The first USB 3.1 devices have appeared, on both laptops and desktop systems.
Years in the making, the USB 3.1 specification was finalized in 2013. USB 3.1 promises up to 10Gbps speeds, or double that of what is offered by USB 3.0–which itself is 10 times faster than USB 2.0. As with USB 3.0, USB 3.1 is backward compatible with earlier iterations of the USB standard, though it does introduce a number of other notable capabilities.
For one, there is a new Type-C specification that allows for a reversible plug, as well as the ability to deliver up to 100 watts of power. Indeed, Apple’s new 12-inch Macbook that was unveiled earlier this month was the first laptop to announce support for both the use of the new reversible plug, and the ability to charge via USB.
As more devices launch with USB 3.1, buyers will also do well to take note of the kind of USB ports that they come with for now. This is because some of these initial devices are known to only implement the earlier Type-A ports. While it will allow them to work with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 devices, they apparently wouldn’t deliver the full speed that USB 3.1 promises.
Indeed, storage peripherals with Type-C connectors are unlikely to reach the full USB 3.1 speeds too. However, expect data transfer speeds to get better as controllers are refined.
The Fierce Take: Ultimately, USB 3.1 probably isn’t a good reason on its own to upgrade to a new PC. But for organizations where an upgrade cycle is due and peripheral speed is of critical importance, USB 3.1 is a feature that they probably will want to consider.