Bluetooth 5 FAQ: 5 Answers to Your Big Questions

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) recently announced Bluetooth 5, the latest version of the wireless technology. It's essential to connecting tons of accessories to your laptop, tablet and phone, including headphones, speakers, mice and keyboards and Internet of Things devices. With this update, you can expect some big improvements in terms of performance. Here's everything you need to know about the new standard.

What's new with Bluetooth 5?

Bluetooth 5 is a wireless technology that is faster, has longer range and transfers more data than its predecessor, Bluetooth 4.2 LE. Bluetooth SIG claims it offers two times the speed, four times the range and eight times the bandwidth. That means that while Bluetooth 4.2 transferred data at 1MBps, Bluetooth 5 will bump it up to 2MBps.

"The increased speed of Bluetooth 5 - which still maintains low-power energy consumption – will provide faster data transfers, optimize responsiveness, and lower latency that is critical for scenarios where speed is a priority," Chuck Sabin, senior director of business strategy and planning at the Bluetooth SIG told Laptop Mag. He cited medical devices and security systems as areas where speed will be beneficial.

In theory, the longer distances mean that you could take your wireless Bluetooth headphones significantly farther away from your new laptop without dropping the signal.

When is it coming?

The actual technology is available now, but big tech manufacturers will need some time to implement Bluetooth 5 into devices. Bluetooth SIG suggests that the first devices will show up "within two to six months."

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So will I need all new devices?

To take advantage of the new speed and range, yes. But don't worry, your existing products won't stop working. And even if you get a new laptop with Bluetooth 5, it will still work with your Bluetooth 4 peripherals, like mice and keyboards. It shouldn't be a problem finding new tech, though. Bluetooth SIG is predicting 13.9 billion wireless products will be shipped by 2020.

What about Bluetooth Low Energy?

That's now the default. "It's always low energy," the SIG wrote on its website. Low energy, or "LE" was a version of the standard meant to make less of a strain on batteries. It's looking like Bluetooth 5 means new phones, laptops, wearables and IoT devices will last longer than their predecessors despite their better wireless performance.

Sabin wasn't able to comment on specific gains from Bluetooth 5, suggesting that they will be "implementation specific and should be communicated by the chip manufacturer."

Will there still be a lot of interference?

Depending on where you live and how many wireless devices you use, you might be used to lots of wireless interference. Bluetooth 5 should be better at detecting the frequencies other wireless devices are using to reduce the problem. It's important that this works out, especially with the billions of wireless products expected to be shipped and installed in the next several years.

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