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
22 months ago
One cable to rule them all.

Now lets get USB-C on an iPhone.
Score: 49 Votes (Like | Disagree)
oneMadRssn Avatar
22 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
22 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
22 months ago
I don’t even have a Mac with USBC yet..
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tofagerl Avatar
22 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
22 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

General Music and AirPod 3 Feature

Rumor: Apple to Announce Third-Generation AirPods and HiFi Apple Music Tier on May 18

Thursday May 13, 2021 10:32 pm PDT by
A new rumor suggests that Apple will announce the third-generation AirPods and the recently rumored HiFi, or high-fidelity Apple Music tier, on Tuesday, May 18, via a press release on its website. The new rumor comes from Apple YouTuber Luke Miani who shared the alleged exclusive news with the AppleTrack website. According to the YouTuber, Apple plans to release the next-generation AirPods...
2021 mbp hdmi slot 3d

2021 MacBook Pro Leaks Confirm Returning MagSafe and Ports

Friday May 14, 2021 3:06 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming MacBook Pro models are expected to feature a number of major changes such as larger display options and powerful new Apple silicon chips. Among the more surprising updates to this year's MacBook Pro models is the return of three ports that have been missing from the machines for over five years. Expected to come in 14- and 16-inch sizes, the 2021 MacBook Pro models are...
apple park drone june 2018 2

Apple Fires Newly Hired Ex-Facebook Product Manager Following Revelations of Past Misogynistic Comments

Thursday May 13, 2021 12:10 am PDT by
Apple has fired Antonio García Martínez, an ex-Facebook product manager and author of the controversial book "Chaos Monkeys," following public and internal calls for removal and investigation due to past misogynistic statements, The Verge reports. Apple hired Martínez earlier this week to join its ads team, however, comments that Martínez made in the past sparked condemnation from users...
magic mouse space gray discontinued

Apple Discontinuing Space Gray Mac Accessories Now That iMac Pro is Dead

Friday May 14, 2021 11:52 am PDT by
Following the discontinuation of the iMac Pro, Apple also appears to be discontinuing Space Gray "Magic" accessories that it sold separately alongside the iMac Pro. The iMac Pro was the only Space Gray Mac, and Apple designed special matching accessories for it. The Space Gray Magic Mouse 2, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad all now say "While supplies last" in small wording at the bottom...
tile amazon sidewalk integration

Apple Says Tile Trackers Sold Poorly in Apple Stores

Friday May 14, 2021 4:53 am PDT by
Earlier last month, Spotify, Tile, and Match (owner of Tinder), testified at an app store antitrust hearing spearheaded by the U.S. Senate. During the hearing, Spotify called Apple's App Store "an abusive power grab," while Tile said Apple uses its platform to "unfairly limit competition for its products." Now, in response to their testimonies, Apple's vice president and chief compliance...
google photos

PSA: Google Photos Unlimited Storage Ends Next Month, Here's How to Export Your Pictures to iCloud

Thursday May 13, 2021 5:26 am PDT by
For as long as it's existed, Google Photos has offered free unlimited storage for uploading images at a reduced yet good enough quality for most users. From June 1, 2021, however, all photos and videos uploaded to Google accounts will count against users' cloud storage. If you've been relying on Google to back up your media library, it may be time to move that content elsewhere. This article...
fortnite apple logo 2

Judge in Epic vs. Apple Case Floats Potential Compromise

Wednesday May 12, 2021 3:54 pm PDT by
In the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games, the two companies are this week calling up their expert witnesses to argue their points before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who will make a decision in the case after a three week trial. Expert testimony is not as exciting as some of the leaked App Store documents that were highlighted last week, especially as much of what's being...
syng cell alpha

Longtime Apple Designer Christopher Stringer's Latest Project Is a High-Fidelity Speaker With AirPlay 2

Friday May 14, 2021 7:30 am PDT by
Christopher Stringer, a key member of Jony Ive's design team who spent 21 years at Apple before departing in 2017, is resurfacing today with his new venture Syng, which seeks to make an impact in the high-end audio market. Stringer, who contributed to many of the most iconic product designs in Apple's history, announced his plans roughly a year ago, and Syng is today introducing its flagship ...
Twitter Feature

Twitter's 'Blue' Subscription Service May Cost $2.99, Will Offer Undo Tweet Option

Saturday May 15, 2021 11:08 am PDT by
Twitter has been working on some kind of subscription service since last summer, and Jane Manchun Wong, who often digs into new features coming in apps, has shared details on just what Twitter is exploring. Twitter's subscription service could be called Twitter Blue, and at the current time, it's priced at $2.99 per month. There will be a "Collections" section that allows users to save and...
imac m1 blue isolated 16x9 500k

M1 iMac is Up to 56% Faster Than Prior-Generation High-End 21.5-Inch iMac

Wednesday May 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Apple's M1 iMacs are set to start delivering to customers next week, and ahead of the official launch day, benchmarks for the machines have been showing up on Geekbench, likely from reviewers who are testing them. It will come as no surprise that M1 iMac benchmarks are right on par with benchmarks for the M1 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini, coming in with an average single-core score...