New, Powered-Up USB Spec In Development

Brad Chacos

If you're looking solely at transfer rates, the USB 3.0 specification – with its 5Gbps speeds – may be plenty fast, but it already can't push the same amount of raw data as, say, Thunderbolt. New specifications coming down the pipeline, like SATA Express and external PCIe , are promising speeds that flat-out blow USB 3.0 out of the water. The USB Promoter Group's aiming to stay in the race with an innovative tactic; rather than compete solely with transfer rates, they're also turning the familiar USB connection into the equivalent of a 100W power cord.

We know, plenty of devices can already be charged via a USB connection – we've seen those coffee warming devices on ThinkGeek, too. The new specification being developed by the group will be able to deliver up to 100 watts of power, though – enough to charge larger items like external HDDs. The USB 3.0 Promoter Group outlines several key features of the upcoming spec in its press release :

  • Compatible with existing cables and connectors
  • Enables voltage and current values to be negotiated over the USB power
  • pins
  • Enables higher voltage and current in order to deliver power up to 100W
  • Switchable source of power delivery without changing cable direction
  • Coexists with USB Battery Charging 1.2 and works equally well with both
  • USB 2.0 and USB 3.0

"Charging the battery of a notebook PC, or simply powering that notebook PC while actively using the USB data connection, would be possible," Brad Saunders, USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman, explains. "Conceivably, a notebook PC could rely solely on a USB connection for its source of power.”

Don't expect your PC to power your laptop anytime soon, though; the new specification isn't even expected to head into the peer review stage until later this year. The Promoter Group hopes to start implementation of the standard early 2012.

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