USB 3.2:Double data rates

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group comprised of Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and other technology firms announced the pending release of the USB 3.2 specification. What's new is that USB 3.2 supports multi-lane operation, something that is already supported by USB Type-C cables. Not accounting for overhead, USB 3.2 allows for up to two lanes of 5Gbps or two lanes of 10Gbps operation.

To take advantage of the speed gains, you will need a device that supports USB 3.2, along with a compatible host. No current motherboards or laptops feature USB 3.2 connectivity, so this is really applicable to the next generation of USB gear. However, you will be able to use your existing USB Type-C cables, so long as they're certified for SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps. If so, a USB 3.2 device connected to a USB 3.2 host would be capable of transferring data at over 2GB/s. Hooray for bulk backups over USB.

"When we introduced USB Type-C to the market, we intended to assure that USB Type-C cables and connectors certified for SuperSpeed USB or SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps would, as produced, support higher performance USB as newer generations of USB 3.0 were developed," said Brad Saunders, USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman. "The USB 3.2 update delivers the next level of performance."

All of this terminology can be confusing and the USB Promoter Group didn't help things when it essentially renamed USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 Gen 1. USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 both support theoretical maximum data transfers of 5Gbps. It's the USB 3.1 Gen 2 spec that bumps things up to 10Gbps. Now USB 3.2 is in the works.

As for the USB Type-C nomenclature, that refers to the type of connector. One of the advantages of USB Type-C is that the connector is reversible, meaning it's impossible to plug it in upside down.

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