Where's USB 3.0?

By Jason Cross, PC World |  Hardware, USB

All the ports in the world are useless without compatible devices, of course. We saw a demo at IDF 2009 of an external solid-state drive with a USB 3.0 connection by LucidPath that achieved a transfer rate of over 240MB per second (and if you've ever used an external USB hard drive, you'll know just how much faster that transfer rate is). These sorts of mass storage devices should be the first to hit the market, starting early in 2010.

Expect video cameras to start using USB 3.0, too. Point Grey has demonstrated a high-def Webcam that uses USB 3.0, though it isn't yet a shipping product. Unlike current USB Webcams, this USB 3.0 model does not have to compress the video feed before sending it to the PC. SuperSpeed USB is fast enough to transmit the raw, uncompressed HD video to the PC for capture or compression, which can greatly improve the video quality and make high-def Webcams cheaper, too. Devices like these will arrive a little later in 2010, but you should see all sorts of products carrying the SuperSpeed USB label on store shelves by the end of 2010.

None of this means that USB 2.0 is going anywhere, of course; it will continue to be the more affordable option until USB 3.0 controllers come built into the I/O host controllers of motherboards (the NEC USB 3.0 host controller mentioned above is a separate chip on the motherboard, and is not part of the motherboard's main host controller). And USB 2.0 is still suitable for input devices--mice and keyboards don't require all of the available bandwidth that SuperSpeed USB 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, Zune, or smartphone won't take 2 hours to fill up with music.

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