New USB 4 is enhanced Thunderbolt 3 with advanced connection bandwidth sharing

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 4
USB 4, the next version of the connectivity protocol, is said by the USB Promoter Group to offer computer users a throughput of up to 40Gbps and other features of Thunderbolt 3, following the contribution of the Thunderbolt protocol specification to the group by Intel.

A USB Type-C cable is used to connect to MacBooks.
A USB Type-C cable is used to connect to MacBooks.


A future generation of USB, the USB Promoter Group revealed the release of the USB 4 specification is on the way, and would effectively offer all of the benefits of Thunderbolt 3. While the implementation of USB 4 by vendors may be a long time away from happening, the draft specification itself is expected to be published later in 2019.

The specification is largely expected to cover most, if not all, of what is currently capable under Thunderbolt 3, as chip producer Intel has contributed Thunderbolt 3 to the group. The provision will effectively make it easier for vendors to produce devices using the technology at a cheaper rate than at present, and possibly without any of the current confusion of USB and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity due to using the same USB Type-C connector.

The benefits of USB 4 will be largely consistent with Thunderbolt 3, including a throughput of up to 40Gbps, and may include elements such as power deliver of up to 100W, allowing notebooks to be charged over the same connection as driving 4K and 5K displays. The spec will offer backwards compatibility with earlier USB standards, including USB 3.2 and USB 2.0, as well as Thunderbolt 3 itself.

Intel has planned to offer Thunderbolt 3 as a royalty-free standard to manufactures for some time, with Monday's announcement being a culmination of that work.

"Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification is a significant milestone for making today's simplest and most versatile port available to everyone," said Jason Ziller, General Manager, Client Connectivity Division at Intel. "By collaborating with the USB Promoter Group, we're opening the doors for innovation across a wide range of devices and increasing compatibility to deliver better experiences to consumers."

While Apple is already an adopter of Thunderbolt 3, the change will help with the creation of more accessories that will work at the higher connection speeds and have support for the standard, in part due to it becoming more widely available. Indeed, Intel's integration of Thunderbolt 3 into future processors, including "Ice Lake" chips announced earlier this year, will help further that support.

USB 4 would follow after the impending availability of USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, which recently underwent a somewhat confusing name change. That specification will be an upgrade from USB 3.1, now known as USB 3.2 Gen 2, doubling the bandwidth from 10Gbps to 20Gbps.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    marsorrymarsorry Posts: 38member
    Good grief - the pace of development is quick. I still don't own a device with a USB connector or Thunderbolt 3 yet...
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 25
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,799member
    Interesting. I wonder if USB will be adopting the equal peer relationship, or fitting the Thunderbolt features into its master-slave model.
    randominternetpersoncaladanian
  • Reply 3 of 25
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,436administrator
    crowley said:
    Interesting. I wonder if USB will be adopting the equal peer relationship, or fitting the Thunderbolt features into its master-slave model.
    Good question. We'll see later this year when the spec is published in full.
    chia
  • Reply 4 of 25
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,939member
    Good part is physical connector still USB Type-C and protocol backward compatibility to Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.x
    dysamoria
  • Reply 5 of 25
    payecopayeco Posts: 295member
    Weird, I was just thinking about this last night. I was wondering if Thunderbolt would eventually just get added to the USB spec, or the tech would just be discontinued like FireWire, after I had a read a comment from someone on Reddit that thought Thunderbolt was a Mac only technology because so few PCs include it. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 25
    payecopayeco Posts: 295member
    marsorry said:
    Good grief - the pace of development is quick. I still don't own a device with a USB connector or Thunderbolt 3 yet...
    The first Thunderbolt 3 products hit the market in 2015, so 4 years ago. USB-C came out a year before that. Not that quick...
    repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 25
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,064member
    Do the thunderbolt features include daisy chaining?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 25
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,414member
    wood1208 said:
    Good part is physical connector still USB Type-C and protocol backward compatibility to Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.x
    Yes, but sounds like a potential cable nightmare ... 
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 25
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 559member
    dysamoria said:
    Do the thunderbolt features include daisy chaining?
    Yes. I daisy chain a FW800 drive through an audio interface via TB 2 currently. 
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 25
    payeco said:
    marsorry said:
    Good grief - the pace of development is quick. I still don't own a device with a USB connector or Thunderbolt 3 yet...
    The first Thunderbolt 3 products hit the market in 2015, so 4 years ago. USB-C came out a year before that. Not that quick...
    Compared to the dozens (hundreds?) of standards we take for granted every day, which are stable over decades, 4 years is the blink of an eye.  
    baconstang
  • Reply 11 of 25
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,799member
    dysamoria said:
    Do the thunderbolt features include daisy chaining?
    Yes, though I don't think it's quite as permissive as USB.  IIRC Thunderbolt daisy chaining is limited to a single figure number of devices (7? 8? I forget), whereas USB is upwards of 20.  Or course, that's only for pure Thunderbolt devices, and since Thunderbolt supports the USB spec you can have 20+ USB devices daisy chained through Thunderbolt.

    I think in either case we're talking niche scenarios though.  If people are daisy chaining devices at all they're likely only chaining up 2 or 3.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 25
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,436administrator
    crowley said:
    dysamoria said:
    Do the thunderbolt features include daisy chaining?
    Yes, though I don't think it's quite as permissive as USB.  IIRC Thunderbolt daisy chaining is limited to a single figure number of devices (7? 8? I forget), whereas USB is upwards of 20.  Or course, that's only for pure Thunderbolt devices, and since Thunderbolt supports the USB spec you can have 20+ USB devices daisy chained through Thunderbolt.

    I think in either case we're talking niche scenarios though.  If people are daisy chaining devices at all they're likely only chaining up 2 or 3.
    USB doesn't allow daisy-chaining at all. Thunderbolt is that daisy-chain and doesn't allow what USB mandates -- hub/spoke. It'll be interesting to see how USB4 develops in this regard, though.
    edited March 4 randominternetpersoncaladanianchiarepressthisdysamoriabaconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 25
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,799member
    crowley said:
    dysamoria said:
    Do the thunderbolt features include daisy chaining?
    Yes, though I don't think it's quite as permissive as USB.  IIRC Thunderbolt daisy chaining is limited to a single figure number of devices (7? 8? I forget), whereas USB is upwards of 20.  Or course, that's only for pure Thunderbolt devices, and since Thunderbolt supports the USB spec you can have 20+ USB devices daisy chained through Thunderbolt.

    I think in either case we're talking niche scenarios though.  If people are daisy chaining devices at all they're likely only chaining up 2 or 3.
    USB doesn't allow daisy-chaining at all. Thunderbolt is that daisy-chain and doesn't allow what USB mandates -- hub/spoke. It'll be interesting to see how USB4 develops in this regard, though.
    Ok fair enough.  Via USB splitting through hubs you can have up to 127 (I checked) devices via USB though, while Thunderbolt daisy chaining only supports 6 devices.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 25
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,436administrator
    crowley said:
    crowley said:
    dysamoria said:
    Do the thunderbolt features include daisy chaining?
    Yes, though I don't think it's quite as permissive as USB.  IIRC Thunderbolt daisy chaining is limited to a single figure number of devices (7? 8? I forget), whereas USB is upwards of 20.  Or course, that's only for pure Thunderbolt devices, and since Thunderbolt supports the USB spec you can have 20+ USB devices daisy chained through Thunderbolt.

    I think in either case we're talking niche scenarios though.  If people are daisy chaining devices at all they're likely only chaining up 2 or 3.
    USB doesn't allow daisy-chaining at all. Thunderbolt is that daisy-chain and doesn't allow what USB mandates -- hub/spoke. It'll be interesting to see how USB4 develops in this regard, though.
    Ok fair enough.  Via USB splitting through hubs you can have up to 127 (I checked) devices via USB though, while Thunderbolt daisy chaining only supports 6 devices.
    Yeah. I can't even imagine how choked a 127-device USB chain is for bandwidth, though.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 25
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 580member
    crowley said:
    Interesting. I wonder if USB will be adopting the equal peer relationship, or fitting the Thunderbolt features into its master-slave model.
    The cheaper master-slave model is how USB beat every generation of Firewire and Thunderbolt for the past twenty years, and I don't see anything in this description that suggests this would change, but a person can dream I guess…

    More important than performance enhancements, IMO, would be fixing the inherit insecurity of USB. Building crypto into the standard, or whatever is necessary… I think they missed a huge opportunity by not making that part of USB-C, where you'd know a device is trustworthy simply by what kind of plug it uses.
    https://www.wired.com/2014/07/usb-security/
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 25
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,293member
    mac_128 said:
    wood1208 said:
    Good part is physical connector still USB Type-C and protocol backward compatibility to Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.x
    Yes, but sounds like a potential cable nightmare ... 
    Actually, I think it would be an improvement. Or a potential one anyway. 

    The nightmare is what we have now - USB C connector but no standard on what the cables are capable of in terms of power, speed, etc, nor any standard as to whether a given USB port is straight USB or thunderbolt. And then there's the whole USB 3 naming cluster...
    chasmbaconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 25
    anomeanome Posts: 1,266member
    Eric_WVGG said:
    crowley said:
    Interesting. I wonder if USB will be adopting the equal peer relationship, or fitting the Thunderbolt features into its master-slave model.
    The cheaper master-slave model is how USB beat every generation of Firewire and Thunderbolt for the past twenty years, and I don't see anything in this description that suggests this would change, but a person can dream I guess…

    I think it was more due to the licensing fees Intel charged for Thunderbolt patents (And those Apple charged for FireWire) that contributed more to the cost. With Intel providing TB3 to the USB 4 spec, those costs go away.

    There may be a slight cost difference between the Master/Slave and Peering, but those probably amount to fractions of a cent per unit, as opposed to dollars per unit (or whatever the licence currently costs).

    It's also quite likely they'll implement both to provide compatibility with both earlier USB and ThunderBolt implementations. Which could lead to even more confusion around which cables work with which combination of devices working in which mode. But the USB-IF have never done anything confusing in the past...

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 25
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,064member
    crowley said:
    dysamoria said:
    Do the thunderbolt features include daisy chaining?
    Yes, though I don't think it's quite as permissive as USB.  IIRC Thunderbolt daisy chaining is limited to a single figure number of devices (7? 8? I forget), whereas USB is upwards of 20.  Or course, that's only for pure Thunderbolt devices, and since Thunderbolt supports the USB spec you can have 20+ USB devices daisy chained through Thunderbolt.

    I think in either case we're talking niche scenarios though.  If people are daisy chaining devices at all they're likely only chaining up 2 or 3.
    USB doesn't allow daisy-chaining at all. Thunderbolt is that daisy-chain and doesn't allow what USB mandates -- hub/spoke. It'll be interesting to see how USB4 develops in this regard, though.
    I’m shocked at how many people here needed that explanation and don’t know what daisy chaining is and what does and does not have it. I thought we were all tech people here.

    So no news then on whether USB gets daisy chaining from thunderbolt. That would be nice, but it has never been the case to date, and part of the excuse for why FireWire was “so expensive” was that the chipset needed inside each device to support the bus was more expensive than USB.

    Yeah, USB mandates hubs (ridiculously; I have three on one computer). FireWire does not have hubs, but it does allow a repeater to be added to a chain, giving you an extra two ports (though I don’t know if this is in the spec and some devices reportedly don’t like them). These devices are rare and expensive and I have many times sought them out but yet to actually pull the trigger on paying for one.

    It has always annoyed me that a lot of FireWire product makers have cheaped out on a second FireWire port, killing any potential of daisy chaining from their devices (looking at you, M-Audio). I haven’t yet owned a single thunderbolt device (except an iMac 12,2), so I don’t know if product makers have been doing the same cheapass thing with thunderbolt ports too. IMO, a product shouldn’t even be certified for the format logo if it breaks daisy chaining. It should be mandatory to allow the bus to continue through any device using it.
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 25
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,064member

    crowley said:
    crowley said:
    dysamoria said:
    Do the thunderbolt features include daisy chaining?
    Yes, though I don't think it's quite as permissive as USB.  IIRC Thunderbolt daisy chaining is limited to a single figure number of devices (7? 8? I forget), whereas USB is upwards of 20.  Or course, that's only for pure Thunderbolt devices, and since Thunderbolt supports the USB spec you can have 20+ USB devices daisy chained through Thunderbolt.

    I think in either case we're talking niche scenarios though.  If people are daisy chaining devices at all they're likely only chaining up 2 or 3.
    USB doesn't allow daisy-chaining at all. Thunderbolt is that daisy-chain and doesn't allow what USB mandates -- hub/spoke. It'll be interesting to see how USB4 develops in this regard, though.
    Ok fair enough.  Via USB splitting through hubs you can have up to 127 (I checked) devices via USB though, while Thunderbolt daisy chaining only supports 6 devices.
    Yeah. I can't even imagine how choked a 127-device USB chain is for bandwidth, though.
    It really depends on what those devices are doing at any given time.  If most of them are mostly inactive, their bus activity is likely minimal. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 25
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,064member

    crowley said:
    crowley said:
    dysamoria said:
    Do the thunderbolt features include daisy chaining?
    Yes, though I don't think it's quite as permissive as USB.  IIRC Thunderbolt daisy chaining is limited to a single figure number of devices (7? 8? I forget), whereas USB is upwards of 20.  Or course, that's only for pure Thunderbolt devices, and since Thunderbolt supports the USB spec you can have 20+ USB devices daisy chained through Thunderbolt.

    I think in either case we're talking niche scenarios though.  If people are daisy chaining devices at all they're likely only chaining up 2 or 3.
    USB doesn't allow daisy-chaining at all. Thunderbolt is that daisy-chain and doesn't allow what USB mandates -- hub/spoke. It'll be interesting to see how USB4 develops in this regard, though.
    Ok fair enough.  Via USB splitting through hubs you can have up to 127 (I checked) devices via USB though, while Thunderbolt daisy chaining only supports 6 devices.
    Interesting. I’m actually surprised by that low number. 
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