New spec to boost USB power to 100W

Version 3.0 of the USB standard has already brought a much-needed upgrade in bandwidth from 480Mb/s to 5Gb/s. That’s probably quick enough for most external devices, but what about power? SuperSpeed USB kept the voltage at 5V but turned up the current from 500 to 900mA, increasing the wattage from 2.5 to 4.5W. Apparently, that’s not enough for the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which is working on a new power-delivery specification that will offer a whopping 100W of power to connected devices.

Although the press release is short on specifications, it indicates the additional power will come with increases in both the current and the voltage supplied over a USB connection. The new standard is said to be compatible with existing cables and connectors, though. Voltage and current levels will be negotiated over existing USB power pins, and systems will be able to switch the direction of power flow without any changes to the cable connection or orientation.

The new power-delivery standard is meant to coexist with USB Battery Charging 1.2 spec, which allows for currents as high as 1.5A. Interestingly, the 100W standard is claimed to work just as well with old-school USB 2.0 connections as it does with those of the SuperSpeed variety.

With additional power on tap, a single USB port should be capable of fueling a much wider range of devices, including notebooks, printers, and monitors. The specification is slated for industry review in the fourth quarter of this year and is expected to be finalized in early 2012.

Comments closed
    • mutarasector
    • 8 years ago

    While I see possibilities for this, the one concern that comes to mind and was recently pointed out to me was the inevitable flood of 3rd party cheapo vendors pushing “dumb” 100W USB chargers that could potentially damage current equipment that’s not set up for an external power source.

    I also see a bit of a conflict with an increasing trend towards between SFF/mITX mobos, and single rail PSUs.

    • Farting Bob
    • 8 years ago

    I could power my fileserver with a single USB cable! PSU’s should come with a USB connector on the back instead of a wallsocket.

    • Johnny5
    • 8 years ago

    I want to power my notebook with my desktop so I can compute while I compute.

    • ronch
    • 8 years ago

    The first thing that came to me is whether this new spec will be safe enough. But the thing is, it’s not like we never deal with power cords that have 220V and probably more than 1000W on tap (I think most household fuses are 5 amps). They just need to make sure that nobody uses substandard cables that get fried and that the connectors/ports themselves will not let anyone stupid enough to accidentally stick his/her fingers into it and commit suicide or something. Also, I believe most devices will draw only the amount of power they need just like the way your appliances draw only as much power as they need from your wall outlet. As usual, quality should be on top of the list for anything you buy.

    • jcw122
    • 8 years ago

    This doesn’t even sound safe…

    • jpostel
    • 8 years ago

    I dig the “moar powr!” vibe, but I actually want devices that use less power, or at the minimum, more efficient devices that use the same power with greater benefits.

    • grug
    • 8 years ago

    Is that 100W figure a device maximum? Will that be the total power available to all devices?

    “The new power-delivery standard is meant to coexist with USB Battery Charging 1.2 spec, which allows for currents as high as 1.5A.”

    Actually, the 1.2 spec allows USB ports to provide as much 5A. But each device can pull a maximum of 2A, as that 1.5A battery charging figure is *in addition* to the standard 500mA USB operation current…which is why the iPad, Galaxy Tab and HP TouchPad all sport 2A/10W USB chargers. (The PlayBook only does 1.8A).

    Apart from Apple, are any manufacturers shipping USB ports *on computers* that deliver 2A and not 1? I have “ASUS AI Charger” installed on my PC but I can’t even remember if that it even hits 1A.

    • LaChupacabra
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]“Building on the rapidly increasing industry momentum for using USB bus power to charge a broad range of mobile devices, the new USB Power Delivery specification extends USB’s cable power delivery capabilities beyond simple battery charging,”[/quote<] They said "USB bus power" the first time and "USB Power Delivery" the second. My guess is this isn't going to be something that you see integrated into motherboards (although putting a jumper next to the port for the power connector would make it pretty easy), but instead is going to be used for those usb/ac chargers that most cellphones/tablets etc are coming with now. That would be pretty sweet, being able to carry one charger that will work with your phone, tablet, laptop etc. Edits: I am a dumbass that doesn't understand simple BBcode for making quotes

    • lilbuddhaman
    • 8 years ago

    Powered USB like this should have it’s own name, marketing, etc etc. I have no interest in accidentally blasting my cellphone, printer, mouse, keyboard, etc with 100w of power simply because there was a slight internal fray in the wire that would otherwise just cause a failure to connect…

      • mesyn191
      • 8 years ago

      We have no reason to believe that would happen at all yet. Wait until they actually release more info. about the spec before you damn it.

      • Joe Miller
      • 8 years ago

      Do you make difference between power, measured in Watts, and voltage, measured in Volts?
      When the voltage is low you cannot get hurt. Yet, it is possible with low voltage to supply large current (look for Ohm’s law), leading to large power.

        • lilbuddhaman
        • 8 years ago

        I oversimplified my wording, as both overvoltage and excessive power can damage the electronics. Not all devices have protection for such a high amount…

    • albundy
    • 8 years ago

    bad idea. mobos delivering massive wattage like that can cause significant problems, not to mention blowing your psu. i guess 2kw psu’s will become standard then. i wouldnt want my gpu damaged neither with fluctuations.

    why would you want to connect devices like printers that are already wireless? same reason could be said for monitors.

      • Majiir Paktu
      • 8 years ago

      “Same reason”? Last time I checked, wireless monitors weren’t exactly mature.

      • ronch
      • 8 years ago

      I agree. Keyboards, mice and other things normally connected through USB should never need to draw that much power anyway, but then again, the saying ‘not that you would, but you could’ could apply to USB and that just may open the door to more power-hungry devices that aren’t even necessary in the first place. Also, I hope nobody comes up with the idea of powering your printer off the USB, which is crazy (if only to make the product look simpler to use) considering you should just plug it straight to the wall outlet.

        • Farting Bob
        • 8 years ago

        Why should you plug your printer into a wallsocket rather than USB is it able to power it? I currently have my Monitor, speakers, printer and PC plugged into the wall. I could cut the speakers and printer out of that equation with USB power, and probably monitor (its a big 27″, but only draws about 70w max from the wall, dont know if the data rate will be enough on USB 3, no idea how much data a 1200p 60Hz monitor needs).

        It just simplifies things alot. Many people have external HDD’s which in the larger 3.5″ variety need a power cable as well as a USB cable. It can get cluttered down behind my PC.

    • Wirko
    • 8 years ago

    Is there any information about maximum current and maximum voltage at this stage?

    • BiffStroganoffsky
    • 8 years ago

    Not to be outdone, Apple will soon release the successor to Thunderbolt, dubbed Lightningbolt, which will carry Gigawatts! Professor Brown is working on the final product now…in his lab/bathroom.

      • cynan
      • 8 years ago

      Great Scott!!

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_ekugPKqFw<]Lightning Bolt![/url<]

        • ssidbroadcast
        • 8 years ago

        Lightning Bolt!

          • entropy13
          • 8 years ago

          [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZ04mfAY2BU[/url<]

      • ronch
      • 8 years ago

      Well at least now he doesn’t need a lightning strike to supply the flux capacitor with 1.21 gigawatts. How about a Back to the Future Part 1 revival using the USB port instead?

    • flip-mode
    • 8 years ago

    How many decades do we have to wait before we get all components running at 12 volts? Beyond just sounding sensible, is there some reason that we need things to run at 12, 5, and 3.3 volts rather than have them all run at 12?

      • Zoomer
      • 8 years ago

      Actually, I was thinking there is a need for a higher voltage spec for high power draw devices.

      • siberx
      • 8 years ago

      The problem is that many devices and the chips present on them are designed around and only rated to handle up to 3.3v or 5v; it’s expensive and challenging to make an integrated circuit that can tolerate higher voltages than that. This means that if you’re sending regulated 5v and 3.3v around a board it’s a pretty simple job to directly hook a chip/device up to that and have it work; sending 12V would require voltage regulators everywhere to convert down to the usable voltage of the circuits, adding losses/inefficiency and increasing cost.

      • xeridea
      • 8 years ago

      5V is perfect for cell phone chargers, to charge the 3.7V Lithium battery you don’t even need to convert the power. Also 12v is overkill for most small electronics.

    • dukerjames
    • 8 years ago

    So I’ll be able to get a USB Radeon/Geforce card soon?

    • anotherengineer
    • 8 years ago

    Sweeet 100W I could plug in a halogen floodlight to my usb port and…………..see the light?

      • Wirko
      • 8 years ago

      Of course. If your floodlight is any good at said “negotiation”, it can easily get those 100 watts from your ultraportable. Expect fireworks too.

    • jensend
    • 8 years ago

    There are good reasons why the USB3 spec didn’t go for crazy increases in the amount of power delivered. If each of the USB ports on your motherboard had to be capable of delivering 100W, you might as well be purchasing a distribution substation (complete with DANGER-HIGH VOLTAGE signs and a nice loud hum) rather than a motherboard. I can’t imagine ports which can deliver more than 10W becoming very common during USB3’s lifespan- perhaps one or two specially designed charging ports on a motherboard and dedicated charging devices.

    The 100W figure has got to be press release hyperbole- they may design a spec which can negotiate power up to that level, but that doesn’t mean any ports will actually accept and service requests for that much power.

      • siberx
      • 8 years ago

      Assuming they don’t go over 12V which, hopefully good sense would dictate (getting a standard PC to provide a higher voltage than this in any meaningful current is nearly impossible) then you’re looking at just over 8 amps to deliver 100W at 12V. This would require cabling roughly as thick as heavy gauge speaker cable or a lightweight AC cable used for a lamp or something; this doesn’t sound particularly suitable for conveniently plugging in to computers and devices.

      Not to mention the fact that I’m pretty sure USB’s connectors (at least the older 2.0 ones) are probably specced nowhere near 8-10 amps of draw across the pins… and completely ignoring the difficulties in piping 100w or more around an already-packed motherboard to feed these ports (a processor typically draws around 100w, and you only have to deal with one of those per system normally).

      All in all, a pretty ridiculous idea. 10W? Maybe. 100W? No point, no sense, no chance.

        • jensend
        • 8 years ago

        Exactamente.

        • ludi
        • 8 years ago

        Eh? At 12V you can source 8A across a 36″ cable made of two AWG #18 (24/0.2 in metric) wires, one of which is the braided shield wrap rather than a discrete conductor, and have adequate voltage at the load end while dissipating only 0.8W per foot of assembled cable, or in other words, it would get just slightly warm to the touch. Or you could do it with a pair of AWG #22 in parallel for the +DC line and get the same result with denser bundling. It would be a little larger than any non-Monster USB cable you’ve seen so far, but not unreasonably so.

        Speaker wiring tends to use vastly oversized conductor for reasons other than raw current capacity, and AC appliance cords are bulky relative to conductor size due to the requirement for 300V- or 600V-withstand insulation with good flexibility and abuse tolerance.

          • cynan
          • 8 years ago

          Yeah. My Acer laptop power supply is rated for 90 watts (19 V @ 4.74 A) and the lead from the DC side is not very thick at all (though perhaps a bit thicker than a standard USB cable, but not by much).

          Apparently DC requires smaller conductors (less resistance) than AC. With AC you need to factor in impedance (which is like resistance, but incorporates extra loss of efficiency due to alternating phases).

      • Meadows
      • 8 years ago

      You misunderstand. Nobody said [u<]all the ports[/u<] will deliver [u<]all of 100 W[/u<], [u<]all the time[/u<]. If that were to happen, your power supply would probably burn down regardless of what type it was. What they say is that an individual port should be capable of giving [u<]more than 4.5 W[/u<], depending on the device, and their blueprint limit seems to be 100 W right now.

    • MegaTallDave
    • 8 years ago

    I was hoping for something like this.

    If USB could become a universal power standard, then not only could prevent a lot of electronic waste. It could also prevent a lot of aggravation in getting the right replacement for a power plug.

    It would certainly be nice if it could become a power standard for laptops.

    Could this also lead to a home DC standard which might be useful for home with solar power systems? It seems like changing DC from the photovoltaics to AC only to change it back to DC must lose a fair amount of power.

    • Peldor
    • 8 years ago

    Isn’t that going to play havoc with most consumer systems (and all laptops) in the world that can’t spare 100W when you plug-in a high-powered widget?

    USB has been pretty much plug and go for its lifespan. I know the fragmentation canard has been worn out of late, but… fragmentation?

      • PeterD
      • 8 years ago

      I also wonder whether that wouldn’t blow up USB 1 and USB 1.1 or 1.2 devices. It might become very dangerous if you aren’t aware of the exact specs of your devices, and when you coonect them ujknowingly to USB3.0 100W

        • sreams
        • 8 years ago

        Doubtful. Devices would only draw what they actually need. Much like plugging something into the wall. Your phone charger won’t blow up just because the wall socket can power an electric chainsaw.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 8 years ago

      Laptops already have depowered ports, I don’t see why this would be any different.

    • odizzido
    • 8 years ago

    That’s a pretty huge increase.

    • mesyn191
    • 8 years ago

    This is what USB3 should’ve had from the get go.

    It’ll be nice to be able to power and connect to my printer from just 1 cable. They might even be able to use this for monitors to, though maybe you’d need to use 2 USB3 ports unless they really up the data rates too I think.

      • My Johnson
      • 8 years ago

      Yes. Fewer power cable. Those I have no shortage of.

      • PeterD
      • 8 years ago

      Don’t you think video needs completely different kind of cables?

        • Goty
        • 8 years ago

        Why? Data is data, it’s just how you decide to transmit it.

        • mesyn191
        • 8 years ago

        As Goty said, data is data. There is no real reason to have a special cable just for video.

          • DarkUltra
          • 8 years ago

          Not at all. I’d much rather have a zero input lag 120hz monitor on a dual-link dvi than usb bus packets with a collision every now and then. I wonder if DisplayPorts micropacket design add any considerable delay to the image on the screen…

            • mesyn191
            • 8 years ago

            Phhht. Zero lag doesn’t exist, even on those 120hz TN screens there is a bit of lag. Sub 10 ms even the hardcore guys won’t notice it.

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      TIL modern inkjets use about 10 watts. Color me impressed.

      • shank15217
      • 8 years ago

      Get a network printer, join the revolution!

        • travbrad
        • 8 years ago

        It works great with Novell Netware!

    • trackerben
    • 8 years ago

    Soon I’ll be able to power shiatsu roller massage cushions (with heat) right from my desktop. The 21st century is so full of promise.

      • PeterD
      • 8 years ago

      And cars! You come home and plug in your eco-friendly car to the USB part next to the letter box. 🙂

        • Wirko
        • 8 years ago

        Yes, and more. USB with Power 2.0 will include cold and hot water supply, sewage, gas, coffee, and 8-colour printer ink supply. So your trailer (and the office inside it) will be taken care of too, not just the car.

          • PeterD
          • 8 years ago

          Coffee! Great!

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