USB 4 is the next leap forward for laptops and phones

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

USB connectors are an important but overlooked component of laptops, smartphones and many other devices. Tech products have been using the most recent version of the connection standard, USB 3.2, since 2017 at the earliest, so it’s high time for an upgrade in the form of USB 4.

Semiconductor manufacturer Cypress has announced a pair of new USB controllers - chips which help a device’s main processor interface with whatever’s been plugged in via the port. These controllers work with USB 3.2, DisplayPort and Power Delivery as you’d expect, but also with the slowly emerging USB 4 standard.

As Anandtech (via TechRadar Pro) reports, the controllers’ firmware can be updated to support USB 4 but are not by default compatible. What this may mean is while the ports using these controllers will be able to use USB 4, they won’t be capable of using the maximum available data transfer rate.

USB 4 was announced in August 2019, and while it still uses the USB-C reversible shape, it is a considerable improvement on the Thunderbolt 3 connector. It can achieve up to 40Gbps data transfer, as long as you have the right kind of ports and cables, and you can charge at up to 100W, which will fill a standard laptop battery in very little time at all. 

You can find Thunderbolt 3 ports on the majority of modern laptops, combining speedy USB-C data transfer with high-wattage charging and the option to use an external display. This technology will fall in price as USB 4 makes its way onto high-specced devices, which will mean even the cheapest devices will soon be able to benefit from Thunderbolt 3 while users after premium experiences will be able to buy the latest and greatest in port technology,.

This technology will make its way onto smartphones eventually too, as well as to other products such as smart home devices. With Cypress’ announcement, companies are sure to follow in the next year or two with their first USB 4-compatible products making use of the technology, and giving users access to the additional speed they’ve been waiting for.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.