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Data Storage Upgrades Hardware

A Late Adopter's Guide To USB 3.0 185

crookedvulture writes "Even with cheap external hard drives, USB 3.0 offers roughly double the real-world transfer rates of old-school USB 2.0. It's no wonder, then, that USB 3.0 ports are available on most new systems. But what if you want to add USB 3.0 to an existing one? This article goes over what's required and explores the sort of performance improvements you can expect to see. Looks like a no-brainer for anyone who does a lot of transfers to external hard drives."
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A Late Adopter's Guide To USB 3.0

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  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:52PM (#35619078) Homepage

    Cost killed the idea of using USB for low speed peripherals and Firewire for higher speed ones. It's too expensive on a cheap PC to include both ports, so they only included the cheaper one (USB). Because USB was on everything, more devices wound up having USB support.

    Once you have basically everyone with USB 2 and only a subset of those with Firewire, implementing the more expensive Firewire stops making sense on retail systems.

    I can't help but wonder if the same thing will happen with Thunderbolt.

  • by modmans2ndcoming ( 929661 ) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:53PM (#35619080)

    Yes, but can USB 3 drive multiple monitors over a daisy chain too?

    So I hav e my laptop and I want to plug in an external monitor... bam... thunderbolt.... now I want to plug in an external hard drive, bam... thunderbolt...

    Thunderbolt just reduced the number of ports I need on my laptop from two to one. (USB, DVI/VGA to thunderbolt... great for ultra portables)

  • But USB 3 isn't in a ton of systems. Thunderbolt will stop being Apple exclusive next year (IIRC), so why should I bother? At this point a hard drive is the only thing I'm likely to use that would stress USB3, I mean I can already record HD video over USB2.

    I already have FireWire 800, and have for a few years, and it's very fast, and extremely low overhead. Since I don't go around copying multiple gigs of files between drives, the speed benefit of USB3 isn't really going to matter much to me. Given the average level drive attached, if FW is a bottleneck, I'm probably close to 80-90% of the drive speed. I have FW since I'm on a Mac, but many people on Windows boxes have eSATA ports. They're faster than USB3 (since it's the HD's native interface) and lower overhead (again, the native interface of the drive). I know they were supposed to make the CPU overhead of USB3 better than 2, but my guess is it's still noticeably higher than FireWire or eSATA.

    Basically, I think USB3 took too long. It's out, but it's third party chips on motherboards. That means the situation where some of your ports are v2 and some are v3. When space is at a premium (like laptops), it's more likely you'll only get v2 ports until Intel embeds a controller. But FW800 is available in add in cards and has a higher adoption rate (right now). eSATA cards are common and available in add in cards. USB2 is fast enough for many people.

    By the time USB3 becomes more common, Thunderbolt will already have a decent market. Apple putting it in their high-end computers (at least the MBPs) means that drive enclosures and such will be released in the next few months.

    For the average consumer, I don't think they need USB3 or will for a while. By the time they do, there is a good chance Thunderbolt will start looking really attractive (one cable and your monitor, scanner, hard drive and whatever else are plugged in). And since Thunderbolt easily has the bandwidth to have adapters to plug SATA or USB2/3 devices into Thunderbolt ports... it's a safe choice.

    I'm sure USB3 will be everywhere in a year or two, but only because it's a backwards compatible drop in replacement. I don't think it will be out of any real necessity. Only people copying large amounts of data (video editing, large media libraries, etc) would get the benefit, and at that point you might as well go eSATA.

  • by KonoWatakushi ( 910213 ) on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:00PM (#35619150)

    Speed aside, Thunderbolt has the potential to work properly, as it will support native SATA. Most USB 2.0 bridge chips ignore critical commands, and put your data at risk. Will 3.0 be better?

    Thunderbolt can also be daisy chained, and unlike with USB, the actual speed is not a small fraction of the theoretical speed. Therefore, a number of devices can be attached, without introducing a bottleneck or requiring a hub.

"In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved." -- Butler