First, the good news: USB 3.2, the long-awaited specification announced by the USB Implementers Forum in 2017, will be released this year. The bad news is that the group’s efforts have resulted in a slew of new names for not only the new standard but also older versions of USB 3.0.
The following is how it all works:
- USB 3.2 Gen 1: formerly known as USB 3.0 and renamed to USB 3.1 Gen 1 before being renamed to USB 3.2 Gen 2. It’s the original USB 3.0 specification, capable of data transfers of up to 5Gbps.
- USB 3.2 Gen 2: Formerly known as USB 3.1, then USB 3.1 Gen 2. It has a maximum speed of 10Gbps.
- USB 3.2 Gen 2×2: Also known as USB 3.2, this is the most recent and fastest specification, boasting speeds of up to 20 Gbps (by using two lanes of 10Gbps at once).
The USB-antics IF’s have a method to them. As a method to keep things constant, each new standard incorporates the previous generations as part of that spec. As a result, when USB 3.1 was released, the prior 3.0 specification was renamed USB 3.1 Gen 1 and the new, faster 3.1 specification was renamed USB 3.1 Gen 2.
Similarly, now that USB 3.2 is out, those numbers are being renamed USB 3.2 Gen 1 and USB 3.2 Gen 2. The new 20Gbps speed isn’t USB 3.2 Gen 3 since it doesn’t fully deliver on 20Gbps rates – instead, it’s two 10Gbps channels operating together, hence the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 moniker.
To make things easier for businesses, the USB-IF has suggested names for these three specifications: SuperSpeed USB, SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, and SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps. Other names used in the 3.0 and 3.1 standards era, such as “SuperSpeed Plus,” “Enhanced SuperSpeed,” and “SuperSpeed+,” “are not intended to be utilized in product names, messaging, packaging, or any other consumer-facing content,” according to the committee. However, it will be up to businesses to pay attention and adhere to the requirements.
THE USB-IF CONFUSION HAS A SOLUTION HERE
It’s also worth noting that these specifications only apply to transfer speed, not connector type. That implies USB Type-A, MicroUSB, and USB-C cables will all be branded with USB 3.2 branding in some way, while only USB-C cables will likely enable the fastest USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 rates. Because manufacturers can now conceivably brand anything a USB 3.2 port even if it only delivers USB 3.0 era, 5Gbps speed through a USB Type-A connection, the USB-renaming IF’s is likely to cause some additional confusion.
Although the USB-IF stresses the necessity of manufacturers accurately describing their hardware capabilities in marketing, it will likely be up to consumers to determine whether they’re getting “genuine” USB 3.2 speeds or just rebranded earlier specs. Still, the fact that the USB-IF has finalized nomenclature means we’re one step closer to seeing this type of gear arrive, which can only be a good thing for anyone wishing for quicker cords.
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