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Do We Really Need USB 3.0 Speeds?

by polrid | December 30, 2009December 30, 2009 10:19 am PST

Universal Serial Bus (USB) technology is described by the USB Implementers Forum as “a fast, bidirectional, low-cost, dynamically attachable interface that is consistent with the requirements of the PC platforms of today and tomorrow.” Created in 1996 by a number of companies led by Intel, the aim was to simplify connectivity between a host computer and peripheral devices. So far there have been a few flavors but by far the most widely adopted is USB 2.0, with billions of suitably interfaced devices sold.

USB 2.0 or Hi-Speed USB offers three data transfer rates – Low-speed (1.5 Mbit/s), Full-Speed (12 Mbit/s), and High-Speed (480 Mbit/s) and is fast enough to accommodate the needs of most modern computing peripherals currently available. Transferring data between a computer and a storage device is where USB 2.0 is starting to show its age though.

The need for speed

roadrunnerAs photo, video, audio and data files get larger and larger, it’s becoming more and more time consuming to move them around between storage devices or between computers and so a new technology has arrived to give us all a helping hand. Originally announced in 2007, USB 3.0 or SuperSpeed USB adds a fourth transfer speed of up to 5 Gbit/s, making it up to ten times faster than the ubiquitous USB 2.0 standard. In real terms, this gives a user the potential for real-time file transfer, on-the-fly editing or manipulation and as-it-happens video and image viewing as well as taking any more demanding peripherals in its stride.

Speed aside, USB 3.0 has other benefits too. User wait time has been radically shortened thanks to something coined Sync-N-Go, those of us who now form what is cheerfully called the mobile workforce will find the improved power management features of great benefit and full backwards compatibility takes the worry out of being faced with connecting to old devices whilst out and about.

usb_30The first devices to use the new USB 3.0 technology are already starting to arrive but with the USB Implementers Forum looking to show off its new baby at January’s CES trade show in Las Vegas, many more are expected to quickly follow throughout 2010.

I’m one of those who can’t wait to benefit from using SuperSpeed USB but am also mindful of the relatively recent moves away from cabled technology towards wireless solutions. With home networks and periphery being freed from cable clutter by wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and 802.11 and towns being blanketed in 3G mobile and WiFi coverage, is there still a place in the future for cabled data transfer and device connectivity?

Would you benefit from the speed increases offered by USB 3.0 or would you rather the boffins concentrated on making wireless data transfer technology even faster?