USB-C is About to Get Twice as Fast

Posted on July 26, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware with 43 Comments

USB-C is About to Get Twice as Fast

Image source: Wikipedia

The USB 3.0 Promoters Group this week announced a new USB-C specification that doubles the performance of existing cables.

Well. Sort of. As you may know, when it comes to USB in general, and with USB-C in particular, things are never that simple.

“When we introduced USB Type-C to the market, we intended to assure that USB Type-C cables and connectors certified for SuperSpeed USB or SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps would, as produced, support higher performance USB as newer generations of USB 3.0 were developed,” USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman Brad Saunders said in a prepared statement. “The USB 3.2 update delivers the next level of performance.”

Current implementations of USB-C—which is really called USB Type-C, as in the quote above, but whatever—utilize a single lane of operation, and can achieve transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps. To achieve this speed, you need USB-C 3.1 cables, and because this is USB, there are of course other complexities involved, including various generations of the USB signaling protocol. But let’s just ignore that for now. Or forever.

With the USB 3.2 update to USB-C, this standard port and cable combo can now deliver double the performance using the same cables. That is, your existing cables should be able to move forward to new PCs and other devices and deliver the double the performance. Assuming your cables are USB-C 3.1 compatible. I think.

This update will, however, require new hardware on either end of that cable. So your current smartphone will never support these new speeds, nor will whatever you’re connecting it to today (PC, hub, dock, whatever). Or as the USB 3.0 Promoters Group says, “for users to obtain the full benefit of this performance increase, a new USB 3.2 host must be used with a new USB 3.2 device and the appropriate certified USB Type-C cable.”

Note, too, that this update applies only to USB-C, which is essentially a connector type. In many implementations, this connector, or port, is also used to deliver Thunderbolt 3 capabilities. Thunderbolt 3 is already dramatically faster than stock USB-C, and offers 40 Gbps of bandwidth. That’s enough power to drive dual 4K displays, which is why all PC makers (yes, except Microsoft) have adopted it as the new universal standard for power and expansion.

Check out Welcome to the USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 Era for more information about this magical standard.


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