USB4 Specification Merges Thunderbolt 3 and USB With Transfer Speeds up to 40Gb/s

The USB4 specification for a new version of USB was today published by the USB Implementers Forum [PDF] giving us details on what to expect from the next-generation USB architecture following a preview back in March.

USB4 is a major update that "complements and builds upon" the current USB 3.2 2x2 (USB-C) and USB 2.0 architectures. According to the USB-IF, the USB4 architecture is based on Thunderbolt, doubling the maximum bandwidth of USB and allowing for multiple simultaneous data and display protocols.

usbccable
The USB-IF outlined key specifications of the USB4 architecture, such as 40Gb/s speeds (twice the current 20Gb/s maximum) and backwards compatibility with USB 3.2 and Thunderbolt 3.

  • Two-lane operation using existing USB Type-C cables and up to 40Gbps operation over 40Gbps certified cables
  • Multiple data and display protocols that efficiently share the maximum aggregate bandwidth
  • Backward compatibility with USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3

USB4 will use the same USB-C connector design as USB 3, which means manufacturers will not need to introduce new USB4 ports into their devices.

Apple's newest Macs offer support for USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, which means most Mac users are already experiencing USB4 speeds when using Thunderbolt 3 cables and devices, but USB4 will make Thunderbolt-style speeds the new default and it will lower the cost of devices that use these faster transfer speeds.

USB Power Delivery will be required in devices built for USB4, which also means we can expect to see higher-powered chargers with multiple USB4 ports.

Though the USB4 specification is complete, it will still be some time before we can expect to see devices that take advantage of USB4. It typically takes at least a year for new products to come out following the finalization of a new specification, so it will be late 2020 or beyond before we begin seeing USB4 devices.

Top Rated Comments

zedsdead Avatar
19 months ago
One cable to rule them all.

Now lets get USB-C on an iPhone.
Score: 49 Votes (Like | Disagree)
oneMadRssn Avatar
19 months ago
One cable to rule them all.

Now lets get USB-C on an iPhone.
Don't get me wrong, I like USB-C, but it is not the panacea everyone makes it out to be. There is not "one cable." There are a large number of different USB-C cables, all with different specs, speeds, etc.

Inexpensive USB-C charging cables are limited to USB2 speeds and most of them are limited to 30W of power. There are 60W and higher cables, but in 6ft lengths there are not as many options and it's far from easy to figure out what you're going to get. Some suppliers write the limits in terms of watts, some in terms of volts and amps. Most laymen have trouble figuring it all out.

And then there are the chargers... 18W, 30W, 60W, 90W, 100W, 5V, 12V, 18V, 2A, 3A. Chargers with two ports get even more confusing. While it's relatively easy math, I don't think having people doing Ohm's Law calculations in their heads when buying chargers in cables is user-friendly.

But I mentioned basic charging cables are super slow for data. If you want to use a USB-C cable for data, then it's even more confusing. Speeds vary depending on cable length and spec variant compatibility - a USB-C Gen 1 vs USB-C Gen 2 vs Thunderbolt 3; 1.5ft vs 3ft vs 6ft. Each combination will have a different max speed. It's all very difficult for most folks to keep straight.

Basically, USB is still a spaghetti of specs and limits, and this is just adding yet another layer. Just because the physical plug of Type C is nice, does not mean all the other USB problems are solved.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Internet Enzyme Avatar
19 months ago
Congratulations Apple, you were four or five years early—you certainly earn that distinction. Too bad that the products in the meantime were entirely unflexible and annoying for anyone who wanted to conveniently use their laptop as a computer
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Spock Avatar
19 months ago
I don’t even have a Mac with USBC yet..
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tofagerl Avatar
19 months ago
Will USB4 then drop support for USB-A, B and B's little cousins mini and micro? Because if so, it's about time!
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zakarhino Avatar
19 months ago
Lightning is still the most robust port design I've ever come across for serious charging/data capabilities. I can plug my phone in every day multiple times a day for two years and the port will still be solid enough to dangle the iPhone from its charging cable no problem. Meanwhile the USB C ports on my MacBook are stupidly loose after just a couple months of use to the point where occasionally the charger would unplug itself if you move the laptop in a strange way.

I know this is controversial but I'd much rather keep a robust port on the iPhone (lightning) than a convenient yet fragile one (USB C).
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models With HDMI Port and SD Card Reader to Launch Later This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 8:52 pm PST by
Apple plans to release two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an HDMI port and SD card reader in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who outlined his expectations in a research note obtained by MacRumors. The return of an SD card reader was first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman last month. "We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...
iphone 12 pro display video

BOE Rumored to Supply iPhone 13 Display Panels After iPhone 12 Failures

Monday February 22, 2021 9:54 am PST by
Display manufacturer BOE will be one of the main suppliers of OLED panels for iPhone 13 models, according to a new report today from Taiwan's Economic Daily News. BOE is said to be working with touch panel manufacturer General Interface Solution (GIS), part of the Hon Hai Group to develop OLED panels. Multiple iPhone 12 rumors suggested that BOE would supply some panels for the devices,...
mac security privacy

Apple Takes Step to Prevent Further Spread of 'Silver Sparrow' Malware on Macs

Monday February 22, 2021 6:13 am PST by
Over the weekend, we reported on the second known piece of malware compiled to run natively on M1 Macs. Given the name "Silver Sparrow," the malicious package is said to leverage the macOS Installer JavaScript API to execute suspicious commands. After observing the malware for over a week, however, security firm Red Canary did not observe any final payload, so the exact threat to users remains a...
jon prosser imac 2021colors

Prosser: 2021 iMac to Come in Five Colors, Apple Silicon Mac Pro to Resemble 'Stacked' Mac Minis

Wednesday February 24, 2021 7:26 am PST by
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser has today alleged that the upcoming 2021 iMac models will offer five color options, mirroring the colors of the fourth-generation iPad Air, and revealed a number of additional details about the Mac Pro with Apple Silicon. In a new video on YouTube channel FrontPageTech, Prosser explained that the redesigned iMacs will come featuring options for Silver, Space ...
whatsapp privacy banner

WhatsApp Reveals What Happens to Users Who Don't Agree to Upcoming Privacy Policy Changes

Sunday February 21, 2021 1:11 am PST by
WhatsApp has revealed how it will gradually limit the features available to accounts held by users who do not accept the platform's impending privacy policy changes, due to come into effect on May 15. WhatsApp's new banner explaining the privacy policy changes According to an email seen by TechCrunch to one of its merchant partners, WhatsApp said it will "slowly ask" users who have not yet...
new airpods leaked image 52audios

Alleged Leaked Image Claims to Show Third-Generation AirPods and Case

Sunday February 21, 2021 2:49 am PST by
A new image claims to offer our first real world look at Apple's next-generation AirPods. The image, shared by 52audio, showcases both AirPods and the charging case for what the site claims to be the third iteration of the wireless earbuds. 52audio has in the past shared images claiming to showcase different parts of the third-generation AirPods. Most notably, the site in November shared...
anker magsafe powercore battery pack

Anker Releases MagSafe-Compatible Battery Pack for iPhone 12 Lineup

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:49 am PST by
Following rumors that Apple is working on a MagSafe battery pack for iPhone 12 models, popular accessory maker Anker has beaten Apple to the punch with the release of its PowerCore Magnetic 5K Wireless Power Bank. First previewed at CES 2021, the PowerCore battery pack magnetically attaches to the back of any iPhone 12 model and provides 5W of wireless charging. With a 5,000 mAh capacity,...
iPad Pro Mini LED

New iPad Pro and MacBook Models With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Taiwanese company Ennostar will begin production of Mini-LED backlight units for an upcoming 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the late first quarter or second quarter of this year, according to industry sources cited by DigiTimes. Ennostar is a holding company that was jointly established in January 2021 by LED-related manufacturers Epistar and Lextar Electronics. Apple is expected to unveil the new ...
14

iOS 14.5 to Make Zero-Click Attacks 'Significantly Harder'

Monday February 22, 2021 9:05 am PST by
Apple's impending iOS and iPadOS 14.5 update will make zero-click attacks considerably more difficult by extending PAC security provisions, according to Motherboard. Apple has made a change to the way in which it secures its code in the latest betas of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 to make zero-click attacks much harder. The change, spotted by security researchers, has now been confirmed by...