Tech corner

What is USB 3.2?


A new USB is upon us, so we find out what this means for your devices

A new USB is upon us, which means it’s time to upgrade your devices’ ports and cabling in the near future. If you’re not sure what the different types of USB systems are, the current standard is USB 3.1, used in the last wave of MacBook Pro models. But what’s the difference, and what does it mean for your devices?


The USB 3.2 gives you the ability to use two high-speed channels on the same cable, for a maximum throughput of 20Gbps. The current USB 3.1 works out at 10Gbps, and the one before that was a much smaller 5Gbps. All this really means is that your newer USB devices will be able to support a much bigger, much faster transfer system than the ones you currently own.


The actual shape and standard of the USB is separate from the technical USB protocol, meaning that not all USB-C plugs are equipped with the same USB tech inside them. This is so that the manufacturers of the products are able to make different choices about the speeds they want to implement, and the costs they want to pay for the tech. To support a particular USB standard, you need a device such as a computer or mobile phone, a USB connector port and a cable that all support the same tech, otherwise your speeds will drop back down to a slower level, rendering the upgrades intended for the USB 3.2 pretty pointless.


So what about the devices you already own that use the older USB fittings? The good news is that the older USB standards stick around for a long time, and the newer standards are often backwards compatible, which means that the new cables will still work with your older computers and phones. This is handy as it means you don’t always have to upgrade your smartphones and laptops just to get on the USB 3.2 bandwagon, but you should always check the specs before purchasing any new USB products to ensure you don’t get caught out.


If you want to make sure your purchases are definitely going to work with all of the top new gadgets set to be released in the near future, you should be keeping an eye out for devices and cables that are equipped with a combination of both USB 3.1 and USB-C connectors. The upgrade to USB 3.2 means that certain existing cables may be able to double their data transfer rates, allowing you to send twice as much data.


You’ll still need equipment that supports the new USB 3.2 standard at both ends of the cables, but the cables themselves don’t need to be replaced to get the better speeds. Though they might not be as speedy as they are when they’re used with newer tech, they’ll at least be ready for the next wave of hardware to hit the shelves. Overall, this new USB tech will mean a faster user experience and the transition should be nice and smooth for top techies and the general public alike.

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