Thu. Jan 23rd, 2020

The USB4 is a breakthrough, but the maze of cables gets tangled up more

Connect and go, says a well-known commercial motto. I wish it were that simple. The USB protocol Currently it has become a maze because of the capabilities of the different cables that are for sale. But also for their design. Any USB cable is not only not compatible with any USB port, many latest generation computers for example USB C cables are not accepted.

The documentation to manufacture the new cables USB4 (We were not wrong, it is written like this), you will try to put some order in the chaotic, and even dangerous, world of USB wiring. Although we will not see the first devices with USB4 until 2020. And even surely we will have to wait until the end of that year or the beginning of the next to make it common to find these compatible cables and devices.


In fact, the USB4 standard can even make another cable standard no longer necessary, the Thunderbold 3 from Intel. Very used in Mac computers and from which the USB4 actually derives. As manufacturers can make USB4 compatible with Thunderbolt 3. But let's go by parts and see the advantages of the new cable standard.

The main one is the increase in data transfer speed. That can reach up to 40 gigabytes per second. An amazing amount of data. But we must clarify that the speed of USB4 connections starts at 10 gigabytes per second. That remains a very respectable amount. To reach those 40 gigabytes of maximum speed, both the devices and the USB4 cable that we use must also support that speed.

An external mobile battery with an adapter for different types of port.

An external mobile battery with an adapter for different types of port.
(baloon111 / Getty Images / iStockphoto)

But USB4 also brings other very interesting features. As the improvement in the transmission of images. Although it is already possible to use USB cables to connect a monitor, in USB4 this will be easier. As the bandwidth dedicated to the transmission of images will not stop the transmission of another kind of data. Are we facing the end of HDMI cables? It's possible.

The cable design is also standardized, which will be USB-C type to send energy more effectively to other devices. Let's not forget that USB cables in addition to data carry energy. This aspect is also optimized.

USB4 ports increase transfer speed but can also be used to connect a monitor and improve fast charging

Finally, the USB4 standard is compatible with all previous versions of previous USB cables. Although, we repeat, the design will be that of a USB-C. So it is possible that to use devices with previous versions of the USB standard that do not have the reversible design of the USB-C we need some kind of adapter.

Consider, for example, USB sticks that already have a wide USB port, of any version, and a USB-C port. Such devices will be very common until this new standard practically makes old non-reversible USB ports fall into disuse.


So why does USB4 add confusion to the current cable landscape? Actually this standard comes to order. The USB Implementers Forum, the body that regulates the USB standard, has even said that the only denomination we will see in USB4 will be that: USB4. There will be no USB4.1 or anything similar.

A good way to end the tremendous mess that exists with the current denominations of USB cables, which also grow very quickly. For example, there are currently USB 3., 3.1 and 3.2 cables with the traditional, non-reversible design, and with the reversible USB-C design.

A USB 3.1 port allows you to connect external high-speed SSD hard drives, but its speed will be greatly increased with

A USB 3.1 port allows you to connect external high-speed SSD hard drives, but its speed will be greatly increased with
(Generic Author)

But until USB4 becomes the de facto standard, and even may replace Thunderbolt cables and HDMI cables, the transition can be painful and confusing for users. That they should be aware that the cable they buy has all the requirements they are looking for. Well, for example, there are USB cables that transmit power but not data, others that transmit power but are not compatible with fast charging connectors.

The fuss is therefore not small. And to that we must add that Apple goes on its own with the Lightning cables, used by the iPhone and iPad. As much as we are sold that the future of data transmission is wireless, there is some fallacy in that, at least if we think in the medium term.

The transmission speeds of the latest generation USB cables and the security they grant are light years away from any wireless communication or power transmission protocol. Further, cables are big business. As much as the industry insists on getting entangled with them.

Wireless connectivity technology is still well behind the speed that cables allow

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