USB4 is almost here: What you need to know

USB4 is almost here and brings 40Gbps speeds.

Although it doesn’t seem like it has been so long, USB 3.0 came out in 2008. In technology years, that’s a long time. Soon, it will be replaced by its successor—branded USB4. Consumers undoubtedly have questions about what this upgrade means and whether it will affect them.

This is what you need to know about the forthcoming standard and how it will affect your digital life.

USB4 Is Fast

Like the new Wi-Fi 6E and mobile 5G upgrades, USB4 is focused on speed. It will supposedly be twice as fast as the current USB 3.2 standard, which means it will support up to 40Gbps speeds.

That’s a big upgrade for things like file transfers and signal delivery. A traditional USB cable uses two “lanes” to send and receive information between connected devices. With USB4, some devices will be able to change that format to single-direction delivery. In other words, it doubles the speed of transfers to a max of 80Gbps.

DisplayPort 2.0 features a capability called “Alt mode” which allows it to create a single bandwidth that supports those speeds. That’s fast enough to run things like an 8K HDR video monitor over USB4.

Fast communication won’t be all that USB4 does, however. It also supports USB PD—a much quicker charging standard. With it, smartphones and other devices that are designed to support fast charging will be able to reach full capacity much faster with USB4 than with USB 3.2.

It’s worth noting that not every device will be able to take advantage of USB4’s 40Gbps speeds. Devices can support either 10Gbps, 20Gbps, or 40Gbps. It will all depend on the manufacturer. Of course, gadgets that support the higher speeds will be pricier.

Finally, USB4 will be able to dynamically adjust the amount of resources being used when sending video and data over one connection. This will allow users to do things like run a 4K monitor and transfer files to a solid-state drive (SSD) simultaneously with maximum efficiency.

USB4 Is Backward Compatible

The jump to USB-C from USB-A has been rough for many users. Those who use docking stations for work often find that their older peripherals aren’t compatible with newer laptops that only have USB-C ports. Fortunately, the transition to USB4 should be much smoother.

USB4 cables will use Type-C connectors. This is the flat, roughly oval-shaped connector on most smartphone chargers. As such, USB4 cables can be plugged into almost any USB-C port.

Like any upgrade, it’s worth noting that they’ll see a drop in performance when plugged into older USB-C ports.

When Will USB4 Arrive?

Notably, the first devices to feature USB4 ports and cables are expected to arrive within months. Many of these have release dates in late-2020 and early-2021. However, it’s probably safe to assume that most of them will be pushed back into 2021.

The current global manufacturing slowdown certainly won’t help the rollout of USB4—much like it won’t make upgrading to Wi-Fi 6E or 5G any easier.

Nonetheless, USB4 is coming soon and users should look forward to its blazing-fast speeds.


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