At the end of February the USB Implementers Forum, USB-IF, responsible for the standard that we use every day, announced USB 3.2, a substantial improvement of the 3.1 that we had been using for a couple of years. But only a week later, they have gone further: they have announced the USB 4.
Some of the features that this USB 4 has are transfer speeds twice as fast as with 3.2: 40 Gbps capable of feeding two 4K screens. These features are what the USB Thunderbolt 3 uses.
In 2015, Thunderbolt 3 was announced, a standard that uses the Type C that handles these characteristics. Through a reversible connector was sought not only to simplify the family of USB standards, but with a single cable type C will reach very high speeds and that in addition to transmitting information could also transmit sound, image, and so on.
In the year 2017 Intel proposed that this Thunderbolt 3 be expanded more and that’s why it announced that it would make the standard available to other chip manufacturers but with many freedoms; anyone would be allowed to manufacture such technology without royalties. With USB 4, Intel is finally fulfilling this promise.
This new USB will be able to transmit up to 100W of power with transfer speeds of up to 40 gigabytes per second, twice as much as USB 3.2. This speed is sufficient, as we say, to feed or a 5K screen. Any cable Thunderbolt 3 offers those same characteristics so there will be no special limitations that prevent to enjoy the USB 4 to the maximum from the first day.
Thunderbolt 3 will not cease to exist for this new USB, but will coexist. The key is that the Thunderbolt 3 is not an open standard unlike the new USB, implying that Intel requires manufacturers to be certified to use it. The USB 4 can have the same specifications, but Intel provides other Thunderbolt 3 services that go beyond the hardware itself.
The publication of the full specification of this standard will be done by the end of the year, so we will have to wait. It is also more than likely that we still do not see this technology reach our homes; USB-IF expects another year and a half to pass before manufacturers start producing devices with this standard.