USB4 eats Thunderbolt 3 for the 40 Gbps super-cable in 2021

Basically, all TB3 ports can also handle USB, but standard USB Type C ports cannot work with Thunderbolt 3. Until now, Thunderbolt 3 was only available on the most premium laptops and computers, as device makers had to work with Intel directly to source the technology. Intel plans to integrate support for Thunderbolt 3 and USB4 natively into upcoming products.

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".

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

Why it couldn't be called "USB 4" (with a space) versus "USB4" (no space) is another question, but if it ultimately makes things less confusing in the long run, we'll give the USB Promoter Group a pass. But probably you won't pay much attention to these names, because today, USB-IF officially announced the USB 4. 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. When an inferior-spec device is connected, a USB4 port will negotiate the "best mutual capability" of the two connected devices.

The USB Promoter Group, which is comprised of joint-company efforts from business such as Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, TI, and Renesas Electronics corporation, just announced the release of USB4 specifications that are meant to compliment USB 3.2 and USB 2.0 architectures while also extending performance of slowly adopted USB Type-C connections. So, consumers need to understand that although technically "USB 3.2" runs over USB Type-A or USB Type-C, you'll only get the full performance of USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 over a USB Type-C cable.

That release will also coincide with an updated version of the USB Type-C Specification, made for compatibility with USB 4.


It is expected that the USB-IF will come out with more tech specs regarding USB4 at around Computex time. That means 40Gbps data transfers for external storage drives, eight times the speed of the USB 3.0 interface.

With over 50 companies actively participating in the final stages of review of the draft specification, the USB4 specification is on track to be published around the middle of 2019.

"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.

"The primary goal of USB is to deliver the best user experience combining data, display and power delivery over a user-friendly and robust cable and connector solution", said USB Promoter Group Chairman Brad Saunders in a statement.

The group shares the following features and benefits of USB4.


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