Thunderbolt 3 and USB Converge With New 40 Gbps USB4 Specification

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The USB Promoter Group standards body today announced the pending release of a new USB4 specification.


USB4 converges the Thunderbolt and USB protocols as part of Intel's goal to make Thunderbolt available on a royalty-free basis, which should result in wider and cheaper availability of Thunderbolt accessories like docks and eGPUs.

As USB4 is based on Thunderbolt 3, it offers data transfer speeds up to 40 Gbps, which is twice as fast as the bandwidth of the latest USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 specification. USB4's underlying Thunderbolt 3 protocol also means the specification supports up to two 4K displays or one 5K display over a single cable.

The simplest way to view USB4 is as Thunderbolt 3, but royalty free for manufacturers. Intel will continue to offer Thunderbolt 3 on a standalone basis with a few advantages over USB4, including more support with reference designs and technical issues for manufacturers, according to The Verge.

USB4 will use the USB-C connector design and will be backwards compatible with USB 3.2 and USB 2.0 specifications.

The USB4 specification is on track to be published around the middle of 2019. Over 50 companies are actively participating in the final stages of review of the draft specification, which should include Apple, Intel, and Microsoft, but it might take a few years until the first USB4 devices are released.

Article Link: Thunderbolt 3 and USB Converge With New 40 Gbps USB4 Specification
 

Wig321

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Sep 13, 2018
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So reading this there’s no difference to thunderbolt 3? Will thunderbolt 3 ports on Macs be compatible with usb4?
 

leman

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Oct 14, 2008
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Excellent news! I hope that the consortium learns from their mistakes and introduces more strict certification for USB4 cable capabilities.
 
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BGPL

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May 4, 2016
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It must be killing apple to work with others on a standard while keeping the same connector. I can't wait to see USB-A ports go away... so this is great news, but I find it hard to believe that apple will continue down this road for much longer.
 

cmaier

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Jul 25, 2007
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So reading this there’s no difference to thunderbolt 3? Will thunderbolt 3 ports on Macs be compatible with usb4?
There’s some details that make it sound like usb4 will offer some lane assignment flexibility beyond tb3, making it a superset. But it isnt clear.
 

ksec

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Dec 23, 2015
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Seriously I said this in 2016 and 2017. ( I need to dig that up ) And said we need USB 4 instead of all the mess we have with USB 3.2

Finally they are doing something about it!.


Edit: I guess I was too excited.

This means USB-C will now be the only option. No more USB 3.0 / USB 3.1 ( Or as they are now called USB 3.2 Gen1 / Get 2 ) with Type A Connector. Every USB 4 will be USB-C.

And since USB 4 will mandate the 40Gbps and Thunderbolt 3, it means there is certain quality assurance to USB 4 cable.

Finally, there will be a possibility that iPhone will switch to USB 4, may be just USB 4 with 5Gbps Speed. And I am happy to see this change. ( That is assuming they don't mess up the USB 4 Spec )

Edit 2: After further Reading, 100W Power Delivery may or may not be included in the standard by default. That is kind of expected because it will be quite expensive, but I hope the Standard don't leave it to the Cable Vendor.

And it seems Intel were not lying about opening up TB3. They announced it in 2018 2017, so it has been more than 12 24 months now. I was thinking if Intel were holding TB3 as part of the negotiation with Apple, given how heavily invested Apple is in the TB ecosystem.

I guess the relationship between Intel and Apple aren't as bad. Hopefully more good things to come from both company.
 
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jimothyGator

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Jun 12, 2008
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This is wonderful news! Of course, by mid-2019, Thunderbolt 4 will be ready. I wonder if Thunderbolt will always be one generation ahead of USB, or if they'll full merge the two standards?
My guess is there will be no Thunderbolt 4. What would be Thunderbolt 4 will instead be USB 5. One Connector to Rule Them All. No more DisplayPort. 8K @ 60Hz. Time will tell.
 
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kemal

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Dec 21, 2001
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Thunderbolt 3 is an alternate mode for USB C. So will the USB C spec differ from the USB 4 spec, other than the lack of TB royalty payment? This is a cluster.
 

jimothyGator

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Jun 12, 2008
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It must be killing apple to work with others on a standard while keeping the same connector. I can't wait to see USB-A ports go away... so this is great news, but I find it hard to believe that apple will continue down this road for much longer.
Other than Lightning (and Smart Connector on iPad Pro, I suppose), when is the last time Apple had a proprietary connector? Even the original Thunderbolt was developed with Intel and available to other PC makers.
 

JosephAW

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May 14, 2012
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USB 5 will probably require a new cable form factor making previous versions obsolete and incompatible.
I can't plus a USB 3 thunderbolt device into an old USB 2 port or thunderbolt without a dongle.
 
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AngerDanger

macrumors 601
Dec 9, 2008
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Seriously I said this in 2016 and 2017. ( I need to big that up ) And said we need USB 4 instead of all the mess we have with USB 3.2

Finally they are doing something about it!.

Edit:

This means USB-C will now be the only option. No more USB 3.0 / USB 3.1 ( Or as they are now called USB 3.2 Gen1 / Get 2 ) with Type A Connector. Every USB 4 will be USB-C.

And since USB 4 will mandate the 40Gbps and Thunderbolt 3, it means there is certain quality assurance to USB 4 cable.

Finally, there will be a possibility that iPhone will switch to USB 4, may be just USB 4 with 5Gbps Speed. And I am happy to see this change. ( That is assuming they don't mess up the USB 4 Spec )
Can’t believe they ignored you for 2–3 years! Who do they think they are?! :eek:
 

jimothyGator

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Jun 12, 2008
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Atlanta, GA
USB 5 will probably require a new cable form factor making previous versions obsolete and incompatible.
I can't plus a USB 3 thunderbolt device into an old USB 2 port or thunderbolt without a dongle.
I doubt it. I think that Intel, if not Apple as well, has learned the benefits of a single cable connection. USB Type C is the result of that learning. They'll stick with it for as long possible, until it's physically impossible to increase the bandwidth over the same wiring.

I'll place a bet with you: If USB 5 doesn't use the USB Type C connector, I owe you a beer. Bookmark this page and get back to me.
 

Ifti

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Dec 14, 2010
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So USB4 is just the same as TB3, just royalty free for manufacturers and peripheral makers?

So does that mean my Thunderbolt 3 drives can be classed as USB4??