USB 3.0: First Hard Drives Arrive

We give the inside scoop on USB 3.0: its real benefits, where to get it, and how to avoid rip-offs when shopping

By Melissa J. Perenson and Jon L. Jacobi, PC World |  Storage, hard drive, USB 3.0

One good thing: This time around, you won't have to worry about whether you're really getting the promised speeds. In the transition from USB 1.1 to USB 2.0, the creators of the latter spec wrote it in such a way that products didn't have to communicate at the full 480 mbps in order to be called "USB 2.0." In contrast, for a product to be certified as supporting USB 3.0, it must operate at the full 5 gbps.

Upgrade Possibilities

It's easy to upgrade to USB 3.0 on the desktop: You can buy adapter cards on the aftermarket for approximately $30, pay extra for a card from Buffalo ($70), or choose the Western Digital drive that includes a card (which carries a $20 premium over the version of the drive sold without the card).

With laptops, however, upgrading will be a tougher road. Unless your portable has an ExpressCard slot to accept an adapter such as the one that ships with the Seagate BlackArmor PS 110, you're not going to be able to add USB 3.0 to the notebook that you have now.

New laptops, though, will be a different story--eventually. So far only HP and Fujitsu have an­­nounced limited USB 3.0 support on laptops. Taiwanese laptop and desktop manufacturer MSI says it won't have USB 3.0 until the third quarter of this year, at the earliest. Product managers for both laptop and desktop makers cite manufacturing concerns such as having chipsets available in large quantities, and the need to test USB 3.0 chipsets, as reasons for the delay.

The Final Word

Speed, backward compatibility, power consumption...USB 3.0 more than lives up to the hype. It's only marginally slower than eSATA, and is far better suited to removable storage.

eSATA may yet pull farther ahead, especially once external enclosures built with 6-gbps SATA (SATA-600) come to market. However, now that USB 3.0 is here, we wouldn't be surprised to see eSATA lose traction to USB 3.0--at least in the general, non-high-performance consumer market. FireWire 800 is in a similar position: Aside from Mac support, FireWire 800 provides no tangible benefit over USB 3.0.

In the end, the real question is, do you want to have the speed of USB 3.0? We certainly do.

Don't Get Stung by High Prices for USB 3.0 Products

Whenever any new technology hits the streets, "entrepreneurs" ready to gouge consumers are rarely far behind. USB 3.0, aka SuperSpeed USB, was designed to be no more expensive than USB 1.1 or 2.0-but we've already seen vendors charging exorbitant prices for cables, adapters, and hubs. After all, USB 3.0 is brand-new and far faster than USB 2.0, so you must have to pay hefty early-adopter premiums, right? Wrong.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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