Get ready for USB 3.2: Super-fast 20Gbps transfer speeds but tons of confusion

USB 3.2 is coming this year, but the trouble is it now absorbs all previous USB 3.x specifications.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has announced that new USB 3.2 devices capable of 20Gbps will be available this year. 

First announced in 2017, the USB 3.2 specification introduces changes to the way manufacturers communicate and advertise transfer speeds. 

Although USB 3.2 specifications are meant to avoid confusion, it may actually make things more complicated for consumers and manufacturers. 

At Mobile World Congress, USB-IF announced that the new USB 3.2 specification will absorb USB 3.0 and 3.1 specifications, with USB 3.2 now denoting three different speed tiers. 

USB 3.2 Gen 1 will be marketed as 'SuperSpeed USB' and indicates transfer speeds of 5Gbps, while USB 3.2 Gen 2 will be marketed as 'SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps'. The third 3.2 category is USB Gen 2x2 and will be marketed as 'SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps'.

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)    

The confusing part of this is that under the USB 3.1 specification, USB 3.1 Gen 1 signified 5Gbps connections while USB 3.1 Gen 2 indicated 10Gbps. 

The USB 3.2 specification enables 20Gbps data-transfer rates because it allows for up to two lanes of 10Gbps but only using Type-C cables, hence the '2x2' in USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. 

Fortunately for consumers, USB-IF is encouraging device makers to stick to the SuperSpeed nomenclature.

USB generation  Previous name New name Speed Type Brand name
USB 3.0 USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps USB-A/C SuperSpeed USB
USB 3.1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps USB-A/C SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps
USB 3.2 None USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 20Gbps USB-C SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps

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