USB 4 has been announced, will match Thunderbolt 3's spec

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Here's everything you need to know about the USB4 specification - including speed, release date and how it's going to affect your existing gadgets. Let's take a look at the major changes. 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 latest version, which is still in development, is based on the Thunderbolt protocol specification and provides a host of improvements including faster speeds.

The advent of USB as a ubiquitous connection standard is one of the best things to happen to the PC. You can send nearly anything over USB as long as it is a supported protocol. The presence of USB 3.2 has also further muddied the naming waters of the USB ecosystem.

USB4 offers double the bandwidth of USB 3.2 Gen2x2, and the same as Thunderbolt 3 which Intel launched in 2015.

We don't have an official publication date yet, but it is expected that USB 4 will be released sometime in mid-2019. That means 40Gbps data transfers for external storage drives, eight times the speed of the USB 3.0 interface. The USB Promoter Group, the standards body in charge of the USB specification, has formally introduced the USB4 specification in draft form today, with hopes of finalizing the standard within the next few months. USB4 is based on Intel's Thunderbolt technology.

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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. It is not uncommon, especially for low-end devices, to only support USB 2.0, or include more USB 2.0 ports than USB 3.0 ports. Existing Thunderbolt 3 cables should be fine to continue to use with USB4 but if you have a USB 3.x cable with Type-C connectors, you may have to upgrade to make the most of the new options available. That broadening of access to the technology could see a proliferation of today's more fringe technologies, like high-resolution displays and higher-fidelity virtual reality - not to mention even faster power delivery.

"The USB4 solution specifically tailors bus operation to further enhance this [by] enabling the further doubling of performance".

According to the USB Promoter Group announcement, USB4 specifications aren't supposed to be out until sometime in mid 2019, however, with 50 plus companies actively participating, observers may start to see early implementations in device hardware soon.

USB4 promises to bring sense to what has become a nonsensical mess of specs, features, and connection types. The group is also hosting the USB Developer Days 2019 event later this year. Branding and marketing guidelines will be established after the final specification is published. "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". With the announcement of the USB4 (no space!) specification, the group has reached the apex of powerful features/confusing nomenclature.

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