USB 3.2, great performance waiting for USB 4.0

 USB 3.2, great performance waiting for USB 4.0

USB 3.2, great performance waiting for USB 4.0

USB 3.2 is the latest version of the standard for the interconnection of equipment and peripherals and the most advanced until the arrival of USB 4.0. It is already present in a good number of new equipment launched in 2020 and also in motherboards from Intel and AMD.

Taking advantage of its launch, the group promoting the standard announced a reorganization of brands and versions that will define all versions of USB on the market. He is not easy to understand. A problem considering that we are talking about the most important and popular external port on PCs. We remind you of the latest versions of the interface

What does the USB 3.2 offer?

USB 3.2 is an incremental upgrade to the port, but an important one, because it promises to double the data transfer speed (20 Gbps) over the maximum of USB 3.1. The performance increase is achieved by enabling the multi-lane operation.

While USB devices were originally designed as single-lane solutions, the cabling for the new USB Type C connector was designed to support multi-lane operation, ensuring scalable performance.

The new USB 3.2 can be designed as multi-lane solutions, allowing a maximum of two 5 Gbps lanes or two operational 10 Gbps lanes to total the 20 Gbps discussed. Manufacturers have had to add specific support for USB 3.2 in the new motherboards for PCs or in the rest of devices (especially storage) that use the standard and that number in the hundreds of millions.

As for cabling, we can take advantage of the existing one as long as it is certified for USB Type-C. USB 3.2 will be compatible with previous versions of the standard and with previous cables, but logically without taking advantage of the performance increase it offers.

USB interfaces and connectors

USB interfaces and connectors

USB-IF does not live up to the original name of the port ( Universal Serial Bus ) and has endeavored to complicate the names to understand the different versions of a fundamental standard in the industry. To the new USB 3.2, you will have to join the rest of the formats that are still used. The current USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 (differentiated by the maximum speed of 10 or 5 Gbps, respectively); USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and the older standard, USB 1.1. (And coming soon USB 4.0).

The previous standards define the interface or protocol, basically the way to transfer the data. To complicate things, those responsible for USB also use other names according to its maximum speed, which although not part of the standard, can be even more confusing:

USB also use other names according to its maximum speed

And we have the not least question of physical connectors, which are defined in a separate standard to that of the protocols, although obviously related. They are a few and are used in computers, tablets, printers, mobiles, or storage solutions.

To them, USB Type C was added and this one does fulfill the promised “universality”. However, its enormous versatility can also confuse the user, because, in addition to its own USB interfaces, it also supports a wide variety of other protocols that allow outputting  HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort,  HDMI Alt and the most interesting for performance,  Thunderbolt.  from Intel.

USB 3.2, more performance, but more confusion

USB 3.2, more performance, but more confusion

If it was already a mess for the ordinary user to know protocols and connectors, USB-IF insisted on increasing the confusion with the arrival of USB 3.2, modifying what we already knew. Basically, the latest versions were as follows:

  • USB 3.0 is renamed " USB 3.2 Gen 1 " defining devices with speeds up to 5 Gbps.
  • USB 3.1 will be " USB 3.2 Gen 2 " defining the devices with speed up to 10 Gbps.
  • The new USB 3.2 will be called " USB 3.2 Gen 2 x 2 " defining the devices with speed up to 20 Gbps.

Be careful with this name because USB 3.2 will include the three previous standards and very different throughputs of 5, 10, or 20 Gbps. You can bet that there will be manufacturers that will exploit that confusion where and when they can. If you buy a new computer or motherboard with "USB 3.2" make sure it is the latest version of the standard.

The issue of connectors and wiring should be clearer. If you want to take advantage of the performance of USB 3.2 you will have to use certified cabling for USB Type-C. No other will be able to get those 20 Gbps maxes of the standard because they don't support dual lane.

And add USB 4.0 shortly

USB-IF announced the final specifications of USB 4.0 at the end of 2019. As planned, the great improvement of USB 4.0 will come from the performance section, with an increase in the data transfer speed up to 40 Gbps that will double that obtained by USB 3.2. It is the same that offers the Intel Thunderbolt 3 on which it is based and to which it will be permanently connected once the chip giant has integrated its support natively and has given it to manufacturers royalty-free.

USB 4.0 will also use "multiple data and display protocols" to take full advantage of the maximum available bandwidth. It will also provide new data stream mapping capabilities to devices that use USB Type-C to connect external displays, allowing devices to be daisy-chained even if they are a combination of external displays and data-driven devices such as external storage.

The new standard will be backward compatible with USB 3.2, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 3, and also Thunderbolt 4 with which it will be intimately connected. They must be released with the new personal computers that will be sold in the last quarter of the year under platforms such as Intel's Tiger Lake.

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