The next generation of USB devices might support data transfer speeds as high as 80 Gbps, which would be twice as fast as current-gen Thunderbolt 4 products.
As promised at the start of September, the USB Promotor Group has published the new USB4 Version 2.0 specification with support for speeds up to 80 Gbps (or even higher, under some circumstances). It may take a few years before new cables, hubs, PCs, and mobile devices capable of supporting the new standard are available though.
According to the group, the new protocol makes use of the same USB Type-C cables and connectors as USB4 version 1.0. In fact, if you’ve already got a USB Type-C passive cable that’s capable of 40 Gbps speeds, you should be able to use that same cable with next-gen hardware to achieve speeds up to 80 Gbps.
But the USB4 v2 standard also introduces a new USB Type-C active cable designed specifically for speeds up to 80 Gbps.
The new standard is also backward compatible, which means that if you buy a new device with USB 4 v2 support, it will still work with older hardware featuring USB 2.0, 3.2, or Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. You just won’t be able to take advantage of the full speeds.
The USB Promotor Group is also updating the USB Type-C and USB Power Delivery specifications to work with USB4 v2, and updating data and display protocols with support for DisplayPort Revision 2.1, PCI Express revision 4, and support for data tunneling speeds higher than 20 Gbps over USB 3.2.
It’s worth keeping in mind that it’s likely that not all USB4 v2 devices will take advantage of the speed boost. The group hasn’t announced minimum speeds for USB4 yet, but the first version of the spec allowed product makers to build devices with data transfer speeds as low as 20 Gbps or as high as 40 Gbps.
This article was first published September 1, 2022 and most recently updated October 18, 2022.