[AI] WHERE IS USB 3.0?

Sanjay ilovecold at gmail.com
Mon Apr 12 03:59:38 EDT 2010


We've been taunted with the prospect of SuperSpeed USB for two years.  Now the
wait is almost over, writes Jason Cross

Although it seems longer, it was only two years ago that Intel and other parties
formed a promotional group for a faster USB standard, USB 3.0.  The spec was
completed in Nov 08, at which time the standard's backers said a glut of devices
would hit the market late this year.  That hasn't happened.

Devices are starting to trickle through, with the launch of the first external
hard drive, Freecom's Hard Drive XS, followed by Active Media's Aviator
solid-state drives (SSDs).  But the glut won't be until next year.

LaCie recently told PC Advisor that the CeBIT event in March is a more realistic
time frame to expect it to launch USB 3.0 drives.

A CD'S WORTH OF DATA IN A SECOND 

SuperSpeed USB (aka USB 3.0) supports a maximum data rate of 4.8 gigabits per
second (Gbps) compared with 480 megabits per second (Mbps) for Hi-Speed USB (USB
2.0).  That amounts to a theoretical maximum of 600MB per second (MBps) - much
faster than most hard drives - and it's coming just in time for a wave of newer
and speedier SSDs.  To give you an idea of how fast that is, it's the equivalent
of moving almost one CD's worth of data in a second.

USB 3.0 achieves those speeds with a new plug and cable format, but it's
compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 1.1.  Plug your USB 2.0 device into a USB 3.0
port or a USB 3.0 device into a USB 2.0 port and both will still work - at the
slower speed.

The USB 3.0 protocol is also duplex: devices can send and retrieve data
simultaneously.  Lower operating voltages and the elimination of broadcasting
and polling - methods that the previous USB standards used to communicate with
all attached devices - should make USB hosts draw less power, while a higher
maximum carried voltage should help you charge your portable devices more
quickly.

SuperSpeed USB motherboards will debut imminently.  The launch of the high-end
P6X58 Premium motherboard was held back while the NEC host controller it uses
obtained USB 3.0 certification.  However, this and several other motherboards
equipped with USB 3.0 and all using NEC's controller were due to go on sale as
we went to press.

Fujitsu is also close to releasing a laptop with USB 3.0 ports.  SuperSpeed USB
will become more common on PCs in 2010.

All the ports in the world are useless without compatible devices, of course.
We saw a demo at the Intel Developers Forum of an external SSD with a USB 3.0
connection by LucidPath that achieved a transfer rate of more than 240MBps.  If
you've ever used an external drive, you'll know just how much faster that
transfer rate is.  Mass storage devices should hit the market early in 2010.

Expect video cameras to start using USB 3.0, too.  Point Grey has demonstrated
an HD webcam that uses the new spec, although it isn't yet a shipping product.
Unlike current USB webcams, it doesn't have to compress the video feed before
sending it to the PC.  USB 3.0 is fast enough to transmit the raw, uncompressed
HD video to the PC for capture or compression.

USB 3.0 webcams and the like will arrive a little later in 2010, but you should
see all sorts of products carrying the SuperSpeed USB label for sale by the end
of 2010.

GOODBYE, USB 2.0? 

None of this means that USB 2.0 is going anywhere - it will continue to be the
more affordable option until USB 3.0 controllers come built into motherboards.
NEC's host controller used by early USB 3.0 devices is a separate chip on the
motherboard, rather than the motherboard's main host controller.  And USB 2.0 is
still suitable for input devices - mice and keyboards don't require all the
available bandwidth that USB 3.0 promises.

Still, it's good to know that the higher-speed, lower-power, faster-charging
cabled future is almost upon us.  Perhaps your future 128GB iPod or smartphone
won't take 2 hrs to fill up with music.



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