Good news, data junkies: USB speeds doubling again
USB 3.2-equipped laptops and external drives could reach speeds of 20 gigabits per second. You'll likely have to wait until 2019, though.
Stephen ShanklandFormer Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
ExpertiseProcessors, semiconductors, web browsers, quantum computing, supercomputers, AI, 3D printing, drones, computer science, physics, programming, materials science, USB, UWB, Android, digital photography, science.Credentials
Shankland covered the tech industry for more than 25 years and was a science writer for five years before that. He has deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and more.
If you're the type of person who copies hundreds of photos or mammoth video files to your external hard drive, good news: USB ports are about to double in speed again.
USB, the port that every phone and PC uses to transfer data, tops out today at 10 gigabits per second with USB 3.1. The new USB 3.2 technology doubles that to 20Gbps using new wires available if your device embraces the newest USB hardware -- specifically the modern USB-C connectors and cables.
Well, maybe. The industry group that announced the move Tuesday, the USB Implementers Forum, isn't willing to commit to 20Gbps just yet. Marketing plans need to be finalized before USB IF starts making any performance promises.
Sorry if all this USB terminology is confusing. The USB 3.2 technology defines how data is sent over cables; the USB-C technology is a physical specification that defines what plugs and wires look like. Think of USB-C as the train tracks, train stations and trains and USB 3.2 as the rules governing where the trains go.
The USB 3.2 upgrade takes advantage of the fact that USB-C has, to extend the metaphor, twice as many train tracks available.
But don't hold your breath -- it'll be at least 12 to 18 months before the very first products hit the market, said USB-IF Chairman Brad Saunders. When they do, though, the good news is existing certified USB-C cables will work fine.
If you aren't familiar with USB-C yet, you will be soon. This year should be the tipping point for the technology, according to analyst firm ABI Research. The number of devices shipping with USB-C should increase 69 percent each year through 2021, ABI said.
USB has been in the midst of radical transformation with USB-C. The connectors are reversible, so you no longer have to worry which way is up when you're plugging in a cable. The same cable works on
and laptops, so there's no more tiny connector for one and big connector for the other. And USB-C opens the door for high-power connections that mean you can charge your laptop, not just your phone, with USB cables.
The U in USB stands for universal, and it's one technology that's lived up to the promise.
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