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Thunderbolt 3 becomes USB4? - Intel Contributes Thunderbolt 3 to Create USB4 Specification

Thunderbolt is becoming USB4?

Thunberbolt 3 becomes USB4? - Intel Contributes Thunderbolt 3 to Create USB4 Specification

Thunderbolt 3 becomes USB4? - Intel Contributes Thunderbolt 3 to Create USB4 Specification

Last week USB-IF formally announced USB 3.2 alongside a confusing new naming scheme, but now it looks like USB 3.2, and its ultra-fast USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 variant, is going to be shortlived as USB's flagship connectivity standard. 

Today, the USB Promoter Group has revealed its USB4 specification, which thanks to the contribution of Intel's Thunderbolt standard will offer 40Gbps of bandwidth, a 2x improvement over USB 3.2 Gen 2X2. 

Yes, this means that Intel has handed over Thunberbolt 3.0 to the USB Promoter group, effectively allowing Thunderbolt 3 to become the next iteration of USB, while also maintaining full backwards compatibility with USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3. 

So why would Intel do this? The answer is simple, market adoption and competition. Starting with Ice Lake, an upcoming 10nm processor from Intel, the company plans to integrate Thunderbolt 3.0 directly onto their processor. This will likely make them the first to support USB4, a factor which will place AMD at a disadvantage until they can offer USB4 support in their devices. 

In a single move, Intel has ensured that their Thunderbolt standard will be adopted by every major manufacturer, while also giving them a clear advantage over their competition when it comes to implementing USB4 support. Thanks to Thunderbolt much of the software/hardware ecosystem for USB4 has already been built, which means that we should see USB4 devices relatively quickly. 
 

     The USB Promoter Group today announced the pending release of the USB4 specification, a major update to deliver the next generation USB architecture that compliments and builds on the existing USB 3.2 and USB 2.0 architectures. The USB4 architecture is based on the Thunderbolt™ protocol specification recently contributed by Intel Corporation. It doubles the bandwidth of USB and enables multiple simultaneous data and display protocols.

The new USB4 architecture defines a method to share a single high-speed link with multiple end device types dynamically that best serves the transfer of data by type and application. As the USB Type-C™ connector has evolved into the role as the external display port of many host products, the USB4 specification provides the host the ability to optimally scale allocations for display data flow. Even as the USB4 specification introduces a new underlying protocol, compatibility with existing USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3 hosts and devices is supported; the resulting connection scales to the best mutual capability of the devices being connected.

  

Thunberbolt 3 becomes USB4? - Intel Contributes Thunderbolt 3 to Create USB4 Specification  

 The USB4 specification will be published in the middle of 2019, which will launch alongside an updated USB Type-C specification, which will accommodate the changed that are brought in by USB4 and the standard's updated power requirements. USB claims that over 50 companies are actively working on the draft specification. 

A full technical summary of the USB4 standard will be provided at the USB Developers Days 2019 event, that said, we expect USB4 to be, for the most part, a modified version of Thunderbolt 3. 

You can join the discussion on Intel Contributing Thunderbolt 3 to create USB4 on the OC3D Forums.

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Most Recent Comments

04-03-2019, 13:40:46

tgrech
I guess this is what Intel meant when they claimed they'd drop royalty fees and open the standard up a couple of years ago (And then never actually did it and kept on artificially blocking Ryzen from supporting TB add-in boards, charging royalty fees and requiring a license to make designs/controllers, to this day). Presumably the "Thunderbolt lanes" are still just optional alternative modes for the high bandwidth shielded wires as with USB3 just using or designing for them is free & a lot easier, and we'll probably again see USB4 assimilate every previous version under a confusing name (Or maybe just SS 5G/10G/20G/40G if they're sane) as many devices won't have a reason or capability to use even the PCIe3 x2 based "low power" TB mode. Of course, given there's still way less than 500 Thunderbolt3 certified devices in existence this is probably a move to help TB much more than one to assist USB.Quote

04-03-2019, 15:18:34

NeverBackDown
And in the other thread when I suggested we just use thunderbolt everyone told me off.. looks like I was right lol

I mean it was inevitable after Intel made the announcement to go royalty free that they would just integrate it with USB since they already used the form factor.Quote

04-03-2019, 15:26:55

WYP
Quote:
Originally Posted by NeverBackDown View Post
And in the other thread when I suggested we just use thunderbolt everyone told me off.. looks like I was right lol

I mean it was inevitable after Intel made the announcement to go royalty free that they would just integrate it with USB since they already used the form factor.
It makes a lot of sense for Intel to do this. Now Thunderbolt will be everywhere and Intel is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the technology early on. They already have CPU silicon in the works that will integrate Thunderbolt, so it is going to be super easy for Intel to take advantage of USB 4.0 early on.

The spec releases in Summer 2019, so devices won't ship until way after that. Earliest we will see this is with Ice Lake in 2020, assuming Ice Lake is on track.Quote

04-03-2019, 15:48:42

tgrech
I think it's still an overstatement saying Thunderbolt will be everywhere, this doesn't seem to change anything from a technical standpoint(From what's released so far), it seems to just be a change to the licensing & some branding, so it might become ubiquitous for Intel devices and eventually common on AMD ones with a little lag time but it doesn't solve all the issues Thunderbolt has in terms of how it interfaces or the requirements for a controller. Technically Thunderbolt was always an alternate mode for USB Type-C, and that's still just what it will be from initial info, just now the controller chips required to use the interface won't be expensive proprietary devices, and the alternate mode is an inherently supported part of the spec for cables & stuff. This still doesn't mean these speeds & the power consumption required to meet them will be viable in smartphones or whatever, they'll still keep using USB2.0 or occasionally 3.0 specs even if they're rebranded under USB4.

Intel say they're still going to push the Thunderbolt brand separately, so it seems this will be similar to how FreeSync is technically a part of the DP standard but is in no way a guaranteed feature. There's also no indication they aren't also working on Thunderbolt4 to take advantage of PCIe4.0's gains as Thunderbolts controller relies heavily on PCIe lanes(Which is also why it isn't practical in many areas USB is currently used) so this could be Intel essentially just opening up their outdated tech & letting it trickle down.Quote

04-03-2019, 16:19:33

NeverBackDown
Quote:
Originally Posted by WYP View Post
It makes a lot of sense for Intel to do this. Now Thunderbolt will be everywhere and Intel is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the technology early on. They already have CPU silicon in the works that will integrate Thunderbolt, so it is going to be super easy for Intel to take advantage of USB 4.0 early on.

The spec releases in Summer 2019, so devices won't ship until way after that. Earliest we will see this is with Ice Lake in 2020, assuming Ice Lake is on track.
It also makes it cheaper as well which will be a good thing. It may also mean intel and USB-IF have the potential to work together to further improve upon it. I hope it means we get a Thunderbolt4/USB5 sooner for double the bandwidth. I would really like to get a ultrabook/external GPU box setup going, like a XPS13 and put my 1080 into a box. Just not worth it under Thunderbolt 3 speeds not providing enough bandwidth even on a x4 connection.Quote
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