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USB 3.2 explained: Knowing current and confusing USB standards



The trading group USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF to those who need another USB acronym) has been busy recently, from announcing the upcoming USB 4 specification to renaming the current USB standard . With the snap on one finger – OK, a white paper – USB 3.1 is now USB 3.2 .

And if it's not confusing, the new USB 3.2 label also includes the older USB 3.0 standard to create a total of three varieties of USB 3.2. And if it is not confusing, the USB 3.2 flavors can also be described with a number of "SuperSpeed ​​USB" marketing conditions.

USB 4 seems to be simple: it will be used USB-C connector and boast transfer rates of up to 40 gigabits per second while baking in Thunderbolt goodness . While waiting for USB 4 to arrive at a remote, yet definite date (since 2020 is the best guess), we are left to aim through the current root that is USB 3.2. To help you understand the USB burning, you look at current products, let's sort out what is and how we came here.

Not the first USB name change

This is not the first time a USB name has changed. USB 1

.0, 1.1 and 1.2 were absorbed in USB 2.0. When USB 3.1 turned out, USB 3.0 suddenly became USB 3.1 Gen 1, and the newer standard was labeled USB 3.1 Gen 2.

We are now in the same location with USB 3.2. The latest, fastest version of USB 3.2 offers a maximum speed of 20 GB and is called USB 3.2 Gen 2×2. (2×2 means it is the second generation and has two 10Gbps paths to achieve its maximum capacity of 20Gbps.) The older USB 3.1 has a single 10Gbps channel and is called USB 3.2 Gen 2. Then there is USB 3.0, which is now called USB 3.2 Gen 1.

Know your USB 3.2 versions

If you are looking for the above USB 3.2 Gen 1 and 2 names when trying to create the best possible connection between your devices, your work is not done. This is because there are separate marketing conditions for each of the three USB 3.2 versions, which USB-IF encourages suppliers to use for their packaging. (If vendors follow this suggestion or use the above terms are still to be seen and require you to know both sets of terms.) The market terms you see for USB 3.2 devices are: SuperSpeed ​​USB, SuperSpeed ​​USB 10Gbps and SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps.

Maybe you spell everything in the chart will help you ease some confusion and your USB marking headache:

USB 3.2 versions

New name Old names Origin Name SuperSpeed ​​name Max speed
USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 N / A USB 3.2 SuperSpeed ​​USB 20Gbps 20Gbps
USB 3.2 Gen 2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB 3.1 SuperSpeed ​​USB 10Gbps 10Gbps
USB 3.2 Gen 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ​​USB 5Gbps

Type A vs C

But wait, there's more! In addition to offering different speeds, USB comes in various physical forms. The USB Type-A ports are rectangular and require you to insert the cable with the right side up. USB Type-C ports are smaller, oval and reversible, as they save you from having to know which end is up. (For the record, type B ports are the larger, vaguely square ports that you've probably seen on the back of a printer.)

  18-harman-kardon-esquire-mini-2

This Harman Kardon Speaker doubles as a Battery. It has both USB-A (center) and USB-C (right) jacks.


Sarah Tew / CNET

All USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 products use the Type-C connector, but not all USB-C ports are USB 3.2 Gen 2×2. A USB-C port can be either 20Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 or 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2. A USB type A port can be 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2, 5Gbps 3.2 Gen 1 or even USB 2.0. USB 4 will clean up this confusion next year, but until then you have to read the great pressure on the products to get the expected USB 3.2 connection between your devices.

One thing you don't have to worry about is a newer USB product that doesn't work with an older device. USB 3.2 devices are backward compatible with all existing USB products. What to sacrifice is throughput; two products with different USB functions work at the older transfer rate.

USB PD

No, this is not the police department of the USB city. USB PD stands for USB Power Delivery and offers a way to load all types of devices. What was once a convenient way to charge your phone in a pinch, USB is now designed to charge larger and more powerful devices with larger and more powerful batteries. USB PD can reach up to 100 watts, enough to charge laptops and tablets.

USB PD knows how much power to use for a particular device, from a maximum of 100 watts to charge your laptop to a fraction of it to remove your phone. USB PD is also smart enough to know that when you connect your phone to your laptop, you want the laptop to charge the phone and not the opposite. If you see a product with the USB PD label, it can work as a universal charger for most if not all of your USB devices.

Read more: Wi-Fi 6 explained


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