Via Labs has introduced the VL830 device, one of the industry's first USB4 endpoint device controllers. This should enable peripheral manufacturers to build highly integrated USB4 hubs that will be able to compete against Thunderbolt 3/4 hubs, hopefully at lower price points.
The USB 4 specification takes a lot of pages from Intel's Thunderbolt 3 and was released in August 2019, almost a year before Intel introduced Thunderbolt 4. Yet, there are numerous Thunderbolt 4 hubs and docks (which are USB4 compatible) on the market and almost no 'pure' USB4 devices. That's because Intel builds TB4 controllers itself and rolls them out along with new platforms, whereas third-party makers of USB controllers are usually slow with their developments. That's why we still don't see a lot of USB4 chips on the market.
Via Labs is among the first (if not the first) developers of USB controllers to offer a USB4-compliant endpoint device controller for devices like hubs and docking stations. The VL830 supports one USB Type-C input at 40Gbps, five USB 3.2 Gen 2 downstream ports (USB Type-A or USB Type-C), and DisplayPort 1.4 Alternate Mode over USB Type-C with HBR3 support. That last one means it's capable of handling up to 8Kp60 displays. The IC is also compatible with the USB Battery Charging Specification v1.2.
Via does not disclose which process technology is used for the VL830, but only says that the chip comes in an FCCSP 10x10mm package. Pricing of the chip is unknown, but controllers from Via Labs tend to be cheaper than controllers from Intel. Actual product manufacturers don't have to pay for validation, either, so we expect VL830-based docks and hubs to be cheaper than Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 controllers.
The company plans to start shipments of its VL830 to select partners in Q4 2021. If all goes well, expect availability of USB4 docking station and multi-function adapters in early to mid 2022.