USB4 devices can start their rollout from next year

Back in March, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) unveiled its planned technical specs for USB4, the latest improvements for the long-serving computer connection standard.

Today, the forum has finalised these specifications meaning they’ll soon be in the hands of hardware designers and manufacturers, with a view to appearing in products from late 2020 onwards. 

Other than losing the space in its name (it really is “USB4”, not “USB 4”), outwardly ports and cables won’t look any different, as the form factor has been maintained from USB type-C. But in terms of performance, products supporting the new standard will get a significant shot in the arm, assuming a compatible cable and port. USB4 benefits from a dual-lane 40Gbps speed, which is double that currently available with USB 3.2, which caps at 20Gbps.

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More importantly, it means that USB will match the speed that the less widely used Thunderbolt 3 ports offer. It will continue to support data, power and display signals over a single cable, too. Together, these things could be a big boon to creatives who currently use Thunderbolt 3 ports for intensive work like video editing and animation. 

One other good bit of news: apparently we’re not going to get bogged down in the weird naming conventions that have dogged previous generations of USB. It’ll be USB4 until USB5 exists, according to the USB Promoter Group CEO Brad Saunders.

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One of the things I’ve [been] trying to signal right now is that we don’t plan to get into a 4.0, 4.1, 4.2 kind of iterative path,” he told Tom’s Hardware. “When and if it goes faster, we’ll simply have the faster version of the certification and the brand.”

The improvements do mean that USB4 will be more expensive to manufacture than current USB 3.2 devices, as you might imagine, but Saunders is confident this price will drop in time. “I think it’s going to be something less than Thunderbolt, but not as inexpensive as SuperSpeed in terms of the actual material cost to the product developer,” he said. “It takes a lot of gates to do it and the product still does all the SuperSpeed stuff.”

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