Just what the world needs, the USB 3.2 standard

So strap yourself in because it looks like there is another USB standard coming. I know, I know, you’re just beginning to get used to the USB-C connector, and you admit that it’s better even though you have to get all new cables and everything. And now I’m here to tell you that there’s a new sheriff in town, and its name is USB 3.2.

Here’s the good news: USB 3.2 uses the same connector as USB 3.1. It uses the USB-C connector which nearly everyone likes because it’s small and reversible even though dust gets into the hole in the middle. It’s upward and downward compatible, meaning that if you connect a USB 3.2 cable into a USB 3.1 device, it will just use the 3.1 standard. So far there’s no word on how you will tell one cable from another.

The downside here is of course, you’re looking at buying new cables again if you want to take advantage of USB 3.2. And you will, because it’s fast. Not just fast, but ridiculously fast. The kind of fast that used to take fiber optics not that long ago. You could see two simultaneous connections of 10Gbps each, which means for example you could transfer a two-hour HD movie in MPEG-4 format in roughly 3 seconds, and transfer another movie at the same speed at the same time. Holy crap that’s fast.

USB’s history has always been one of increasing speed. The original USB standard was 12Mbps. This new standard is 1,666 times faster. It’s faster than most Ethernet connections by a factor of 20, and I guarantee it’s faster than any device it’s going to be connected to. But that’s probably temporary.

When USB went from 2.0 to 3.0, you may remember that the inside of the connectors were made from blue plastic so you could tell the difference, and the “B” type connector had an extra hump in it. I really hope they do something with the 3.2 connector so you can tell if you’re using one. I’m not saying you’ll need to use one but it would be nice to know.

One thing no one’s talking about for the moment is power. USB 3.1 can provide 100 watts of power, and USB 3.2 could possibly carry even more. It’s already been proven that using this cable the wrong way could fry your electronics, and A lot of people have suggested that the next USB standard adopt some safeguards against this. So far there’s no news of that.

The USB 3.2 standard still isn’t approved yet, and based on the past, we’ll probably start seeing this connector in mobile electronics in 2018 with widespread desktop adoption probably coming sometime in mid-2019 or 2020. So, you have some time to deal with the coming of yet another standard and all the adapters, hubs, and other nonsense that generally comes with all of this.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.