What are the similarities and differences between USB 3.2 and USB 4?

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Introducing USB 3.2 and USB4, the newest additions to the constantly evolving USB technology family. Similar to new chapters in a captivating story, each one comes with its own set of impressive features. In this comparison, we'll explore what sets USB 3.2 and USB4 apart from each other.

During this exploration, we'll delve into the speed, preferred ports, supported displays, and compatibility with other connectivity standards of USB 3.2 and USB4. Additionally, we'll uncover how USB 4 efficiently handles bandwidth, surpassing the data transfer rates of USB 3.2. Finally, we'll discuss two methods that can assist you in determining the specific USB version installed on your laptop or PC.
I'm eager to share some information, but first, it's important to note that the USB-IF, the organization responsible for advancing USB technology, regularly releases new versions with significant enhancements. If a version requires modifications to align with the latest devices, the USB-IF implements improvements within the version and designates it with a naming convention that includes the term "Gen."

Here's everything you need to know about the differences between USB 3.2 and USB 4.

The shift from USB 2 to USB 3 resulted in significant changes in USB technology. In addition to SuperSpeed capabilities, a unique logo, and blue inserts for plugs, USB 3 also offered backward compatibility with previous versions. USB version 3.2 (and subsequently USB4) represents a gradual continuation of USB's innovative improvements within the USB ecosystem. As a result, we'll begin by examining the fundamentals of USB 3.2 (including USB 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2) before moving on to advanced topics (such as USB4 and USB4 V2).
USB 3.0: The SuperSpeed (SS)
USB 3.0 marks the third significant revision of USB technology, introducing a new architecture known as SuperSpeed. With a new signal coding scheme, it achieves 5 Gbps and full-duplex (bidirectional) data communication. Manufacturers sought to differentiate it not only technologically but also visually, resulting in Type-A and Type-B connectors and plugs being colored blue, with "SS" added to the beginning of the USB logo.
USB 3.1: The addition of Two Flavour
In 2013, USB 3.1 was introduced as the successor to USB 3.0. While I may not possess the expertise of a networking technician, I can simplify the key points for you. USB 3.1 brought faster USB connections, offering two variations: Gen-1 and Gen-2. Gen-1 can be seen as an enhanced version of USB 3.0, while Gen-2 provides even faster speeds, doubling the transfer rate from 5Gbps to 10Gbps compared to Gen-1.
USB 3.2: The 20 Gbps Made Life Easy
In 2017, USB 3.2 was released, featuring three generations with varying speeds and capabilities. To better understand each generation, let's take a glimpse into the daily routine of a marketer.

Meet Donald Draper, a dedicated marketing professional based in New York City. From morning till night, he handles a multitude of digital content for his clients, including high-resolution images and video advertisements. Efficiency is crucial for Donald, as he constantly faces demanding tasks.

In the morning, Donald wakes up to the sound of his alarm. As a passionate marketer, he wants to seize every opportunity for career growth. He starts his day by savoring a cup of coffee made from dark roasted beans, which helps him feel energized.

At the office, Donald quickly transfers high-resolution images from his camera to his computer using the super-fast USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) connection. This process takes only a few minutes, allowing him to efficiently manage his workload.

Later in the day, Donald collaborates with his team on a large video project. He connects his external SSD, equipped with USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20 Gbps), to his workstation. This enables him to seamlessly edit and share 4K video files without experiencing frustrating lag. His clients are impressed with his swift turnaround times.

Seeking a break from his demanding routine, Donald indulges in gaming at the office. He connects his gaming peripherals to his PC, which supports USB 3.2 Gen 2. The low latency provided by this connection ensures precise control in his favorite first-person shooter game, allowing him to fully enjoy his gaming session.

Looking ahead, Donald plans to purchase a MacBook Air as it supports both Thunderbolt and USB4. This will allow him to set up a versatile working station with a USB or Thunderbolt docking station, enhancing his productivity.
But why is USB4 adaptive?
USB4.0 and USB4 V2: A Closer Look at the Latest Advancement 
USB4 was developed by the USB Implementation Forum (USB-IF), with Intel sharing its Thunderbolt 3 protocol to aid in the creation of USB4. As a result, USB4 is not only compatible with previous USB versions but also with Thunderbolt 3.

USB4 offers a bandwidth of 40 Gbps and a minimum link speed of 20 to 32 Gbps. However, if the cable is stretched beyond 2 meters, the promised 40 Gbps speed may decrease to 20 Gbps.

USB4 version 2.0 doubles the bandwidth to 80 Gbps, but only with a newly-defined 80 Gbps USB Type-C active cable that uses PAM3 signal encoding. This electric component improves performance and supports 80 Gbps, but only certified cables with a logo can benefit from this speed advancement.

Furthermore, USB4 V2 supports data tunneling, allowing communication with Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, and DP 2.1. With 240 W of Power Delivery, USB4 V2 can charge or power large devices such as laptops, monitors, and printer hard drives.
USB 3.2 Vs USB4: Differences and Similarities
USB 3.2 and USB4 are both advanced USB standards, but they have similarities and differences in their features.

Speed: USB 3.2 supports data transfer speeds of up to 20 Gbps, achieved through two lanes of 10 Gbps each (Gen 2x2). USB4, on the other hand, supports data transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps using two lanes of 20 Gbps each. This makes USB4 twice as fast as USB 3.2.

Port Type: USB4 exclusively uses the USB-C port, commonly known as Type-C. In contrast, USB 3.2 supports USB-A, USB-B, or USB-C ports.

As for your question, both USB 3.2 and USB4 can operate over a Type-C connector. However, it's important to note that not all devices or cables labeled as Type-C support USB 3.2 or USB4. The compatibility depends on the specific implementation and capabilities of the device or cable.

To learn more about the differences between USB 3.2 and USB4, please read on:

Display: USB4 offers more flexibility for display needs, allowing you to connect and use either two 4K monitors at once or a single 8K monitor. In contrast, USB 3.2 usually supports only one 4K monitor at a time. However, both USB4 and USB 3.2 lack daisy-chaining capacity.

Compatibility with Other Protocols: USB4 works over Type-C and can collaborate with protocols such as Thunderbolt and DisplayPort. This means that some USB4 devices and cables will work with Thunderbolt 3 devices and cables, but not all USB4 devices support Thunderbolt 3. Conversely, USB 3.2 doesn't natively support Thunderbolt 3, and compatibility between the two varies by hardware.

Dynamic Bandwidth Sharing: USB4 allows for the dynamic allocation of bandwidth across various data, including files, audio, and video. In contrast, USB 3.2 uses fixed bandwidth, which cannot be altered on the fly. This adaptive feature ensures that both tasks can be completed without interruptions or performance degradation, making USB4 more efficient than USB 3.2.
How to identify USB 3.2 and USB 4 ports
In a world filled with various standards, protocols, and connectors, it's important to have the knowledge to identify the latest USB 3.2 and USB4 ports. Here are some methods that can help you determine which USB version is installed on your machine.
1: Logo + Port Shape 
USB4 ports will always be Type-C ports with an oval shape. Look for a lightning bolt symbol or a USB4 logo near the port. However, it's important to note that not all Type-C ports are compatible with USB4.

USB 3.2 ports come in two shapes: rectangular Type-A and Type-C. They may be colored blue or feature a SuperSpeed logo, indicating their speed capabilities (5 Gbps, 10 Gbps, or 20 Gbps). However, please be aware that the color and logo conventions may vary among manufacturers.

Remember that not all Type-C ports can support the USB 3.2 protocol.
2: Find it Through the Device Manager
1. Open the Device Manager on your laptop. You can access it by typing "device manager" into the search box on the taskbar and then clicking on the search result.

2. Within the Device Manager, expand the category labeled "Universal Serial Bus Controllers."

3. Search for entries that display "USB4 Host Controller" or "USB 3.2 Host Controller" within this category. If you find any such entries, it indicates that your laptop is equipped with USB4 or USB 3.2 ports, respectively.

4. For more detailed information about a specific port or the connected device, right-click on the entry and choose "Properties."

In conclusion, when comparing USB 3.2 and USB4, there are several key differences to consider. USB4 offers faster data transfer speeds, more display flexibility, compatibility with protocols like Thunderbolt and DisplayPort, and dynamic bandwidth sharing. On the other hand, USB 3.2 has its own advantages, such as compatibility with both Type-A and Type-C ports.

To determine which USB version is installed on your machine, you can examine the port shape, look for specific logos or symbols, or check the Device Manager. It's important to note that not all Type-C ports support USB4 or USB 3.2, so it's essential to verify compatibility.

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