Friday, January 16, 2009

USB finally gets an upgrade

At last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Intel debuted the next version of USB. USB 2.0 was introduced in April 2000, and since then, thousands of devices have used the protocol to established wired connectivity. Everything from cameras to PDAs to external storage devices are dependent on the USB 2.0 standard.

USB 3.0, however, promises much better performance. The theoretical limit for data transfer over USB 2.0 connection is 480Mbps. Intel claims that USB 3.0 will move data at an astounding 5Gbps ... or a more than fivefold increase. Other standards have emerged since USB 2.0, like eSata and Firewire. Both are far superior to USB 2.0, running at 3Gbps (eSata) and 800Mbps (Firewire - full duplex). Yet neither will be able to measure to USB 3.0.

The technology is to be production ready by early 2010, however don't expect to see widespread use until 2011 or 2012. The devices that use the protocol will have to adapt, and PC components will need to be developed. There are physical differences in the connection points, and device drivers need to be created and tested.

So there is a lot to do before the bulk of the consumer market can take advantage of this advance. Yet, it's encouraging that Intel has begun tackling this challenge. Portable devices are able to store huge amounts of data, and USB is still the practical way of putting it there. Yet, lots of data means lots of time spent waiting for the files to transfer. USB 3.0 is an important step in the right direction.

Intel Corporation: INTC
Photo Credit: Reuben Lee/CNET Asia
More Information: Cutting Edge blog post @ CNet

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