF have come to an understanding with Intel (the owner of the Thunderbolt 3 IP) and USB4 will be fully compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and vice versa.
This is great news for consumers. It means that when USB4 peripherals and devices fitted with the new USB4 standard start rolling out in 2020 you will be able to plug them into existing devices already fitted with Thunderbolt 3 ports, for example. It also means that you can buy a Thunderbolt 3 device and plug it into a new device fitted with USB4 and it will also work as intended. All with the same reversible Type-C connector. It is not often we get to see sanity prevail, particularly when it comes to proprietary technology, but we will have take off our hats to team Blue for making this a reality.