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Confused by USB names? Get used to it as USB 3.1 becomes 3.2



 The MacBook Pro sports reversible USB-C ports.

The MacBook Pro sports reversible USB-C ports.


Stephen Shankland / CNET
                                                

You are trying to decode the feature list of the latest tech product, you can probably appreciate the snarky tech saying, "There are only two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation and naming things."

You You will not be able to find any sleep over your cache, but names can be a problem if you're buying a PC, phone, external hard drive or other device with a USB port. That's because the trade group oversees USB has a bunch of potentially confusing labels. Oh, and by the way, those names can change when the underlying technology doesn't exist.

The newest example: what used to be called USB 3.1 is now USB 3.2. Don't panic, though – we'll be back in the details below

USB started more than two decades ago as a data-transfer technology, but it's expanded to charging phones and now powering laptops. But as USB's abilities grew the labels to describe those abilities became steadily more complicated.

And that's the trouble, because if you can't understand the differences between USB 3.1, USB-C and USB PD , you might buy the wrong cable or surprised how slow your new external hard drive is.

The trade group behind the technology, called the USB Implementers Forum or USB-IF, sensitive to recent criticism

"We are exploring some improvements to target overall simplification," USB-IF Chairman Brad Saunders said Wednesday. "I expect that over the course of this year, some further improvements that we are looking at will work out and start to have an impact."

The Wi-Fi Alliance, which markets the wireless network technology, believes technobabble can be a problem, moving to more human-friendly terms like Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 instead of the specification names of IEEE 802.11ac and 802.11ax. But naming fluid technology products is never going to be simple. Look no further than Microsoft's Windows versions, which include 3.0, 3.1, 95, 98, Me, 2000, XP, 7, 8, 10 and most recently Windows 10 Fall Creators Update version 1809.

What's this about USB 3.0 and 3.1 and 3.2?

USB covers and lot of ground. One of the key parts is how fast it can transfer data. This is where the latest confusion comes from.

 There are plenty of USB logos to choose from for data and data transfer abilities, but they don't always appear on products. logos to choose from to denote things like charging and data-transfer abilities, but they do not always appear on products.

There are plenty of USB logos to choose from to denote things like charging and data-transfer abilities, but they don't always appear on products.


USB-IF
                                                

USB 3.0 arrived with the ability to transfer data at 5 gigabits per second, or 5Gbps. But when the USB-IF doubled to 10Gbps, it renamed USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 Gen 1 and called the faster version USB 3.1 Gen 2.

Now we're getting another speed doubling and name change: USB 3.2 Gen 1 is 5Gbps, USB 3.2 Gen 2 is 10Gbps, and USB Gen 2×2 is 20Gbps. The much older USB 2.0 at 480Mbps has not changed names.

USB-IF wants to use it more human-friendly terms: USB 2.0 is USB Hi-Speed, and the version 3 variations are USB SuperSpeed ​​5Gbps, USB SuperSpeed ​​10Gbps and USB SuperSpeed ​​20Gbps.

"The internal details of the technical specification are intended for use with consumers, nor do we indicate that the specification version numbering (3.0, 3.1, etc.) is used for this purpose, "Saunders said.

Fine. But as a quick glance at Amazon shows, product packages and descriptions are loaded with references to the technical specification names like USB 3.0 and 3.1.

What about USB PD, USB-C and all that?

The SuperSpeed ​​variations govern only one part of USB: how fast it can transfer data. You may be able to enter a lot of other USB terms. This refers only to the physical part of USB – the connectors at the ends of cables and the ports on the sides of your devices – not its capacity for data or electrical power. USB-C is reversible, so there's no need to get the cable right side up, and it works on laptops, tablets and phones.

USB-C is a fast connection – indeed, many of the first phones using USB-C connectors only could transfer data at the old speeds or USB 2.0, err, I mean USB Hi-Speed. But if you want the new 20Gbps speeds, USB-C connections are required

Here's another term you'll likely encounter: USB Power Delivery, or USB PD. This technology governs USB's increasing utility providing electrical power whether from a wall socket or a battery. It's designed to automatically figure out how much juice your device can handle – whether that is the 100-watt maximum a high-end laptop might want for the lower levels for phones and other smaller devices.

What's not yet clear is how USB -IF will name what's next. Because another USB speed doubling to 40Gbps is possible if not yet available. USB 3.3? USB SuperSpeed ​​40Gbps? USB 4.0?

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar


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