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 2×2 (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.
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.