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USB 3.2: The basics

While you await the arrival of USB 4 - who knows when - we’re here to tell you about USB 3.2, the current standard for USB.

The problem is that the USB 3.2 naming convention is really hard to decipher. First, combined with the older USB 3.0 standard, there are three varieties of USB 3.2. Second, the USB 3.2 varieties can be described with a number of “SuperSpeed USB” marketing terms. Third, it’s shortly going to be replaced by USB 4 and we’ll have forgotten about all of this by the time you’ve fully learnt the difference between each.

Take a look back for a minute. When USB 3.1 was announced it was split into two ‘gen’ - USB 3.0 was upgraded to USB 3.1 Gen 1 and the newer standard was USB 3.1 Gen 2.

It’s the same with USB 3.2. The fastest of the three varieties - with a maximum speed of 20Gbps - is USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. Now you may be asking why 2x2, well, the answer is simple enough. 2x2 is the second generation and has 2 10Gbps lanes to achieve the throughput of 20Gbps.

The USB 3.1 with a single 10Gbps channel is simply called USB 3.2 Gen 2. USB 3.0 is now called USB 3.2 Gen 1.

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Finally, there are the marketing terms for USB 3.2:
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2: SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2: SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps
  • USB 3.2 Gen 1: SuperSpeed USB

Are you team Type-A or team Type-C?

It should have been straightforward with USB 3.2 but it isn’t. We know that. There’s a battle between the physical forms that USB come in.

  • USB Type-A: A rectangular cable that has to be plugged in the right side up
  • USB Type-C: Oval-shaped and slightly smaller than USB Type-A and can be plugged in whichever side as they are reversible.

All USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 products use the Type-C connector, thankfully. Do all USB-C ports support USB 3.2 Gen 2x2? The answer is no.

Simply put, USB-C ports are split into 20Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 or 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2. A USB Type-A port can be 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2, 5Gbps 3.2 Gen 1 or even USB 2.0.

One hopes that with the arrival of USB 4, the naming convention will be simplified.