USB 3.2 may be a bit of a mess right now, but that will hopefully not be the case with USB4.
The USB Promoter Group has just announced a new USB4 specification, which bridges USB and Thunderbolt together. Finally. This is a direct result of Intel’s push to make Thunderbolt more widely available (without royalties). Now, USB4 is based on Thunderbolt 3, which means the maximum data transfer speed is set at 40 Gbps. USB4 can also support a pair of external 4K displays, and one 5K display over a single cable.
“The new USB4 architecture defines a method to share a single high-speed link with multiple end device types dynamically that best serves the transfer of data by type and application. As the USB Type-C™ connector has evolved into the role as the external display port of many host products, the USB4 specification provides the host the ability to optimally scale allocations for display data flow. Even as the USB4 specification introduces a new underlying protocol, compatibility with existing USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3 hosts and devices is supported; the resulting connection scales to the best mutual capability of the devices being connected.”
According to The Verge, Intel is going to continue to offer Thunderbolt 3 as a separate entity for the time being. Doing so, the company will be able to offer support for more technical issues and reference designs to manufacturers. USB4 won’t be getting those two perks, though.
USB4 is backwards-compatible with USB 3.2 and USB 2.0, and it will use the USB Type-C connector. The specification should be published to manufacturers sometime in the middle of this year. Once it does, there should be even more accessory options out there for consumers.