Like HDMI 2.0, Next-Gen USB Will Support 4K@60Hz Video

Mike Wheatley

The new Type-C USB connector is getting lots of people excited, and not just because of its fast data transfer rates and reversibility. It also comes with a tantalising new feature in the form of DisplayPort support that promises to facilitate 4K TV transmission as well.

USB Type-C connector

This week, the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) announced it had finalised the specs for the DisplayPort Alternate Mode, which will allow for ultra high-definition (UHD) video, high-speed data, audio and 100 watts of power to be piped from cable to device. For what it’s worth, it can also drive DVI, HDMI and VGA adapters.

To pipe the Displayport signal through the Type-C USB, data is run down two to four USB 3.1 lanes at a transfer rate of 5.4Gbps for 1.2a compatibility devices, and 8.1Gbps for those with a 1.3 specification. VESA says that 5.4Gbps across all four high-speed lanes is fast enough to support 4K resolution at a 60Hz frame rate.

Type-C USBs can support SuperSpeed data transfers of 10Gbps, which is twice as rapid as what the current USB 3.0 is capable of, and a whopping twenty times faster than regular USB. Intel’s Thunderbolt standard is still faster though – its second-generation controllers can manage data transfer rates of 20Gbps, but USB has the advantage of enjoying much more widespread support.

Because it’s capable of delivering 100 watts of power, Type-C USB should even be able to charge laptops as well as smaller devices like smartphones and tablets. Another benefit is that laptop manufacturers might be able to make their devices thinner too, as the new standard effectively removes the need for a mains adaptor and video output – so one day we might just have one USB cable doing everything. VESA also says the Type-C USB is futureproof, as the connector can scale to new standards as they get faster.

It might be some time before Type-C USB becomes mainstream however. While VESA says the first commercial products could be on sale by early next year, replacing an established standard like USB or HDMI 2.0 isn’t such a simple feat. Millions of gadgets in the world already use the older USB standard, and the brand new connectors won’t be compatible with any of them. Consumers will of course be able to use Type-C adapters for backwards compatibility, but don’t expect an industry-wide shift any time soon.

Source: Video Electronic Standards Association