Published: Thu, February 28, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

USB 3.2 at 20 Gb/s Coming to High-End Desktops This Year

USB 3.2 at 20 Gb/s Coming to High-End Desktops This Year

USB-Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the organisation that develops the USB standard, has also released the branding details for the revision, including the rebranding of USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2. The newest generation protocol supports transfer rates of up to 20 Gbps by using two 10 Gbps transfer lanes on USB-C cables and devices that support it.

The marketing names though are comparably simpler, USB 3.2 Gen 1 will be called SuperSpeed USB, USB 3.2 Gen 2 will be called SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, and USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 gets the SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps name. The logical thing would have been to identify existing 5Gb/s devices as "USB 3.0" and new 10Gb/s devices as "USB 3.1". Now we're going to have three transfer rates to differentiate between, all of them gathered under the auspices of USB 3.2.

It is backwards compatible with all existing USB products; will operate at lowest common speed capability. Moreover, the peripherals you'll need to take advantage of USB 3.2 aren't likely to show until sometime later. Likewise, "USB 3.2 is not USB Power Delivery or USB Battery Charging". Anyone who remembers using external HDDs over USB 2.0 (or opting for FireWire 400 instead, since it offered a meaningful performance improvement) will know what I'm talking about. This refers only to the physical part of USB - the connectors at the ends of cables and the ports on the sides of your devices - not its capacity for data or electrical power.

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Fine. But as a quick glance at Amazon shows, product packages and descriptions are loaded with references to the technical specification names like USB 3.0 and 3.1. This increase in transfer speed is achieved by placing another 10Gbps data transfer channel within the connector, which is only possible in the Type-C format that is all but taking over smartphones and laptops. The USB-IF logo guidelines are available here:

The USB 3.2 standard now includes all previous USB 3.x standards under a single standard, USB 3.2. All of this might make more sense if the USB marketing terms had themselves been updated (Hyper, Ultra, Ludicrous, Plaid?) but just appending longer and longer labels to the actual marketing terms doesn't seem very effective, either.

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