USB 3.0 vs USB 4.0 – Which is Best?

USB 3 vs USB 4

The latest iteration of the common connector appears to have a lot to offer in terms of speed and effectiveness. The major upgrades over USB 3 are excellent news for both creative pros and regular users. Are you curious as to what distinguishes USB 4.0 from USB 3? Let’s take a look at them,

What is USB 3?

In 2008, the third-generation USB interface was launched. USB 3, often known as “SuperSpeed USB” (SS USB), boosted speed from 480 Mbps to 5 Gbps while decreasing CPU overhead by no longer continually polling devices. This increases its speed from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0 by a factor of 10. A USB 3.0 storage device, for example, may provide a 50% improvement over its USB 2.0 equivalent.

When USB 3.1 was released in July 2013, this speed was further boosted to 10 Gbps. The USB 3.1 specification called for the usage of the same USB 3.0 connector types (Micro-AB, Micro-A, Micro-B, Type A, and Type B).

What are the Benefits of USB 3?

  • The difference between USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 in terms of speed is one of the most prominent. With data transmission speeds of up to 5.0 gigabits per second supported by the specification, USB 3.0 is roughly ten times faster than USB 2.0.
  • USB 3 can power more devices from a single hub, since it has more efficient power management than the previous generation.
  • It is backward compatible with USB 2.0 devices, and unlike USB 2.0, which utilizes a single duplex unidirectional data line to receive and send data, USB 3 employs two unidirectional data lanes to receive and transmit data.
  • It features a 9-pin connector, 5 of which are used for bidirectional data transfer and 4 of which are compatible with USB 2.0.
  • Due to the addition of two unidirectional data pathways, SSRx+/SSRx- and SSTx+/SSTx-, which operate in conjunction with the current D-/D+ data bus, USB 3 may now transfer data in both directions. Additionally, Vbus available current is increased in USB 3 from 500mA to 900mA, expanding the range of options for powering external devices and doing away with the requirement for extra power sources.
  • Due to the increase in data transmission rate to 5Gbps and the required reduction in channel capacitance, it may be challenging to find voltage transient protection systems that can protect crucial data lines without introducing signal-distorting capacitance.
  • Additional differential data pairs require more data lines to be ESD protected, making the previously used discrete ESD protection systems a less desirable option. On the other hand, modern silicon array ESD protection devices are routinely used to cover both USB 2.0 data lines and additional data signal pairs.

What is USB 4.0?

The term “USB 4.0” refers to the latest USB version. It offers significantly faster transmission rates, better port consumption, and the capacity to tunnel display ports and PCIe to external devices. It was launched in 2019.

Multiple connection protocols are combined by USB 4.0 into a single standard connector (USB-C). Additionally, USB 4.0 ensures backward compatibility with virtually all earlier standard inputs, like USB 3 and USB 2.0.

What are the Benefits of USB 4.0?

In comparison to earlier USB versions, the new USB 4 standard provides three key advantages:

  • It reaches a maximum speed of 40 Gbps. Some devices could operate at a speed of 40 Gbps, which is the same as Thunderbolt 3, by using two lane connections.
  • In addition to being backward compatible with USB 3.2, USB 3.1, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0, some USB 4.0 implementations are anticipated to work with Thunderbolt 3 devices.
  • When simultaneously transferring data and video over USB 4.0, the capacity will be distributed as necessary. The remaining 80% of the bandwidth is thus accessible for file transfers, if video transfers only use 20% of the available bandwidth.
  • For the purpose of transmitting electricity to high power devices, all USB 4.0 devices offer the USB Power Delivery specification. These provide greater power management and high wattages.

Platform Differences of USB 3 and USB 4.0

Every generation of USB 3 had numerous advancements over other iterations, and USB 4.0 is no exception.


Power Delivery

For low-power (maximum one unit load) devices, USB 3 defined a maximum current of 150 mA (0.6 W), and for high-power (maximum six-unit load) devices, a maximum current of 900 mA (4.5 W). In order to enhance the available current up to 1.5 A, USB 3 ports may also implement additional USB specifications, such as the USB Battery Charging Specification.

Much farther is taken with USB 4.0. With a conventional power range of up to 100 W (5 A at 20 V) and an enhanced power range of up to 240 W (5 A at 48 V), USB 4.0 can power significantly more devices.

Additionally, the power management has been improved so that each device only obtains the power it needs, with no additional.

Bandwidth Allocation

Some USB 4.0 iterations, like the earlier USB versions, have a maximum bandwidth of 20 or even 10 Gbps. This might suggest that those USB 4.0 versions have not changed at all. However, this is incorrect. Allocating bandwidth is where USB 4.0 performs the most.

For example, 10 Gbps would be provided for both USB and DisplayPort in the case of USB 3.2, even if DisplayPort might use much less bandwidth and USB might need much more. Not very productive. Even worse, using the HDMI Alt mode prevented you from using concurrent USB data at all.

Protocol tunnelling, a technology used by USB 4.0, eliminates these problems.

Thunderbolt Compatibility

Thunderbolt can technically be fitted into a USB 3.2 port because USB 3.2 used the USB-C form factor, therefore it would also fit. But that does not imply that it would be successful. After all, thunderbolt and USB 3 are incompatible.

However, Thunderbolt 3 itself serves as the foundation for USB 4.0. Thunderbolt 4 and Thunderbolt 3 are both consistent and flexible with USB 4.0 standards. This indicates that Thunderbolt devices are typically compatible with USB 4.0 devices, while it’s not required. Thunderbolt compatibility allows USB 4.0 devices to daisy-chain together as well.

USB 3 vs USB 4.0

Most notably, USB-C connectors are used by both USB 3.2 and USB 4. While the two standards’ capabilities may differ, the truth that they are both USB-C compatible remains unchanged.

In regard to the subject of compatibility, USB has a strong history of backward compatibility. In the same way, USB 3 and USB 4 are backwards compatible with each other and their respective predecessors.

Although USB 3 is still widely used today, USB 4 will likely replace it in the near future. All the improvements USB4 makes over USB 3 have already been covered in depth. The fact that USB 3 is increasingly being overtaken by USB 4 is evidence of this, both among manufacturers and users.

Here’s an overview of the speedy progression:


Which is Better?

When all the information is taken into account, USB 4.0 appears to be a positive development in a number of ways. It has all the bases covered to be a fantastic tool for both developers and designers and the average user, whether it be quick speed or superb bandwidth sharing between video and data. The mandated use of USB Type-C charging ports beginning in 2024. This law change is a part of a larger society initiative to improve consumer convenience, decrease electronic waste, and make products more environmentally friendly.

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