USB and Thunderbolt to converge - Hardware

USB and Thunderbolt to converge - Hardware

Even so, it's compatible with Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.2, and USB 2.0.

Intel has already announced that it is baking in support for the Thunderbolt 3 specification directly into its forthcoming 10nm Ice Lake processors, eliminating the need for third-party control chips.

The USB Interface Group's press release about the USB4 specification (yes this standard drops the space between the string "USB" and the generational numeral) says it will be a major update to the specification.

For other parameters, the USB 4 support up to 100W of power, an external graphics card, two 4K displays or a single 5K display.

This development should be especially welcome to those that use high-speed external docks. Basically, all TB3 ports can also handle USB, but standard USB Type C ports cannot work with Thunderbolt 3.

The USB Promoter Group explains, "The new USB4 architecture defines a method to share a single high-speed link with multiple end device types dynamically that best serves the transfer of data by type and application". Intel's contribution comes without royalties, meaning that other chip manufacturers can build supporting silicon without paying a fee.

This will likely cause some growing pains at the onset not unlike the forthcoming USB 3.2 debacle, but eventually all USB ports will use the Type-C form factor and USB4 standard. However, given the open nature of USB4 versus the closed Thunderbolt 3 system, you should expect to see an explosion of compatible devices offering 40 Gbps speeds at more affordable price points.

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Effectively, this means that 40Gbps will soon be the new universal standard for all future USB ports. Of course, it is much more open than Thunderbolt 3, because the use of Thunderbolt 3 must be strictly certified by Intel (only 463 models so far). Intel also hosts plugfests, during which interoperability with numerous new devices is tested, and workshops.

"Releasing the Thunderbolt 3 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.

For now, the USB Promoter Group, along with 50 companies, is focused on the final stages of the USB 4 draft specification.

USB Developer Days 2019, in the second half of this year, will include detailed technical training covering the USB4 specification and the latest for USB Type-C, USB Power Delivery, and other exciting topics.

Brad Saunders, USB Promoter Group Chairman offers the following statement. The USB firmware on the devices you are connecting will be able to split the data you are transferring into two individual streams on the device sending it and put it all back together into a stream of data that the device receiving it can read correctly.

The USB 4 standard will be finalized in mid-2019.

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