What’s USB4? Variations from Thunderbolt 4, older USB variations defined

Describes how USB4 works where there was no previous USB standard

Getty Images | Aurich Lawson

USB has come a long way since the 12Mbps days in the 90s. It has said goodbye to USB-B and moved away from USB-A in favor of the sleek, reversible USB-C connector. Data transfer speeds have increased dramatically so we can run robust setups with high-resolution monitors, fast external storage, and a variety of other devices from the USB Implementers Forum’s latest open standard, USB4.

USB4 brings together the USB and Intel Thunderbolt protocols for the first time, extending the capabilities of USB while dividing the technology further into different performance classes. Adding features like dynamic bandwidth allocation ensures that USB4 is by far the most advanced USB generation. While there are PCs, docks and cables that support USB4, we haven’t seen one yet everything protocols can do it, like turning on an Intel-branded eGPU.

With all that going on, we thought it was a good time to highlight the latest and greatest generation of USB. We’ve prepared a handy refresh to all things USB4, detailing the key aspects of the spec, from how it differs from other specs to protocol tunneling, Alt Mode, and power delivery.

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