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Macs this fall will offer USB speeds up to 10gbps, and possibly Thunderbolt 3

USB 3.1 transfer speeds of up 10 gigabits per second are coming to Macs this fall, and Thunderbolt 3 might too, if code hidden in MacOS Sierra means anything.

9To5Mac.com is reporting that a localizable text string in Sierra refers to “super_speed_plus” and “Up to 10 Gb/sec,” or ten gigabits per second. SuperSpeed+ is the brand name for USB 3.1 Gen 2, the latest incarnation of the USB standard which supports speeds up to 10Gbps. No Mac devices currently offer the USB 3.1 Gen 2 standard, so references to the technology in MacOS Sierra implies that new Macs coming out this fall will ship with the high-bandwidth ports. No such reference exists in OS X El Capitan, and there’s no reason to add the strings unless upcoming hardware offers the feature.

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With this in mind, 9to5Mac’s Jeff Benjamin of 9to5 Mac speculates that Thunderbolt 3 might also be on the way. That standard offers 40Gbps Thunderbolt connectivity and DisplayPort 1.2, all in a single USB-C port. With that kind of bandwidth, it’s possible to connect two 4K displays to a single port. External graphics and blazing-fast Ethernet are other possibilities, and the port is also compatible with all USB and DisplayPort devices via adapters. We’re sure Mac users can dream up all sorts of uses for that kind of connectivity.

But as reading the tea leaves goes, this might be a stretch. A plausible stretch, but a stretch nonetheless. Thunderbolt 3 is not confirmed on the new Macs this fall, and this doesn’t change that. But references to USB 3.1 Gen 2 do Thunderbolt 3 feel more realistic, and that’s an exciting notion.

And Thunderbolt 3, alongside the rumored touchscreen bar replacing the top row of the keyboard and an even lighter form factor, could make this fall’s MacBook Pro overhaul the biggest one in years, if not a decade.