USB 3.0 SuperSpeed for laptops and notebooks

16 Jan 2010
Posted by Laptop Junction

The USB 3.0 SuperSpeed standard is making a debut in 2010, with the first hardware manufacturers releasing their USB 3.0 products. USB 3.0 is designed for transfer speeds up-to a whopping 5.0 Gbit/s, 10 times faster than USB 2.0. So what are the options to use USB 3.0 with existing laptops and notebooks?
 

USB 3.0 SuperSpeed – the new USB standard in 2010

The USB 3.0 SuperSpeed standard in a nutshell:
 

  • Transfer speeds up-to 5 Gbit/sec – a 10 fold increase compared to USB 2.0
  • Better power management – saving laptop batteries
  • Backwards compatibility with USB 2.0 / USB1.0

5Gbit/sec in theory equals a transfer rate of a staggering 625 Mb/sec.

USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Logo the new USB standard

The new USB 3.0 SuperSpeed logo can be found at http://www.usb.org


USB 3.0 comes with new connectors, cabling and hardware. At first sight the connectors look chunkier and are marked with a new SuperSpeed logo.


USB 3.0 SuperSpeed plug different than the USB 2.0 version

The first USB 3.0 products have been released in late 2009 / early 2010, such as ExpressCard USB 3.0 adapters, USB 3.0 external drive enclosures and flash drives.
 

  USB 3.0 SuperSpeed StarTech 2 Port Express Card ECUSB352.

USB 3.0 SuperSpeed StarTech 2 Port Express Card ECUSB352.


Competitor of the USB 3.0 standard is the FireWire 3200 (Mac / Linux / Unix) standard designed up-to transfer speeds of 5 Gbit/s.
 

USB3.0 put to use

Typically the Storage Industry is most likely going to benefit first from the increase in speed. Especially USB connected SSD (Solid State Drives) / Hard drives and pen / stick drives, because USB2.0 is tragically slow for this Solid State Drive technology.

At this moment even the fastest mechanical drive still can’t fully utilize the already existing SATA-II interface (3Gbit/sec). So USB 3.0 will certainly fit

In theory USB 3.0 allows SATA-II (3Gbit/sec) hard disks to transfer data upto 6 times faster than USB 2.0. Even SATA-I (1.5 Gbit/sec) disk enclosures would benefit from a 3 fold speed increase, given the hard disk is fast enough.


USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Unitek X500 SATA-2 external hard disk interface
USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Unitek X500 SATA-2 external hard disk interface


So featured applications are external large capacity storage like portable RAID units, single hard disk enclosures, DVD drives and Video / Audio editing equipment.

Popular operating systems like Windows, Mac and Linux will have their USB 3.0 updates. Hopefully USB 3.0 will have a better implementation than the confusing USB 2.0 / USB 1.0 messaging in Windows.
 

USB 3.0 for existing laptops and notebooks

That’s all great news, however there are still a lot of laptops and notebooks out there which are just too new to be ditched for USB 3.0 variants.  So what does it take to fully benefit from USB 3.0 on existing laptops?

First of all, it depends on the ExpressCard slot designed into many laptops. ExpressCard is the faster version of PCMCIA or CardBus PC cards.

ExpressCard comes in two flavors:

ExpressCard 1.0     : Up-to 2,5 Gbit/sec
ExpressCard 2.0     : Up-to 5 Gbit/sec (released in March 2009)

Late 2009 laptops are most likely to have a ExpressCard 2.0 slot. However if there’s an ExpressCard slot it’s at least designed for 2,5 Gbit/sec speeds.
 

USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Fresco Logic ExpressCard-2 FL 10000 series

USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Fresco Logic ExpressCard-2 FL 10000 series


So for SATA-II and ExpressCard 2.0 configurations, the maximum transfer speed is limited to 3 Gbit/sec which is set by SATA-II. (6 times USB 2.0)

For SATA-II and ExpressCard 1.0 configurations, the maximum transfer speed is limited to 2,5 Gbit/sec which is set by the ExpressCard 1.0 standard. (5 times USB 2.0)

The shopping list in either case would be:
 

  • USB 3.0 ExpressCard 2 adapter
  • USB 3.0 shielded twisted pair cable
  • USB 3.0 External SATA-II drive enclosure
  • Fast SATA-II hard disk

 



 

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