What Is A USB 4? USB 4 Vs. USB-C


There are so many different types of wires and connections available today. Most modern technology requires USB cords and chargers in order to operate, from connecting your mouse to charging your phone. You probably have a drawer specifically for USB cords that can only be used with specific gadgets.

So what is a USB 4? Among the connectors currently in use, USB 4 promises a number of advantages, including faster transfer rates, better video bandwidth management, and optional compatibility with Thunderbolt 3.

A new generation of USB 4-powered docks and peripherals is slowly making its way onto the market, though there aren’t many products currently being marketed as USB 4.

This article introduces what is USB 4 and the main difference between USB 4 and USB-C. Keep reading!

What Is USB 4?

The following generation of USB is referred to as USB 4.0. It was announced in 2019 and is expected to offer noticeably faster transfer speeds, better port utilization, and the capacity to provide display ports and PCIe tunneling to external devices.

Multiple connectivity standards are combined with the help of USB 4.0, which uses a single standard connector (USB-C). Almost all previous standard inputs, including USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, are backward compatible with USB 4.0.

What Is Tunneling?

A technology called tunneling enables multiple devices connected to a single PC to share network resources. Each USB-C device previously required a separate USB-C port on your computer or laptop to be connected. Now, a single hub with sufficient power and data capacity to operate multiple USB-C devices simultaneously can be connected to the USB 4/USB-C port.

USB 4 Is New

Since computers with USB 4.0 technology began to be sold in 2020, it’s possible that you haven’t yet come across USB 4. However, if you do decide to invest in newer technology with USB 4, you can buy with confidence knowing that it is backward compatible with your USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices. Additionally, it can connect to some 4K and some 5K displays.

Any Difference From “USB4”?

The name USB 4 should be written “USB4” without the space, according to its creators. They also point out that the naming schemes used for USB 3, 3.0, etc. won’t be used here. Keeping things as straightforward as possible with just USB4 is the goal, so there are no plans to produce “.0” iterations every time there is an update.

What Are The Main Benefits Of USB 4?

Three main advantages of the new USB 4 standard over earlier USB versions.

  • 40 Gbps Maximum Speed: Devices can operate at up to 40 Gbps, the same rate as Thunderbolt 3, by using two-lane cables. Two groups of four bidirectional lanes are used to transmit the data.
  • 2.0 DisplayPort Alt Mode: The alternative mode of USB 4 supports DisplayPort 2.0. 8K resolution at 60 Hz and HDR10 color are both supported by DisplayPort 2.0. Due to the fact that all data is sent in one direction—to the monitor—and therefore can utilize all eight data lanes simultaneously, DisplayPort 2.0 can use up to 80 Gbps, which is twice as much as what is possible for USB data.
  • Thunderbolt 3 devices are compatible with: Some USB 4 implementations, but not all, will be compatible with Thunderbolt 3 hardware.
  • Improved Video and PCIe Resource Allocation Instead of using an alternative mode, where the other interface assumes control of the connection, USB 4 devices can use a technique called “protocol tunneling,” which simultaneously sends DisplayPort, PCIe, and USB packets while allocating bandwidth as necessary.

    Accordingly, if the video only uses 20% of the available bandwidth to drive your hub-equipped 1080p monitor, the remaining 80% can be used to transfer files from your external SSD, which supports both the PCIe and USB protocols.

Will USB 4 Use Type-C Ports?

Nearly without saying: Only the Type-C connector supports USB 4. Expect to not find any Type-A ports on any USB 4 hardware, including hubs. That comes as no surprise given that only Type-C supports other recent standards like USB Power Delivery. If you do connect to, for example, a Type-A, 5 Gbps USB 3 port by using an adapter, the speed and power will drop down to the lowest common denominator. 

When Intel announced that it had given the Thunderbolt 3 protocol to the USB Promoter Group, the news was big. This meant that Thunderbolt 3 devices and USB 4 devices could potentially work together, and USB 4 devices could connect to Thunderbolt 3 devices. For laptop users who want to play games by connecting an eGPU (external graphics card), that’s good news for everyone.

Even though there are many Thunderbolt 3 eGPUs available, very few laptops and desktops ship with Thunderbolt 3, and very few motherboards come with Thunderbolt 3 support. Since Thunderbolt is an Intel standard, AMD-powered computers do not support it. Because it is not an open standard and requires a separate chip, Thunderbolt 3 is also more expensive to implement than standard USB. As a result, today’s computers don’t offer many options if you want an eGPU or a lightning-fast Thunderbolt 3 storage drive.

With USB 4, there is a much better chance of widespread adoption because device and host manufacturers won’t have to pay Intel any royalties. But there’s a problem: Manufacturers are not required to implement Thunderbolt compatibility since it is not specified as a requirement in the USB 4 specification. You might end up purchasing a laptop with USB 4 only to discover that it is incompatible with your Razer Core X graphics dock, for example.

“Because most of what they require is already included in the USB 4 design, we do anticipate PC vendors to broadly support Thunderbolt backward compatibility, according to USB Implementers Forum Chairman Brad Saunders. “Since it uses the same technology, we do expect a high rate of adoption there, but it’s likely that the phone manufacturers won’t choose to include the extra component required to be backward compatible.”

Apple has advertised that its M1 computers have Thunderbolt 3 and USB 4 ports, and new Tiger Lake laptops like the Dell XPS 13 claim to support Thunderbolt 3 and USB 4. The new Macs do not support external GPUs, which is unfortunate given that they have these ports.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to keep in mind that Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 are Intel’s programs for logo certification, which demand time and money from manufacturers. As a result, while a computer powered by USB 4 may be able to handle devices rated at 40 Gbps or even those marked as Thunderbolt, if the device doesn’t undergo certification, it may not be listed as supporting Thunderbolt.

It also makes sense that, for instance, a phone or tablet vendor would save money by omitting 40 Gbps transfer speeds or support for PCIe data transmission. An eGPU or fast external SSD would not be (and could not be) connected to a phone.

What Is USB-C?

The handy connector end you can’t insert “upside down” is part of the physical design of USB-C.” Do you recall the first USB connectors used for gaming consoles and digital cameras? They had older USB ports that you had to plug in facing up. It had another name, USB-A. You might have wasted a lot of time flipping USB-A connectors in order to position them properly.

Technology for USB 3, USB 4, and even Thunderbolt is supported by USB-C. For charging gaming consoles and smartphones, it’s one of the more popular plug connection types.


Difference Between USB 4 And USB-C

Although the names of the USB 4 and USB-C appear to be similar at first glance, they actually refer to entirely different technologies.

Type Of Cable Vs. Specific Version

A USB-C cable is a particular kind of cable, whereas USB 4.0 is a particular iteration of the USB cable technology.

There is no connection between the shape and USB 4. It alludes to the specific technology found inside a USB-C. That’s right, your cable may support USB-C and USB 4.

Not only that, but you can’t tell whether it’s a USB 3 or USB 4 device just by looking at the design. Despite the fact that USB 3 is also available with the more recent USB-C design, some USB 3 connectors still use the USB-A design.


The compatibility varies to some extent. Because the end of the USB-C connector is different, it won’t function with earlier USB technologies. However, as long as it fits the “c-shaped” port used by USB 4.0 devices, USB 4 technology can work with older technology. You can use a specialized converter dongle if the shape doesn’t fit (it’s not a USB-C).

Which Type Of USB Is The Best For You?

You now understand that there isn’t really a choice between USB-C and USB 4 because USB 4 uses the USB-C design. This is because you have read about the differences between the two. The design features of USB-C are included by default if you purchase a USB 4 device.

So, what are you actually choosing? Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 are your best options. You might not even have a preference for the average computer user given how similar they are.


The USB 4 standard, which boasts broad compatibility, is the next generation of USB. In comparison to earlier USB technologies, it charges quickly, supports multiple devices simultaneously, transfers data quickly, and uses fewer ports. Keep using the technology you are familiar with if you prefer USB.


Thunderbolt is most frequently used in Apple technology, and it has its supporters as well. If you own a Macbook Pro or an iPhone, you’ll notice that Thunderbolt technology is heavily promoted and featured on new models.

Remember To Choose The Right Cords

Regardless of the technology you favor, you must have the appropriate cords and accessories to match your current equipment. Before buying new connectors, find out what your devices require because, despite their similarities, they are not the same.

For information on what you can and cannot do, consider the following facts:

  • A standard Type-C cable without the Thunderbolt designation is never compatible with Thunderbolt devices, and not all Thunderbolt cables function as true USB 3.1 Type-C cables.
  • Both Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 ports and devices are compatible with the new Thunderbolt 4 cables.
  • Using a Thunderbolt 3 cable to connect two Thunderbolt 4 devices is not recommended.
  • Determine how many USB4 ports your device has by looking at it. Despite the fact that USB 3 devices can also be connected to USB ports, USB 4 devices should come first.

Take Away

There will be a steady decrease in the use of earlier versions and USB types as USB 4.0 and USB-C take over the top spot now that USB 4.0 capable laptops are starting to become available.

Remember: Never purchase a USB 4 cable or any other kind of cable if it isn’t clear what technology it employs. Some non-branded cables might be ambiguous about this, leaving you with a cable that transfers data slowly or is inefficient at charging devices.

Stay away from cables that are extremely inexpensive; they are “too good to be true” for a reason. Instead, stick with the cables offered by the companies whose names you are familiar with and who you can trust.

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