I recently presented a session at EE Live! on USB 3.0, which proved quite popular. There were a number of questions and discussion about what is wrong with USB [mainly the connectors] and where it is going in the future. Of course, the question of USB 3.1 came up …
My class included very little information on USB 3.1 because the standard is not yet finalized. It is slated for late 2014 and there is enough industry/user pressure for me to believe that this schedule will work. However, in this more informal context, I am happy to chat [and speculate] about USB 3.1
Broadly speaking, there are 3 areas of enhancement over USB 3.0:
- Speed – USB 3.0 provided SuperSpeed, which offers a signaling rate of 5 Gbps, which was 10X USB 2.0’s best. USB 3.1 will double that to 10 Gbps, but will also include more efficient line encoding, which lowers the overhead and allows actual data transfers to occur at an improved rate. The new speed seems to be called SuperSpeed+. This brings USB into the same domain as Apple’s Thunderbolt.
- Power – USB 3.0 more or less doubled the amount of power that a device could potentially drain from the bus to 900 mA at 5 V. USB 3.1 adds more options: 2 A at 5 V; 5 A at 12 V; 5 A at 20 V. This capacity makes USB [even more] viable as a universal power source or charger for electronic devices.
- Connectors – At last! Although details are sketchy, the plan is for USB 3.1 connectors to be available in a very slim form which is also reversible – just like the Apple Lightning connector.
I actually find the last of these most exciting. USB connectors are like buttered toast. It always lands butter side down. A USB plug presented to a USB socket is always upside down. There are, of course, those who would say that the new connectors are how USB should have been in the first place …