USB 4 is here, and is essentially Thunderbolt 3

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited September 3
After a tease in March, the USB Implementation Forum has declared that it has completed the USB 4 standard, implementing the USB-C connector, plus 40Gbps speed and other features of Thunderbolt 3.




The USB Implementers Forum has announced that revealed USB 4 is finalized for wide deployment. 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 spans Thunderbolt 3, as chip producer Intel has contributed Thunderbolt 3 to the group. The inclusion 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 -- and some disadvantages -- of USB 4 are the same as those of Thunderbolt 3, including a throughput of up to 40Gbps, and may include elements such as power delivery of up to 100W, allowing notebooks to be charged over the same connection as the one sending a video signal to 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.

The advantages of the protocol as a whole are constrained somewhat by cabling. The USB-C connector spans a wide variety of speeds and power requirements. There is not yet a labeling standard that the cable manufacturers must abide by, making cable selection by users somewhat problematic.

The implementation comes after Intel has offered the Thunderbolt 3 standard royalty-free to manufacturers with Tuesday's announcement, being the end-point of that.

"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 follows after the 2019 debut 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 43
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,969member
    Does "essentially" mean something other than "exactly"? 

    Are there things TB3 can do that USB4 cannot? 
    razorpitlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 43
    What I'd like to ask the great minds at AppleInsider and their very smart readership is WHY, if I use a new Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD https://www.sandisk.com/home/ssd/extreme-portable-ssd configured with a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C connector, connected to a new Macbook Pro's Thunderbolt 3 port, do I ONLY get 550MB/s (4Gbps) instead of 10Gbps (1250MB/s) ? Seems like I'm chugging at half speed. What am I missing here?
    edited September 3 watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 43
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 5,006administrator
    riclf said:
    What I ask the great minds at AppleInsider and their very smart readership is WHY, if I use a new Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD https://www.sandisk.com/home/ssd/extreme-portable-ssd configured with a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C connector, connected to a new Macbook Pro's Thunderbolt 3 port, do I ONLY get 550MB/s (4Gbps) instead of 10Gbps (1250MB/s) ? Seems like I'm chugging at half speed. What am I missing here?
    Probably because the SANdisk SSD uses a SATA3 to USB-C bridge board in the enclosure. The limiting factor is the bridge board, not the connector.
    StrangeDaysheadfull0winericlfrazorpittaddviclauyycnetmagestompylolliverllama
  • Reply 4 of 43
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 5,006administrator

    blastdoor said:
    Does "essentially" mean something other than "exactly"? 

    Are there things TB3 can do that USB4 cannot? 
    They aren't precisely the same. In theory, the TB3 spec divorced from USB4 can use optical cables, whereas USB4 cannot, but this may be an academic difference as there are no optical TB3 cables yet.

    The hand-off of different speed devices on a TB3 host device versus a USB4 host device is a little different, meaning how a 40Gbit chain responds to a 5,10, or 20Gbit device being plugged in varies between the two protocols.
    StrangeDaysheadfull0winenetmagestompylolliverrevenantchasmkuraiwatto_cobraRadio_Signal
  • Reply 5 of 43
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,740member
    riclf said:
    What I'd like to ask the great minds at AppleInsider and their very smart readership is WHY, if I use a new Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD https://www.sandisk.com/home/ssd/extreme-portable-ssd configured with a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C connector, connected to a new Macbook Pro's Thunderbolt 3 port, do I ONLY get 550MB/s (4Gbps) instead of 10Gbps (1250MB/s) ? Seems like I'm chugging at half speed. What am I missing here?
    Is this a trick question? The page you linked to states over and over again that the read speeds are up to 550 MB/s.
    chian2itivguyrazorpitbonobobmacplusplusnetmagetdknoxfastasleeprevenantchasm
  • Reply 6 of 43
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,982member
    This is very interesting. But it raises questions. The biggest one to me is the specificity of Intel offering TB 3 licensing, rather that just TB licensing for free. Way back, Intel stated that in 10 years time from the first offering if TB, it would be at a speed of 100Gbs. It’s remained at 40 for years. I’m waiting to see if, or even when, we can expect TB 4 at a higher speed. So I’m wondering it this is the first indication, from Intel, that we will see TB 4 sometime in the near future. So allow the slower TB 3 for free, and come out with TB 4 with paid licensing. Maybe late 2020.

    the other thing is just how confusing this all is to most people. I just barely have it straight myself. Several flavors of usb along with TB 3. We do have some of that now, of course, but this will be much more complex. People will need to figure out what all the prevailing usb standards that will work on this, and then how long a cable can be for the highest speed for each standard, and what cable will work with each standard. It’s much worse than ever before. People will make lots of mistakes with cabling and peripherals, and then complain that it’s not working the way it was promised.
    edited September 3 chiarazorpittaddCloudTalkinmike54muthuk_vanalingamjony0
  • Reply 7 of 43
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,740member
    melgross said:
    This is very interesting. But it raises questions. The biggest one to me is the specificity of Intel offering TB 3 licensing, rather that just TB licensing for free. Way back, Intel stated that in 10 years time from the first offering if TB, it would be at a speed of 100Gbs. It’s remained at 40 for years. I’m waiting to see if, or even when, we can expect TB 4 at a higher speed. So I’m wondering it this is the first indication, from Intel, that we will see TB 4 sometime in the near future. So allow the slower TB 3 for free, and come out with TB 4 with paid licensing. Maybe late 2020.

    the other thing is just how confusing this all is to most people. I just barely have it straight myself. Several flavors of usb along with TB 3. We do have some of that now, of course, but this will be much more complex. People will need to figure out what all the prevailing usb standards that will work on this, and then how long a cable can be for the highest speed for each standard, and what cable will work with each standard. It’s much worse than ever before. People will make lots of mistakes with cabling and peripherals, and then complain that it’s not working the way it was promised.
    Good points on both fronts, especially re: USB 3, TB 3, and cables - it's a right bloody mess; I don't think it could be more confusing if you tried! There's a real opportunity here to clean all that up with USB 4 - I hope they are aiming for a single cable standard (not sure if that's even possible? Maybe two standards would be acceptable - active or passive)

    At the very least, they need to come up with, and enforce, a clear cable-labelling scheme.
    edited September 3 chiarazorpittaddCloudTalkin
  • Reply 8 of 43
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,788member
    I guess this is why Apple often goes its own way. 
    razorpitjony0
  • Reply 9 of 43
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,807member
    Thanks for the update, but the article seems a tad more confusing than it needs to be.

    Essentially the question I have is this: Does this mean that USB 4 is just Thunderbolt 3 with USB backward compatibility thrown in?

    It doesn't sound like any new capabilities have been added, so implementing USB 4 should be a breeze for Apple, right?

    Why then, would implementation be "be a long time away" for vendors? For someone like Apple, whose new Mac Pro has a confusing mix of USB-A, USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports, would it not be a priority to make the 'switch over' as fast as possible?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 43
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,807member
    Yikes. USB-IF to continue confusing name scheme with USB4 Gen 3x2

    The engineers need to be physically thrown out of the marketing meetings.
    razorpitnetmagestompyapplesnorangeswatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 43
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,740member
    frank777 said:
    Yikes. USB-IF to continue confusing name scheme with USB4 Gen 3x2

    The engineers need to be physically thrown out of the marketing meetings.
    Oh jeez!

    Come on people! Here's a novel idea, how about this:

    All USB 4 devices are named:

    USB 4

    And you connect them together with a:

    USB 4 cable.
    razorpitnetmagellamawatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 43
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 5,006administrator
    frank777 said:
    Thanks for the update, but the article seems a tad more confusing than it needs to be.

    Essentially the question I have is this: Does this mean that USB 4 is just Thunderbolt 3 with USB backward compatibility thrown in?

    It doesn't sound like any new capabilities have been added, so implementing USB 4 should be a breeze for Apple, right?

    Why then, would implementation be "be a long time away" for vendors? For someone like Apple, whose new Mac Pro has a confusing mix of USB-A, USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports, would it not be a priority to make the 'switch over' as fast as possible?
    1: It is not. It is close, but not identical.

    2: Because the chipsets for USB4 aren't due until 2020. There were Thunderbolt 3 chipsets available in 2016 for the MacBook Pro refresh that year, as the spec was finalized in 2015. USB4 chipsets don't exist today.
    edited September 3 razorpitCloudTalkinviclauyycnetmagefastasleepmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 43
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,807member
    frank777 said:
    Thanks for the update, but the article seems a tad more confusing than it needs to be.

    Essentially the question I have is this: Does this mean that USB 4 is just Thunderbolt 3 with USB backward compatibility thrown in?

    It doesn't sound like any new capabilities have been added, so implementing USB 4 should be a breeze for Apple, right?

    Why then, would implementation be "be a long time away" for vendors? For someone like Apple, whose new Mac Pro has a confusing mix of USB-A, USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports, would it not be a priority to make the 'switch over' as fast as possible?
    1: It is not. It is close, but not identical.

    2: Because the chipsets for USB4 aren't due until 2020. There were Thunderbolt 3 chipsets available in 2016 for the MacBook Pro refresh that year, as the spec was finalized in 2015. USB4 chipsets don't exist today.
    Got it. Now my hopes shift to the iMac now being updated in Winter/Spring instead of November. :smiley: 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 43
    The USB Implementers Forum has so thoroughly screwed up versioning for USB3.x that, if I need to specify anything over 5Gb/s, I use the speed rather than the version number.
    netmagechiaEsquireCatswatto_cobraRadio_Signal
  • Reply 15 of 43
    What happened to the good old days of USB (v1) when everything was easy to understand? My knowledge of USB at one time was about 90% but now it's about 10%. I'm extremely disappointed with the complexity and will do my best to avoid this technology.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 43
    ...gentlemen (and gentlewomen) start your dongles...  :open_mouth: 
    avon b7
  • Reply 17 of 43
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,752member
    ...gentlemen (and gentlewomen) start your dongles...  :open_mouth: 
    Assuming for a moment you're serious... dongles for what?  USBc is here to stay for a while so USB4 and TB3 (or TB4) will be interchangeable.  

    If anyone is to blame, it's the manufacturers of USB devices (like SSD drives) that market them as USBc with the full speeds, only to be crippled internally with a SATA/Bridge interface.  It's misleading and doing more damage to the community.


    chialolliverwatto_cobraRadio_Signal
  • Reply 18 of 43
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 287member
    bonobob said:
    The USB Implementers Forum has so thoroughly screwed up versioning for USB3.x that, if I need to specify anything over 5Gb/s, I use the speed rather than the version number.
    Unfortunately, that doesn't work anymore, because "10Gb/s" can mean two different USB standards:

    USB 3.2 gen 2x1 is a single lane of 10 Gb/s USB (also known as USB 3.1 gen 2).
    USB 3.2 gen 1x2 is two bonded lanes of 5 Gb/s USB (also known as USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 gen 1)

    USB-IF recommends manufacturers label both as "SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbit/s", even though with a single-lane cable, 1x2 will only be capable of 5 Gb/s. Thanks, USB-IF!
    chiawatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 43
    ...gentlemen (and gentlewomen) start your dongles...  :open_mouth: 
    It’s the same port — USB-C.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 43
    It’s all just the biggest mess ever.  All the reasons listed  above and the mixture of the old USB standards based around hub/star topology vs the daisy chaining we see in TB is just going to confuse the crap out of more and more users.  Real consultants are going to be needed to guide so many people if it’s something more than a simple drive or printer that is being added.  ‘Consultants’ does not include the unskilled staff at dept stores who simply read the box and hope for the best. It’ll be 10 years before we see stability and less confusion in this market. Cheap products with old chipsets that owe the vendor nothing in royalties will continue to spew forth from Asia for a long time... Just put a USB-C connector on it and it looks good. Also, who the f##k was stupid enough to include USB in the name of the new independent plug type? It is only one of the protocols that it supports. Your device’s specs should simply indicate that it supports  USB ‘x’, Displayport ‘x’ and/or Thunderbolt ‘x’  using a type C connector. 
    watto_cobra
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