When SuperSpeed USB was announced in 2007, the brand was a logical differentiator. The term was launched with USB 3.0, which increased maximum data transfer rates from USB 2.0’s meager 0.48 Gbps to 5 Gbps. But in 2022, there were three versions of SuperSpeed USB in different connector types that consumers were facing, as well as the potentially faster USB4. Going forward, USB products will continue to offer different performance capabilities while looking the same, but there’s at least one thing we can all agree on: the word “SuperSpeed” is no longer a useful differentiator.
The SuperSpeed brand already seemed pretty mundane in 2019, when USB-IF, which sets USB standards, renamed USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 Gen 1; USB 3.1 to USB 3.1 Gen 2, then USB 3.2 Gen 2; and USB 3.2 to USB 3.2 Gen 2×2. The group sought to make things easier for consumers by recommending that vendors label products not by the specification name but by “SuperSpeed USB” followed by the maximum speed (USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, for example, would be SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps).
According to updated guidelines and logos that began rolling out this quarter and which you may see before the end of 2022, as reported by The Verge today, USB-IF now recommends vendors label products like, simply, USB 20 Gbps (for USB 3.2 Gen 2×2), USB 10 Gbps (for USB 3.2 Gen 2), etc. No SuperSpeed needed.
USB4, on the other hand, gets the same treatment, with USB-IF recommending the USB 40 Gbps mark and USB 20 Gbps for the specification. When released, USB4 Version 2.0 should be called USB 80Gbps.
“USB4 Version 1.0, USB Version 2.0, USB 3.2, SuperSpeed Plus, Enhanced SuperSpeed, and SuperSpeed+ are defined in the USB Specifications; however, these terms are not intended for use in product names, messages, packaging or any other consumer-facing content,” the September-updated USB-IF language usage guidelines read [PDF].
The USB-IF always recommends vendors label USB 2.0, which can take the form of USB-C, USB-A, USB-B, etc., as “Hi-Speed USB” with no performance indicator . Most products using the USB 2.0 specification are peripherals, such as keyboards and printers, USB-IF President and COO Jeff Ravencraft told Ars Technica, so the industry group doesn’t don’t think consumers will confuse the technology as being faster than, say, USB. 5 Gbps. USB-IF was also concerned that people would confuse “USB 480Mbps” as being faster than USB 5Gbps, due to the larger numbers (we guess “USB 0.48Gbps” doesn’t look so pretty).
“High-speed USB has been around for over 20 years and is well established in the market, so we’ve focused our rebranding efforts on 5 Gbps and above,” the USB-IF spokesperson said.
The recommended USB 1.0 mark, meanwhile, remains intact.
For USB-C cables, the USB-IF now recommends the packaging and the logos indicate both the maximum data transfer rate and the power delivery.
It doesn’t change much
The changed recommendations align with what many vendors had already done: list speeds alone without any spec names or the term SuperSpeed. Some vendors only list USB specification names. With all that in mind, it’s no surprise to see the official demise of the SuperSpeed brand, especially with USB-IF revealing its optional USB-C logos without SuperSpeed a year ago.
The main problem at the heart of the USB confusion remains. Even as USB-C becomes more ubiquitous and, in some places, eventually required by law, USB-C products can have a range of capacities, including data transfer rates from 0.48 to 40 Gbit/ s.
The USB-IF guidelines also don’t specify other features, such as support for Intel Thunderbolt, whether it’s an active or passive cable, and PCIe tunneling.
But according to Ravencraft, the typical person doesn’t really care about these things. The executive told The Verge that consumer research groups have shown that most consumers only care about “the highest level of data performance the product can achieve” and “the lowest power level.” higher than I can get or drive with this product”.
Most people don’t understand USB branding, messaging, revision control, or spec names, he told The Verge.
Everything is optional
Despite its efforts to simplify what consumers see, the USB-IF also cannot guarantee widespread use of its optional logos and certification. The list of USB-IF certified products contains 2,500 items while there are countless devices, cables and products using USB.
Ravencraft admitted to Ars that some companies may consider costs associated with obtaining USB-IF certification, including passing USB-IF compliance testing and acquiring a USB-IF trademark license agreement. , as “prohibitive”. There are discounts for USB-IF members.
Ravencraft also suggested that some companies might forgo certification if they know they’re cutting corners to cut costs and therefore won’t pass compliance testing.
So the Wild West of USB labeling will likely continue to some extent, but customers also have options. Products with USB-IF logos, if available, immediately tell you what power and speed you can expect. Whether or not this rate is considered super speed is up to you.
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