USB Confusion

The USB headlines this week read like this:

Let’s try to break this down. There was a day when USB seemed simple enough. It looked like this:

  • USB 1.1: 12Mbps
  • UBS 2.0: 480Mbps
  • USB 3.0: 5Gbps

UBS 1.1 and 2.0 were delivered over the same connector (USB-A). The newer connector, USB 3.0 was normally delivered over a new, smaller, and more flexible connector. It’s called USB-C. My iPad, Mac and a few other gadgets use this connector, and I am a big fan. I hope it comes to my iPhone in the future, but that is a differt discussion. This all sounds good .. ‘be happy’.

Things started to get messy when we learned a new standard, named USB 3.1, was released. The good news is that it was faster, with data speeds of 10Gbps. How cool, it’s faster. The confusion starts here, so hang on tight. The 💩 is about to hit the fan.

The USB Implementation Forum (USB-1F) recently published the USB 3.2 Specification: Language Us age Guildlines, a specification document that lays out the naming and even marketing names for USB 3.2. Here is where it gets messy:

  • USB 3.1, Gen 1 will become USB 3.2 Gen 1. This was originally USB 3.0 and operates at 5Gbps
  • UBS 3.1 Gen 2 becomes USB 3.2 Gen 2. This operates at 5Gbps
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (new), formally known as USB 3.2 operates at at 20Gbps and uses 2 lanes of 10Gbps

USB is further complicated by the connector, known as USB-C. We all either love it or hate it. So many confuse the connector, USB-C, with the standard, USB 3.x.

The same, USB-C connector is used to to deliver speeds across a range. **

The USB-IF did say that a compliance and logo program is under development. I suppose this may help with the cable issues ... someday.

By the way, this mess is further complicated in the Apple world. Thunderbolt operates at 40Gbps, and can use the same USB-C connector. Yes, a different cable. Is your head spinning yet?

I will be watching this one. I hope this mess can be simplified over time. I guess we will see.

~ Rick

*I wrote normally because Apple also deliveres USB 3. over their proprietary Lightning connector). Sometimes at 5Mbps, but on the iPad Pro, at 10Mbps, if you have the right dongle.

** modified on March 15. The same cable can be used as long as the device you are connecting to supports the higher speeds.

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