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TOPIC: USB-C, USB3,,TB3 Misinformation

USB-C, USB3,,TB3 Misinformation 03 Jun 2015 17:25 #65180

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There is a lot of misinformation and confusion around the new USB Type C (USB-C) connector and data protocols it supports. The recent Intel press release has only added to this confusion. Apple has also added some confusion to the USB3.1 definitions/specifications.

First, USB-C is a hardware specification, not a data transfer protocol specification. Having a USB-C port, like on the new MacBook, does not mean it will support TB3 or any other protocol. What protocols it uses is dependent on the chipsets that are connected to the port. In other words, USB-C may only utilize USB2 and not support USB3(3.1) Display Port, TB3, etc… it is up to the manufacture to configure the necessary hardware chipsets and licenses to make the port work with different transfer protocols.

There are lots websites including Tech Sites claiming any(All) USB-C port(s) will support Intel's new TB3 specification. I blame Intel and lazy reporting for this.

TB3

Intel's press release, as posted here on FCP.co is only about Intel adopting the USB-C port as the hardware port that TB3 will utilize. Intel is apparently dropping the mini Display Port(Lightning Port) configuration for TB3 implementation. In order for a device maker to have TB3 capability, they must license the TB3 patents from Intel as well as any other protocols it wishes to use. Intel's licenses are said to be somewhat expensive, so not every manufacturer will do this. Most likely, if the USB-C port does not have the lightning icon, it is not TB3. Add to this, that in the future you may see TB2 and not TB3 implemented on USB-C. Nothing is stopping manufactures from doing this.

Let's add to this that while TB3 is capable of speeds up to 40Gb/s, this is only with fibre optic cable, not copper. Copper only supports up to 20Gb/s same as TB2.

USB3(1)

USB3 and USB3.1 are largely transfer protocols but with some hardware requirements/specifications. They can be implemented on many different physical port connectors. You might find USB3.1 on a Standard type A(B) USB port, or TB, PCIe for example. Here we get into additional confusion.
USB3(.1) requires a different port connector and different wiring in the cable to work in external devices at USB3(!) speeds. If you use USB2 ports or cables, then the transfer protocol reverts to USB2 specifications. The physical size is the same for the connectors, but USB3 has 5 additional pins for data/power and ground. In other words, if you have a USB3 capable external hdd, but plug it in a USB2 port or use a USB2 cable, you will only get USB2 speeds. USB3 ports are differentiated by the color blue, except that Apple ignores this specification requirement. Apple also has a weird implementation of USB3.

Unfortunately, we are not done with all the confusion yet concerning USB3(!). USB3 has a theoretical maximum transfer speed of 5Gb/s (625MBs) while USB3.1 has a maximum of 10Gb/s roughly the same as TB1 speeds; except that Apple pushed a change in specifications that created GEN1 and GEN2 USB3.1 speed specifications. Apple advertises it's latest USB ports as USB3.1 but GEN1 which has a maximum speed of 5Gb/s, not 10Gb/s. Why Apple, WHY! Why not full USB3.1 and why confuse 3.0 & 3.1?? :(

Okay let's increase the confusion further. Within USB3(1) there can be different transfer protocols, Legacy Bulk Only Transfer (BOT) or USB Attached SCSI Protocol (UASP)) (sometimes only UAS is used) These are very different protocols, and you really want UASP enabled devices, not BOT only devices. UASP can be many times faster than BOT. When purchasing a USB3 device, always look for UASP enabled (capable) label. UASP requires a different chipset and drivers. All Macs with USB3 have UASP enabled ports. If both the computer and devices do not have UASP enabled, then the devices will revert to BOT.
Let's add more confusion with SuperSpeed and SuperSpeed+, Turbo Boost (Speed) all related to transfer speed and block sizes.
So we could add lots of additional confusion to this whole subject, but I need to go rest my brain.

I do like the new USB-C port and USB3(1). I think Apple will drop the Lightning Port in favor of USB-C. I also think people will continue to be confused about this for a very long time. Sorry your new MacBook does not support TB3, but the next iteration of nMP/iMac might if it has USB-C; then again it might not. :ohmy:

Hope this helps, Greg

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Last edit: by VidGreg. Reason: Correct title

USB-C, USB3,,TB3 Misinformation 03 Jun 2015 18:47 #65184

  • ronny courtens
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Thanks for clarifying this, Greg. Very useful information.

- Ronny

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USB-C, USB3,,TB3 Misinformation 04 Jun 2015 06:40 #65196

  • wdevn
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Thanks a lot for clearing this up!
LLAP,
James
Taipei, Taiwan

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USB-C, USB3,,TB3 Misinformation 04 Jun 2015 08:01 #65197

  • Karsten Schlüter
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Excellent 'summary' Greg ... /bookmarked/

Thanks a lot for clearing this up!

Clear? Defintely not, I feel dizzy ... :silly:

Telefon-support in 'international English' will add new levels of confusion....
"…I have usb three"
"okay, it's usb-C, and ..."
"No, I said 3!"
"Yes, C …"
"NO, thththtree!!"
"I see..."
"No, not C !!!"
"Si ...."

tbc ....

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Last edit: by Karsten Schlüter.

USB-C, USB3,,TB3 Misinformation 04 Jun 2015 13:40 #65208

  • VidGreg
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Thanks for the Thanks and you're welcome.
Silly me, I am actually reading the final specification documents…zzzzzzz
It is far worse than I thought especially with several different cables with USB-C connectors(will look the same), but that will or will not be capable of different protocols. Will have small wording or icons to differentiate YIKES!

Very funny Karsten, LOL

Happy editing everyone,
Greg

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