USB4: everything ready for equipment and peripherals to go up to another level of connectivity

USB4 is the latest approved standard for the technology industry’s most popular device and peripheral interconnect port. Its practical product launch is imminent and promises to improve on previous standards in several areas starting with performance.

2021 will be a year of premiere and deployment of a good number of new standards that will enliven the technological landscape. We are talking about the PCIe 5.0 interface; the new generation of DDR5 RAM; the new version of the Wi-Fi 6E wireless standard or the new generation of 5G mobile networks that is expected to take off definitively and also reach personal computers.

The one that concerns us today, USB4, is also important considering that USB is used by hundreds of millions of devices. Its final specifications were published by the body responsible for this standard, USB-IF, and there are several announced platforms that will support it. We put you in a situation of what we can expect from this external port, the most important on the market.

USB4, a denomination against chaos

USB4, USB 4 connectivity
Usb 4

The trademark policy followed so far in USB has been an attack against common sense. The organization responsible for the standard has not done justice to the original name of the port ( Universal Serial Bus ) and has been determined to complicate the names to know the different versions of a fundamental standard in the industry. It is what you have when marketing is imposed on the technique and logic of things.

Thus, in addition to the interfaces or protocols (basically the way of transferring the data) that have been defining the standard (and which have not been few: USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Gen 1; 3.1, 3.0, 2.0 …) it has used other names according to their maximum speed, which, although not part of the standard, have been extremely confusing. And then there are the connectors, up to six different ones available, although this section has been well resolved with the universality that the USB Type-C connector has brought.

USB-IF finally brings order with USB4 following the reorganization that Wi-Fi Alliance has established in the wireless standard when launching Wi-Fi 6, promising the adoption of more understandable brand definitions for any user and that they should avoid in the future confusion caused by incremental updates to previous standards.

Thunderbolt performance and more

USB types
USB types

One of the keys to USB4 is its convergence with Thunderbolt, the other great interface. Once Intel has opened the Thunderbolt specifications and shared them with the USB Promoter Group, all manufacturers will be able to use it royalty-free. This will increase compatibility between products, simplifying the way you connect computers, peripherals, and devices.

And increasing performance. It is one of the great improvements of the new standard, since it will double its base bandwidth to 40 Gbps, the maximum offered so far by the industry in Thunderbolt 4. Another of the improvements of the version will be the use of multiple protocols of data to take full advantage of the maximum available bandwidth.

Here it should be mentioned that USB4 devices can support three maximum speeds: 10 Gbps, 20 Gbps and 40 Gbps, so the user will have to review the specifications of a specific device (for example a new laptop) to know the maximum performance that You can reach.

It will also improve the compatibility to connect devices and equipment that are now limited to the Thunderbolt 3 port. The standard will be backward compatible with previous versions of the standard, all versions of USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, although as is obvious in those cases it will not take advantage of its full potential.

The charging device is another section that improves. USB4 will support the USB PD charging standard, which means that smartphones and other devices will be able to recharge batteries much faster, as long as they are designed to support fast charging, a function that is practically used from the mid-range upwards. In addition, the integration with Thunderbolt 4 will allow powers of up to 100 watts, enough to also charge tablets or laptops.

USB Type C improves with USB4

USB Type-C was an absolute success and its massive deployment has achieved what the industry and consumers demanded: a great connection standard, universal, multipurpose and with greater potential than all USB previously produced, while its symmetrical and reversible design facilitates greatly the connection when operating in any position and reduces the possibility of breaking the previous connectors as it happened until now.

It should be remembered that USB Type C supports a wide variety of other protocols which allows you to connect interfaces such as HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt and even the analog VGA video port. USB 4 will bring improvements in this area especially with the DisplayPort Alt Mode 2.0 created in collaboration between VESA and USB-IF.

The new standard triples the bandwidth of DisplayPort 1.4a up to 77.4 Gbps. In practice, a computer that uses USB4 and this special DisplayPort mode, will be able with a USB Type-C cable to feed multimedia content to a screen with an impressive resolution of 16K at 60 Hz. It will also allow to increase the refresh rates for 4K monitors and 8K yy will offer improved performance for virtual and augmented reality uses.

As an example, this specification should be able to offer simultaneous content on three displays with 4K resolution at 144 Hz and with support for high dynamic range. A blessing for those who like multiscreen, although the computer you connect to will have to have a monumental performance especially in the graphics section.

We hope that USB 4 will be available this year. Intel, AMD, and ARM have already announced support on their new platforms. The standard will be used in all types of equipment, mainly laptops, tablets and smartphones, in addition to what comes from external storage devices, monitors and all kinds of peripherals to those that need more power such as external graphics that until now had to use Thunderbolt.

USB4, PCIe 5.0, DDR5, Wi-Fi 6E, 5G… A great year for the deployment of new standards, although consumers will have to scratch our pockets if we want to keep up with the advances proposed by the technology industry.

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