The next generation USB coming up next year


You may have heard about the USB 4 which is the current latest version announced last year. This time let's have a brief about the evolution of USB along with the Thunderbolt. 

The development of Universal Serial Bus (USB) was started with the joint efforts of several pioneer companies in 1994 and the first generation Integrated Circuits (ICs) supporting USB were produced in 1995. From that time on the USB has been one of the vital and inevitable component of modern technology. 

We all are familiar and know what's the use of it. Just FYI for those people who don't know the pin configuration, out of four pin of the USB, the first and the last pins are for power and the middle two are for data transfer IN and OUT. Now, let's move to the generations and different types of USB.

USB 1 

The first generation USB called USB 1.0 came in 1996. It can provide data transfer speed 12 Mbps at maximum. Although it was designed to support both high-speed devices and low-cost peripherals like keyboards and mice, the first widely used specification USB 1.1 was made by Apple in 1998. Many thanks to the Apple company for the innovation from which many manufacturers started producing legacy-free PCs with USB ports. 

USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 

The next generation USB 2.0 came in 2001 with a higher data transfer speed of up to 480 Mbps. An then, it took seven years to develop the new and improved version USB 3.0, published in 2008, with a much higher data transfer speed of up to 5 Gbps provided backward compatibility with USB 2.0 and more efficiency in power consumption and output. Devices featuring USB 3.0 came out in 2010. 

USB 3.1 Generations 1 and 2 

Soon after the USB 3.0 was widely used, two new specifications USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 were announced in 2013. The first one retained the previous data transfer of 5 Gbps while the USB 3.1 Gen 2 introduced SuperSpeed+ transfer mode of maximum data signaling rate up to 10 Gbps. 

USB 3.2 

The USB 3.2 specification was published in 2017 which again brought two versions and the new naming scheme. USB 3.2 Gen 1 was actually the same as USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.2 Gen 2 was the improved USB 3.1 Gen 2. The USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 was the actual new and fastest version of speed up to 20Gbps. 

The new generation USB 4 

The latest and current generation called USB 4 was announced last year by the USB Promoter Group and devices featuring USB 4 standard are expected to come out next year. This new generation will be capable of data transfer speed of up to 40 Gbps along with the compatibility with Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort, Alt mode 2.0 and better resource allocation for video. These new devices with USB 4 will also be optimized for Thunderbolt 4, which was announced at the beginning of this year. 

What is Thunderbolt? 

Some of you may not be familiar with Thunderbolt as it does not offer the universality as USB. It is also a cross-platform data and power transfer standard developed by Intel in collaboration with Apple. 

The specific feature of thunderbolt is that, in case of thunderbolt, devices need to be certified for use with the standard. Thunderbolt 3 which is currently in the market supports upstream or downstream bandwidths of up to 40Gbps. 

Types of USB and Thunderbolt 

In addition to the above generations of USB, there are various types of USB namely, USB-A, USB-B, Mini-USB, Micro-USB, and USB-C. To shorten things up, we won't cover all those classical standards as they were mostly outdated from the market and as you already used and threw them away. 

Many people are still using Micro-USB as it is still around in the market. But it is eventually replacing it by the newer and better standard USB-C which is reversible and capable of faster data transfer and better power delivery speed. USB-C also offers display connectivity and thus provides the most universal port compared to the previous types and generations. It can connect almost every new devices ranging from headphones to laptops and many others. 

The current Thunderbolt 3 looks exactly the same as USB-C, in fact they are physically the same. But their features are quite different as to say. Thunderbolt 3 is the superset of USB-C, and is faster and more advanced. Important! Even though these two ports (USB-C and Thunderbolt) are physically the same, they have inner difference and different capabilities. 

Depending on the manufacturers it is not always easy to differentiate the two by looking at it. So it is important to note that there are two types with different capabilities depending on the functions supported by the device. 

The point here is, not to suspect the connection when the function you want is not supported and damage the port trying to fix the no problem situation. 

Even though USB-C is slower in speed and considered less advanced than Thunderbolt, it is, however, more all-in-one universal than Thunderbolt 3. The new USB 4 which will be optimised also for the new Thunderbolt 4 is expected to serve better than the rest. Even Apple appears to move slowly towards USB already.

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