The State of USB: Renaming USB 3.x is a Confusing Mess for Consumers

Subject: Editorial | February 27, 2019 - 11:53 AM |
Tagged: usb-if, USB Implementers Forum, USB 3.x, usb 3.2, usb 3.1, usb 3.0, usb, universal serial bus

There was a time when USB simply meant Universal Serial Bus, and we watched as devices that had previously relied on serial and parallel (etc.) ports moved to the new, more convenient standard; and in the enthusiast community we watched with some trepidation as PS/2 became a legacy option for keyboards in favor of USB. Since then we have seen tremendous increases in speed for this interface with huge strides from USB 2.0 and then USB 3.0, but in the recent past there has been a proliferation of different generations of the technology with their own speed ratings, a new connector, and a lot of confusion.

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Types of USB connectors (via conwire.com)

Now, in an apparent - yet misguided - effort to clarify the situation, the people making decisions about what to call these standards has released documentation for the re-naming of existing USB 3.x standards - which makes about as much sense as continuing to call the latest version of USB another three-point-anything, when we clearly should have moved on to USB 4.0 by now.

The organization calling the shots about the standard is called the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), described from their about page as "a non-profit corporation founded by the group of companies that developed the Universal Serial Bus specification" which was "formed to provide a support organization and forum for the advancement and adoption of Universal Serial Bus technology".

So what did the USB-IF come up with? Truth is, as they say, stranger than fiction:

The USB 3.2 specification absorbed all prior 3.x specifications. USB 3.2 identifies three transfer rates, USB 3.2 Gen 1 at 5Gbps, USB 3.2 Gen 2 at 10Gbps and USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 at 20Gbps. It is important that vendors clearly communicate the performance signaling that a product delivers in the product’s packaging, advertising content, and any other marketing materials.

  • USB 3.2 Gen 1
    • Product capability: product signals at 5Gbps
    • Marketing name: SuperSpeed USB
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2
    • Product capability: product signals at 10Gbps
    • Marketing name: SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
    • Product capability: product signals at 20Gbps
    • Marketing name: SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps

If this was not crystal clear already, the USB-IF goes on to emphasize the importance of clarifying the performance potential separately from the protocols when advertising one of these standards, itself suggesting that they have failed to clarify anything with these changes:

"It is critical for manufacturers to distinguish between USB 3.2 Gen 1, USB 3.2 Gen 2 and USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 products. USB-IF also strongly urges manufacturers to identify the performance capabilities of a product separately from other protocols or physical characteristics in product names and marketing materials."

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Various USB-IF standards

For your edification I have added the entire release after the break, which is also available at this link (PDF) from their website.

Source: USB-IF