New USB 3.2 norm will make existing USB branding more confusing

Jonny Caldwell

If you thought the current branding of the different USB speeds were confusing, things will only get worse with the new naming structure for new devices (via Ars Technica). The newest generation protocol supports transfer rates of up to 20 Gbps by using two 10 Gbps transfer lanes on USB-C cables and devices that support it.

When USB 3.0 was announced, it provided users with 5 Gbps “SuperSpeed” transfer data rates, continuing to name slower devices USB 2 (480 Mbps “High Speed”) and USB 1.1 (12 Mbps “Full Speed). However, with USB 3.1 devices offering up to 10 Gbps data transfer speeds, the USB Implementers Forum (the organization responsible for the USB protocol) decided to name new 5 Gbps devices as “USB 3.1 Gen 1”, with new 10 Gbps devices as “USB 3.1 Gen 2.”

USB 3.2 doesn’t improve the naming structure at all, as new 5 Gbps USB devices will be labeled as “USB 3.2 Gen 1,” 10 Gbps devices will be “USB 3.2 Gen 2,” and then the new 20 Gbps devices will now be “USB 3.2 Gen 2×2.” This naming structure is sure to mislead consumers, many of whom likely have the “3.2 is faster than 3.1” mindset. Furthermore, as many companies like to oversimplify things when it comes to marketing, it will make it even easier for them to mislead consumers looking for a new device.

USB Type-C devices were created to simplify things by enabling video output, audio, charging, and data transfer to all be part of one port and one type of cable. However, when you account for the different features only some devices support, the different speeds associated with the confusing names, and the differences in charging input required for each device, it’s clear things are far from simple in the world full of USB-supported devices.