The New Kid in Town: USB 3.0
Unless you are on the bleeding edge of technology, chances are you haven’t used a USB 3.0 device yet. And unless you’re constantly reading up on the latest and greatest technology, you might not even know what USB 3.0 is all about.As the name implies, USB 3.0 is the successor to the ubiquitous UBS 2.0 interface. It provides faster transfer rates -- up to 5.0Gbps using a technology dubbed SuperSpeed. This is more than ten times the speed of USB 2.0 and, while you won’t get speeds like that in real-life use, you will see significant improvements over USB 2.0. It is also significantly faster than eSATA, FireWire-800, and FireWire-400.
Obviously, USB 3.0 is aimed more towards use with external storage than devices like mice and keyboards. The new standard is backwards compatible with old devices -- you’ll be able to plug any of your current USB devices into the new ports. It also provides more power to devices than USB 2.0, allowing you to charge portable devices -- including iPods and Blackberries -- more quickly. Sound’s great. Why wait? Step right up to USB 3.0! If only life were that simple. Intel has recently stated that they don’t plan on adding USB 3.0 to their chipsets until late in 2011. This means that you won’t see USB 3.0 built in to a large number of computer systems until 2012. This is not to say you won’t be able to get a PC with USB 3.0 before then -- there are already a handful on the market, including the ASUS N61Jq-A1 and ASUS N71Jq-A1. There are also a number of options to add USB 3.0 to your current computers. Desktop users with an available PCI Express slot can add USB 3.0 at a very reasonable cost. Buffalo makes a PCI Express x1 expansion card that adds two ports to your computer. ASUS has a similar card, which adds 6Gbps internal SATA in addition to two USB 3.0 ports -- it requires a PCI Express x4 slot for installation. Both cards are compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and 7. Notebook users can use Buffalo’s ExpressCard/34 adapter to add two USB 3.0 ports to their system. Also compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and 7, the card fits in both ExpressCard/34 and ExpressCard/54 slots. The card is plug-and-play, allowing you to swap it in and out of your notebook as needed. Once you’ve outfitted your system with a controller card, it’s time to add a USB 3.0 storage device. Western Digital’s My Book 3.0 is available with or without a controller card, in a 1TB configuration. The drive is intended for desktop use, since it requires an AC power source to operate.
The USB 3.0 cable is included, which is helpful as you aren’t likely to have one lying about idle. Buffalo also has a USB 3.0 desktop drive available, the DriveStation 3.0 HD-HXU3, in 1TB, 1.5TB, and 2TB capacities. It features Buffalo’s TurboUSB feature, which delivers even faster data throughput than standard USB 3.0 devices. It is bundled with Memeo Instant Backup software for Windows and also includes the data cable. And Buffalo makes a portable USB 3.0 drive, which is powered by the system bus. This makes it ideal for use with notebook systems. The MiniStation Cobalt USB 3.0 HD-PEU3 is available in 500GB and 640GB capacities. It features Buffalo’s TurboPC technology for enhanced transfer rates, and includes their backup software for Windows. So, if you are looking for the latest and greatest in external storage technology, USB 3.0 is right up your alley. Even though it won’t be standard on PCs this year or next, adding it to an existing system via expansion card is a matter of ease. It is currently not supported by Mac OS X, so you’ll have to have a Windows-based PC to take advantage of this technology. More and more USB 3.0 devices are coming to market every day, so your options for expansion and external storage will only increase as time goes by.