Category Archives: usb

USB, THE FOURTH

The USB standard has a long and eventful history. Now USB 4 promises to bring clarity to the specification chaos and simplify the use of cables and devices.

Since its introduction in 1996, Universal Serial Bus, or USB for short, has established itself as a universal and indispensable IT interface for all computer peripherals. Many of the previously existing peripheral interfaces have long since become history (ADB, PS/2, SCSI, LVD, IEEE 1284, etc.). Others, such as RS-232, now only have a niche existence in the industrial sector. Throughout the 23 year history of the USB interface there have been many hurdles and obstacles, but potential competitors such as Firewire, which was supposed to correct some of USB’s weaknesses, have simply been pushed out of the market by the sheer ubiquity of USB. Others, such as Thunderbolt, are now part of USB 4.

USB Success Story

The development and release of USB 1.0 was based on the idea of creating a way to connect computer peripherals using one standardized port. What today appears to be a matter of course was then a futuristic idea because of the multitude of different interfaces then in use. These were all replaced by USB. Key factors in the reason for USB’s success were new ideas such as Plug & Play, the support for hot-plugging devices, ease of use, and data transfer rates of up to 12 Mbps, which were quite high at the time.

The USB connector has changed several times over the decades.

USB technology has undergone multiple developments throughout its lifespan. Version 1.1 brought corrections to minor specification errors; In 2000, USB 2.0 increased the transfer rate to 480Mbps, USB 3.0 arrived with a 5Gbps data rate and new extended connectors. These advancements were built upon further by USB 3.1 in 2013, which has a data rate of 10Gbps, and USB 3.2 with 20Gbps at the end of 2017. This constant increase in data transfer rates has enabled potential USB competitors to be pushed out of markets, or at least kept in check, with only time-critical, niche applications using other standards.

Lightning and Thunderbolt

From 2011, however, a new system appeared on the scene: Thunderbolt. Mechanically and electrically engineered based on the DisplayPort (DP) technology standard and designed by Intel in cooperation with Apple. Thunderbolt extended DisplayPort, a pure AV interface, by adding a bidirectional data channel based on PCI Express.

Thunderbolt uses active electronics in its connectors, hiding the physical layer from the host and devices. The first two versions of Thunderbolt used a specialist DP connector, the Mini-DP connector introduced by Apple. However, Thunderbolt 3 then adopted the USB connector type C, which was introduced alongside USB 3.1. USB C can be connected regardless of orientation and was miniaturised even further.

With initial speeds double that of USB 3.0, Thunderbolt was a serious competitor to USB from the beginning. However, due to the market spread of USB and the much cheaper hardware that could be produced for this standard, Thunderbolt failed to gain any meaningful gains over USB.

Turning Two into One

At the beginning of 2019, Intel and the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) announced the transfer of the protocol specifications from Thunderbolt to the USB-IF. Towards the end of the 3rd quarter of 2019 the convergence was completed with the newly published standard, USB 4 (Enhanced Superspeed), which combines the best of both worlds under the guise of USB. Thunderbolt gave the new specification a maximum transmission speed of 40 Gbps – twice as fast as the USB 3.2! USB, on the other hand, contributed the tree structure of the entire system made possible using hubs, because Thunderbolt devices could previously only be connected in a chain.

The transmission speeds have massively increased over the generations.

USB has become a great deal more complex now that it must incorporate the bidirectional PCIe protocol inherited from Thunderbolt 3 in addition to the Enhanced SuperSpeed signals. It must also be able to handle the DisplayPort Alternate Mode for AV transmission, which has been possible with Thunderbolt since the beginning and with USB since version 3.1. Moreover, it must still maintain USB 2.0 protocol support for downward compatibility.

The whole and the sum of its parts

That’s a whole lot of different protocols! So that USB 4 host adapters and hubs can handle them all, they contain a USB Enhanced Superspeed host, USB 2.0 hosts or hubs, a PCIe controller or switch and a DisplayPort adapter as internal modules. The interaction between these modules is controlled and coordinated by a further internal component in each of the hosts, hubs and devices, called the router.

With USB 4, the Type C connector will become the standard.

The Type C connector has been retained from USB Version 3.1 and TB3. It was introduced in the wake of USB 3.1, but independently of it, and enables alternate mode: switching from pure USB or Thunderbolt data output to DisplayPort signals. The wire pairs intended for data transfer are then used completely or partially for the transfer of AV data. Thus, not only peripheral devices, but also monitors and projectors can be connected.

USB 4 allows a maximum of 40 Gbps as defined for TB3 specifications, but it is less binding to that specification. This means that USB 4 does not necessarily have to be fully downward compatible with Thunderbolt 3 devices. These will run on any USB 4 host, but at a reduced speed of 20 GBps. Users will need to take a close look at what’s possible when buying hardware. Whether a USB 4 host can deliver the full 40 Gbps or not will probably be a question of cost, at least for first one or two generations of host adapters available on the market.

Naming conventions simplified

The designation scheme used since USB 3.1 needs some getting used to. Before this version, the speeds were directly assigned from the USB version number (USB 2.0 with 480 Mbps, USB 3.0 with 5 Gbps), but since version 3.1 one had to take a closer look.

The symbols for USB and Thunderbolt standard

With the introduction of USB 3.1…

  • USB 3.0 with 5 Gbps was identified as USB 3.1 Gen 1 (Gen for Generation)
  • USB 3.1 with 10 Gbps was known as USB 3.1 Gen 2

With the introduction of USB 3.2…

  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 with 5 Gbps was now called USB 3.2 Gen 1 (It uses a Gen 1 wire pair with 5 Gbps)
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 with 10 Gbps is now called USB 3.2 Gen 2 (It uses a Gen 2 wire pair with 10 Gbps)
  • USB 3.2 with 20 Gbps is called USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (because it uses two Gen 2 wire pairs with 10 Gbps each)

You can see how this naming scheme becomes visible: each new USB version contains the previous ones and distinguishes the data rates by the corresponding ‘Gen’ version. Whether this scheme will continue with USB 4 and whether the older 3.x versions will be adapted by name is not yet clear, but the following is certain:

  • USB 4 with 40 Gbps is called USB 4 Gen 3×2 (because it uses two wire pairs of the new Gen 3 with 20 Gbps each)
  • USB 4 with 20 Gbps is called USB 4 Gen 2×2 (because it uses two pairs of wires of Gen 2 with 10 Gbps each)

Full takeover: Power Delivery

The latest version of the Standard Power Delivery, which negotiates and regulates the power supply between host, hubs and devices both under USB version 3.1 Gen 2 and higher and under Thunderbolt 3 (i.e. all versions using the type C connector), has been completely adopted in USB 4.

Profiles of voltage and current (5V/2A, 12V/1.5A, 12V/3A, 20V3A or 20V/5A) and supply direction are negotiated. All cables that can withstand more than the 1.5A provided for the profile with the lowest current load must announce this via a so-called e-mark chip so that the correct profile can be negotiated.

This makes it possible, for example, to connect a power supply unit with a USB type C plug to the PD-enabled USB port of a hub or docking station and connect it to a notebook via a single USB type C cable. With the right equipment, the peripherals are now clearer and the cable clutter on the desk is significantly reduced.

What does all this mean for the user?

USB 4 and the merger of USB with Thunderbolt are nothing more than the implementation of market requirements for higher bandwidths as well as uniform and universal standards. The implementation for the transfer of 40 Gbps and the unification of the two standards under the umbrella of USB is a decisive step.

Once USB 4 is fully established in the market, and provided that the user owns those USB devices that support full USB 4 functionality, life with USB will probably become easier. In the medium to long term, there will only be one type C connector for all peripherals. Devices with other connectors will eventually disappear or require the use of an adapter.

Until then, however, buyers are forced to keep their eyes open and take a very close look at the manufacturer’s specifications regarding the speed (Gen-Postfix for the USB version) and PD capability of the individual components of the hardware they wish to purchase.

The Author

Axel Kerber has been immersed in the IT and AV industry for over 25 years. Over the course of his career at Lindy his roles have included Technical Support Engineer, Product Manager, Head of Technical Support and now, Technical Editor. He is constantly in touch with the latest technology trends and he remains fascinated and excited by developments in connectivity in the constantly evolving AV and IT sectors.

The LINDY Guide to USB 3.1

WHAT IS USB 3.1?

USB 3.1 is the new standard of USB connection technology. The USB 3.1 standard includes a  number of new features, most notably SuperSpeed+ or Gen2 data speed. SuperSpeed+ allows USB 3.1 to transfer data at a speed of 10 Gbps. This means USB 3.1 can transfer a year’s worth of music in just 10 minutes or a Full HD movie in just 30 seconds. The new standard also allows USB 3.1 to provide power delivery, alternate video mode and data transfer through a single cable.

REVERSIBLE

At the same time as the new USB 3.1 standard, the new reversible Type C connector was also developed. This connector comes with many new features, the main benefit being that it is now reversible so no matter which orientation the cable is inserted, you will always find a connection. This new technology allows a fully bi-directional cable with automatic Host and Device negotiation.USB 3.1 Type C Reversible Connector

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN USB-C AND USB 3.1?

USB 3.1 and USB-C, though developed concurrently, are not the same thing. USB 3.1 is an upgrade over the older USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 technology. USB 3.1 allows faster data transfer in comparison to these two previous versions. USB 3.1 is a new USB technology whilst USB-C is a connector which facilitates this technology.

USB 3.1 POWER DELIVERY

USB Type C cables support 20V 3A (60w) of power, however a new charging standard named PD (Power Delivery) has been released which can offer up to 100w (20V at 5A). New cables are required to take advantage of this technology and these use an embedded chip (e-marker) to manage power control, while still providing the SuperSpeed+ 10Gbps
data link and backwards compatibility.USB 3.1 Power Delivery

USB 3.1 Power Delivery provides different rules for supplying power. The rules are automatically recognized and negotiated between the host, cable, and device. These systems require the use of active cables to allow the devices to “communicate” which rule is suitable and protect against overload.

USB 3.1 power delivery is not only suitable for notebooks but also other professional devices with a power consumption of up to 100 watts. PD can be maintained even when the USB-C connection is being used for data transfer, video or Ethernet.

USB 3.1 ALTERNATE MODE

Provides up to 100W, 5Gbps USB data transfer rates, and the simultaneous transfer of 4K video and audio data.

By using the Type C connection USB 3.1 also allows an alternate mode for additional functionality. This allows features like DisplayPort, HDMI, MHL or Thunderbolt. Please note however that the Host and Device must both support the same alternate mode.

DisplayPort Alternate Mode supports resolutions up to Ultra HD 4K 3840 x 2160. Alongside Simultaneous 4K Video & 5Gbps transfer rates.

USB 3.1 Alternate Mode

IS USB 3.1 BACKWARDS COMPATIBLE?

USB 3.1 now supports up to 10Gbps speeds whilst remaining backwards compatible with the previous 5 Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 1 / USB 3.0) and 480Mbps (USB 2.0) standards. USB 3.1 Gen 2 also works with existing USB 3.0 connections thanks to the improved encoding method used to transmit data.

Type C has been designed in such a way it is able to operate with legacy connections via an adapter or converter cable. However not all features are available unless you use Type C on both ends.USB 3.1 Backwards Compatibility

HOW DO I RECOGNISE A USB 3.1 CABLE?

The connector for USB-C is slightly smaller than previous USB standards and looks similar to a Micro-USB connector.

USB 3.1 Connector Types

WHERE WILL I FIND 3.1 TYPE C?

Most new mobile phones, tablets and laptops are now supplied with a Type C port whether it’s for charging or data transfer. One big advantage is that you no longer have proprietary chargers and you can use one charger for all your devices. USB Type C was originally used on Notebooks and in the tablet phone market before filtering through to more mainstream devices.

USB 3.1 Devices

IS THUNDERBOLT THE SAME AS USB 3.1?

Thunderbolt is the connection and power delivery technology used by Apple to charge and deliver data to their products such as Macbooks and iMacs. USB-C is now the connector that is used with the latest Thunderbolt 3 technology. This allows Thunderbolt and USB-C to combine for an amazing 40Gbps of bandwidth. Thunderbolt 3 also uses the Type C port, however this port also offers additional functions that require specific Thunderbolt 3 Type C cables.

Using Thunderbolt 3 a single USB-C port can deliver power in both directions. So a port can charge a device or, alternatively, be charged by one. USB-C and Thunderbolt are capable of delivering up to 100 watts of power, so a single cable can be used to connect to a dock, or display, whilst your Apple device is charged simultaneously.

USB 3.1 & Thunderbolt
DISCOVER OUR USB 3.1 RANGE…

USB 3.1 CablesUSB 3.1 Adapters

USB 3.1 HubsUSB 3.1 Docking Station

High Quality Audio From Your Android Smartphone

High resolution audio is starting to gain popularity among many music listeners with more services online providing streaming of FLAC or Lossless audio formats. While this is great for computer systems where you can easily install a high quality sound card, there is a lack of products available for those who want to listen on the move.

A lot of Android smartphones have a 3.5mm audio jack built in for playback to headphones. While this is standard to almost all phones and widely used, it does not always provide the best audio experience and can sometimes seem a bit lack lustre. Lower end phones may seem like they do not have enough power behind the music, making it sound flat or tinny.

A cheap and easy solution to this is to connect our USB Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC) with built in Headphone Amplifier to your phone using a USB 2.0 Type A to B cable, and a simple USB Micro-B On-The-Go Adapter.

The DAC supports up 24-bit 96Khz which is above CD or even Studio Quality audio.
This allows your phone to play high quality audio while still being portable and gives you much finer volume control.

Please note: Android phones running version 5.0 “Lollipop” or above will natively support audio over the USB port providing the phone has USB On-The-Go and the manufacturer of the device has enabled the feature. High quality formats such as Apple Lossless or FLAC may only be played providing they are supported by your music player software.

Introducing LINDY BNX-60 Bluetooth Wireless Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

LINDY’s latest headphones are the BNX-60 Bluetooth Wireless Active Noise Cancelling Headphones .
Combining solid performance with a stylish appearance and great portability, they are set to make big waves in the headphone market during 2016.

BNX60_CaseWP

40mm neodymium magnet high output drivers combined with aptX® codec technology give perfect sound reproduction with a warm bass and well rounded highs.
Coupled with Active Noise Cancellation technology that eliminates up to 85% reduction of external noise, these features give the listener high quality sound every time.

In terms of portability, BNX-60 are ideal for travellers and commuters.

incaseWP

Their extra hard wearing slimline case is ideal for slipping into hand luggage or a small carry bag, giving you peace of mind and keeping your headphones in pristine condition.
In addition, they are supplied with a dual-plug flight adapter that is compatible the majority of global airlines.

bnxWP

The battery gives up to 30 hours (noise cancelling only) from a 3 hour charge and the supplied USB charging cable gives you the option to recharge virtually anywhere.
The initial reaction from leading headphone reviewers has been positive, with great feedback on the sound quality, comfort, weight and durable storage case.
Expect to hear more about them in the coming months.

4 Port KVM Switch Classic HDMI, USB 2.0 & Audio

New 4-Port KVM Switch with HDMI and USB Support

The new LINDY 4 Port KVM Switch Classic HDMI, USB 2.0 & Audio allows 4 computers or HDMI/USB devices like a game console or BD-Player to be connected and controlled from a single keyboard, monitor and mouse.

Port selection is made by the “Select” button on the KVM switch or by IR remote control button.
The KVM Switch allows you to share further USB devices and a USB hub connected to the USB device port with USB 2.0 speed.

The KVM Switch has a USB-Audio Converter built in, allowing speakers or a headphone/headset and a microphone to be connected to the front ports of the KVM switch. Pressing the Audio ON/OFF button on the front mutes these devices. The HDMI ports support resolutions up to Full HD 1080p including 3D and can be used with DVI devices using adapter cables.

USB 3.0 to HDMI Adapters

New 4K Adapter and Updated HDMI Adapter Connects Monitors Via USB 3.0

We now have two great ways to connect high-end monitors via a computer’s USB 3.0 port, without the hassle of adding a suitable internal graphics card.

The LINDY USB to 4K DisplayPort Adapter enables users to connect a 4K Ultra HD monitor by simply installing the driver and connecting the adapter to the computer using the supplied USB 3.0 Type A to Micro-B cable. Once installed the 4K monitor can be connected to the adapter using a normal DisplayPort cable. The adapter supports 4K resolutions up to 3840 x 2160 @30Hz and includes the ability to transfer audio from the computer to the monitor.

The LINDY USB 3.0 to HDMI Adapter allows users to display Full HD 1080p video and graphics on their TV, monitor or projector via their computer’s USB 3.0 SuperSpeed port. Connected in a similar fashion as the 4K DisplayPort Adapter above, the converter supports resolutions up to 1920×1200, including 1080p. This latest adapter is a newer version of a previous model and is now available at a lower cost.

“While installing an internal graphics card into a computer is a relatively simple process, it’s not something everybody feels confident in doing, particularly when it’s just to connect a monitor temporarily,” says Andrew Ingram, Product Manager of LINDY Electronics. “Our new adapters allow users to connect the very latest high resolution monitors quickly and easily. They are ideal for laptop users that often challenged with different connection options everywhere they go, as well home users who just want to add another screen to their set-up.”

Both the LINDY adapters allow monitors to be used for primary, mirrored or extended desktop. They are bus powered and therefore require no addition power, have a compact design making them east to carry and store and are guaranteed for 2 years.

LINDY Gives Devices the Charge They Deserve

Devices that are hungry on power can make charging with a USB multi-plug frustrating since many won’t supply the current required if more than one device is connected. The end result is often the most demanding devices such as an iPad don’t actually charge, even when left overnight. LINDY’s latest travel adapter solves this issue by specifying the ports that supply the higher charge.

The LINDY USB Mains Travel Charger allows users to charge up to 4 devices with a combined maximum output of 5A at one time. When four devices are connected that require more than 1A, the device connected in the first USB port will take the maximum output it needs up to 2.5A, then the next, and so on. By connecting the devices that take the most charge in descending order, the LINDY charger ensures that all devices are charged and ready for use in as short amount of time as possible.

“It can be so frustrating on holiday to put your devices on charge before you go to bed, only to find in the morning that most of them are still showing the battery symbol in the red,” says Tony Jamieson, General Manager of LINDY Australia. “Our latest charger allows users to choose which devices get the maximum power, while replacing the need to take several different chargers on holiday, making more room in the suitcase for other essentials.”

Suitable for use with most USB powered devices including tablets, MP3 players, mobile phones etc, the LINDY USB Mains Travel Charger has over current, over voltage and short circuit protection and includes adapters for use in UK, Europe, USA and Australia.

USB 3.0 Active Extension Cable

Active Extension Cable lets you use USB 3.0 devices over longer distances

With a LINDY USB 3.0 Active Extension Cable you can use high speed USB devices up to 11m away. The cable’s plug and play capability ensures that it is simple and fast to use, providing flexibility for multiple uses and reliability for permanent setups.

USB 3.0 cables are only certified to lengths up to 5m, after this the signal becomes too weak and unreliable causing drop outs which can make devices or software running over it to crash. LINDY’s active USB cables feature built-in electronics, which regenerate the USB 3.0 signal to support longer distances.

The LINDY USB 3.0 Active Extension Cable comes in two lengths 5m and 10m. Two 5m cables can be daisy chained together, whilst the 10m cable also includes a handy connection for attaching a power supply to voltage hungry peripherals. By using a USB 3.0 cable, up to 1.2m in length, to connect the device a total length of over 11m can be achieved.

This latest cable is an upgrade to our existing USB 2.0 Active extension cable that is one of our best sellers. Ideal for professional or home use, our active cables are used to solve a multitude of problems from tethering a camera over long distances in a photographer’s studio to enabling storage devices to be hidden.

Backwards compatible with both USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 devices, the LINDY USB 3.0 Active Extension has a Type A USB Male to Type A USB Female connection and supports transfer rates up to 5Gbps.

LINDY Hub Turns Kitchen Table into Mobile Workspace

USB 2.0 OTG Hub

Connect four peripheral devices to your tablet or
smartphone without the need for a PC

OTG technology enables direct connection of peripherals to smartphone or tablet

We have recently launched a 4 Port USB 2.0 OTG Hub that makes it easy for users to connect USB peripherals to smartphones and tablets.

“Our latest hub can turn the kitchen table into a temporary work station in an instant and provide access to all those essential peripherals for a productive life work balance,” says Tony Jamieson, General Manager of LINDY Australia. “OTG, or on the go technology, allows for all kinds of extras such as a keyboard, mouse and card reader to be connected directly to your phone or tablet without the need of a PC.”

With 4 USB 2.0 ports and an integrated 13cm long cable with USB Micro-B connector, the hub enables data transfer speeds of up to 480Mbit/sec. It’s bus powered, enabling the hub to run directly from the smartphone or tablet. In addition, there is also a socket for an optional 5V DC 2.6A power supply that maybe required for power hungry peripherals such as webcams or external drives.

Reuse Old Laptop Drives with the LINDY USB 3.0 to SATA Adapter

According to the Step Initiative, in 2012 Australia generated 25.23kg of e-waste per inhabitant. Whilst electronics have a limited lifespan, there are often components that still have value to the user, even though the rest of the device may be destined for the recycle bin. The new LINDY USB 3.0 to SATA 3.0 Adapter, for example, allows for a laptop’s hard drive to be used long after the rest of the machine has become defunct.

The tool-less design allows the user to simply attach the SATA 3.0 adapter to the old hard drive and connect the other end to a computer’s USB port to continue using the hard drive without the need for dedicated drive housing. The adapter’s plug and play installation makes it ideal for accessing old files, saving back-ups or even just as an additional drive with speeds of up to 5Gbps.

“A USB to SATA Adapter is one of those peripherals that people don’t realise are so handy to have,” says Tony Jamieson, General Manger of LINDY Australia. “Whether you’re just trying to retrieve data from a sick machine, reuse hard drives out of old machines or clone a drive when upgrading, a USB to SATA Adapter is ideal.”

Compatible with USB 3.0 equipped PCs and Macs, the adapter is suitable for 2.5″ and 3.5″ SATA III HDDs/SSDs and 5.25″ ODD drives. The adapter also includes a multi-country power supply for power hungry 3.5 disks. The LINDY SATA/Micro SATA Adapter should be used for drives that require 3.3V.

More details here…