August 15, 2014

New USB 3.1 Connector Brings Faster Speeds & Cables You Can Plug in Any Way You Want

usb 3 3.0 3.1 10gbps interface bus protocol standard device connectivity digital computerGenerally speaking, it isn't too difficult to plug something in correctly. That is to say, the relationship between a plug and its matching receptacle is often pretty self-explanatory. And yet, somehow, I still find myself trying to plug USB cables into USB ports the wrong way. USB is everywhere, and that's not something that is likely to change anytime soon. What will change, however, is the ease of plugging things into it. That's because USB specs have finalized the new Type-C reversible connector design announced earlier. The connector/cable type promises the 10Gb/s speeds and 100W power provided by USB 3.1, and yes, the physical incapability of being plugged in wrong.

We've known for some time now that USB 3's abilities would eventually be absorbed and expanded on by the updated 3.1 specification. The new spec outlines several upgrades, mainly 3.1's doubled maximum theoretical speeds of 10Gb/s over the 5Gb/s of USB 3. However, USB 3.1's more-efficient encoding scheme also uses less overall bandwidth -- meaning more user-dedicated pipe and greater real-world throughput to scale. This, as it turns out, is because 3.1 switches to 128b/132b line coding from USB 3's 8b/10b at the physical layer. Apparently the latter costs 20% in interface overhead while the new coding scheme costs only 3%, allowing for wider data payload and greater resiliency to error per bits transmitted. This is on top of the bandwidth expansion, so USB 3.1 is actually a greater-than-double increase in performance over 3.0.

We've also known that USB 3.1 will be backward-compatible all the way back to 2.0, just as USB 3 is -- and that older computers/ports will be forward-compatible with newer 3 & 3.1 devices. Plus, bus power rates will include 2A at 5V, 5A at 12V, and 5A at 20V configurations as defined in the current spec. What will tie all of this together as we move forward, however, is the USB Type-C Connector (see image below, courtesy the USB-IF, Inc. via CNET):

According to CNET:

The USB is comparable in size with micro USB 2.0 Type-B connectors, with a port size of 8.4 by 2.6mm, yet will be compatible with SuperSpeed USB at 10Gbps (USB 3.1). It will also support USB Power Delivery up to 100W, with additional support for scalable power charging and future USB performance needs.

Comparisons have been made to Apple's likewise-reversible Lightning connector, but chances are we won't see that technology used anywhere outside the iOS world. USB 3.1 and the Type-C connection, on the other hand, will know no such limits. As digital interface technologies continue to advance and mature, their applications in camera technology will probably become more common -- and the relationship between the two will likely deepen. We've already seen Thunderbolt built into cameras by Blackmagic and AJA, for instance. If anything, this is testament to the potential implications such an interface could have in capture, control, monitoring, or other aspects of camera workflow.

But like its meteorological cousin Lighting, Thunderbolt will probably always be more expensive than USB. And, with version 3.1, the cheaper and more universal protocol becomes robust enough to transport a data stream on the magnitude of 6G-SDI, with legroom to spare. Whether the manufacturers of tomorrow's camera technology exploit such potential -- or allow users to exploit it -- is yet to be seen. But with a pipe that wide built into the side of every next-gen camera, consumer smartphone, and SD card-accepting tablet with a high resolution-scale display, some exciting possibilities could lie ahead.

At the very least, when the USB 3.1 Type-C connector comes to fruition, you'll have no trouble plugging the damn cables in.

Link: USB 3.1 Specification -- USB.org

[via CNET]

Your Comment

13 Comments

So, theoretically, one could offload a 256 GB drive/card in about three and a half minutes? So, you should see a lot of mid-priced cams with ProRes 4444. (whereas the low end with be under 223 Mbps in 4:2:2)

August 15, 2014 at 2:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

these are gonna be in the new lightning cables that will come with the new apple devices

August 15, 2014 at 2:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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john jeffries

Hurry up already! I hope this finally replaces HD-SDI and HDMI for live broadcasting.

August 15, 2014 at 4:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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MovieFan

HDMI's data rate is already nearly twice as fast and in the near future will double again.

August 15, 2014 at 4:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tzedekh

I just wish that there were an easy way to transport raw over HDMI. Apertus is working on it, but I've seen to progress reports.

August 15, 2014 at 4:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tzedekh

Crap -- "no progress reports."

August 15, 2014 at 4:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tzedekh

No! HD-SDI is cheap and has locking connectors. There is a reason BNC has been around for so long. Robust like a LEMO or hirose, but only costs like $5.

August 26, 2014 at 7:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

This is all I can think about while reading this article. The Law of USB Superposition
http://d3dsacqprgcsqh.cloudfront.net/photo/6756457_700b.jpg

August 15, 2014 at 11:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gidsy

Oh thank god, I thought I was the only one.

August 16, 2014 at 1:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ben

Great, you can't stop progress! When the time comes I'll just upgrade my brand new Mac Pro with a USB 3.1 PCI controller card... Oh.... wait... Nooooo!

August 16, 2014 at 3:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Guillaume

Usb3 blackmagic products = Work on 'some' PC motherboards with usb3.
Thunderbolt blackmagic products = Work on any thunderbolt Mac.

August 16, 2014 at 7:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jay

Is this supposed to be a comparison?

August 21, 2014 at 3:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Blink

So the connector works the same ways as the small one at my iPad cable? Now with USB3.1? Wow. This is indeed revolutionary.

August 17, 2014 at 1:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tom DP

hang on to your devices, at the end of the day physical peripherals will do the work. we still have a good 2 years for this scenario to become reliably useful

April 21, 2015 at 1:32PM

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