How do you know if a fancy USB4 external drive is really using full USB4 speed? If you're just looking at the box on the shelf, the answer is no.
By default, especially if you're looking for that kind of fast file transfer, USB4 is still a confusing piece of tech that makes it easy for manufacturers to label a failed drive "USB4" without providing adequate performance. Gordon talks about it in the latest YouTube video from PCWorld.
First, did you know there is a difference between USB4 (no space, a copyrighted term referring to the USB developer forum specification) and USB 4.0 (note the space)? Well, there is, and it affects which drivers are inside the luxury device. In short, a drive labeled "USB4" (like the ZikeDrive Z666 enclosure) can't save on legacy components that are merely "compatible" with USB4 when backed up with older USB or Thunderbolt standards.
But there is another element that can prevent you from reaching top speed, and you may have less control over it. Small drives aren't the only hardware dwarfed by USB controllers, and even an expensive laptop or motherboard that's a generation or two older may not reach full USB4 speeds (even if it's USB4 certified).
Of course, we're not talking about the huge speed differences that existed in the days of USB 1 and 2. The difference between a true full-capacity USB4 drive and a Thunderbolt 3-based drive is 20-25 percent, not that much. But it's not the end of the world either. But if this difference is important to you, check out detailed reviews of the external drive you need and your laptop, desktop or motherboard to see if they can reach their maximum speed. (Our roundup of the best external drives and best gaming motherboards will help you find great products quickly.)
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