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December 1st, 2009

USB 3.0The next release of USB will be version number 3.0, already dubbed “SuperSpeed” by the USB Implementors Forum, the USB-IF, for its theoretical top speed of 4.8Gbps. The idea is for the jacks to be “backwards compatible” and work with USB 2.0, while taking the speed up by a factor of “5 to 10 times.” Every desktop computer that CRE rents has USB 2.0, and as the new standard is adopted, it will soon take over.

As 2.0 runs at 480Mbps, the 10x improvement would be the full theoretical maximum, and real-world experience with upgraded standards, like 2.0’s release a few years back, suggests that USB 3.0’s actual top speed will likely turn out to be around 3.2Gbps. That would make it faster than either flavor of Firewire, 400 or 800, whose numbers refer to its speed in Mbps, or megabits per second, and means USB 3.0 is capable of moving 15GB in about a minute. That’s fast, as users of CRE’s Mac Pro rentals know (some iMac users, too), as the top Macs have Firewire 800 ports, the current speed champ.

Which niche is which?

Some connections, like the increasingly ignored eSATA, are faster, but will likely remain niche players such as Firewire is becoming. Firewire never caught on with PCs as it did with Macs, where it is standard. Still, the big news about USB 3.0 is its potential to replace all the different ports computers now have. Here are their names and major uses:

  • Ethernet connects you to networks, the Internet, network-attached storage and peripherals (servers, printers, scanners);
  • USB is for keyboards, mousing/pointing devices, printers, multimedia devices (iPods, etc.), phones, still and video cameras, external hard drives, scanners, audio interfaces, musical instruments and game controllers;
  • FireWire 400 and 800 (IEEE 1394a or 1394b) ports allow connection of still and video cameras, audio interfaces and mixers, high-speed hard drives and tape drives; and
  • DVI and DisplayPort connectors feed images to monitors and other displays.

There is one more transfer protocol CRE customers may know about, and that’s the Fibre Channel (FC) interface on Mac’s Xserve RAID that CRE rents. The Xserve RAID is only accessible via Fibre Channel, and only using the integrated Fibre Channel protocols. Xserve RAID cannot serve or share its storage via an Ethernet network.

USB 3.0 could eliminate most existing standards, except Ethernet, FC and other special solutions. Instead of different ports and jacks, tomorrow’s computer might have four to six USB 3.0 ports. Although people are not used to thinking of USB for monitors, 3.0 will be far faster than necessary to deliver data to monitors (which is even done now with 2.0), while continuing to retrieve it from scanners and exchange it with hard drives.

Get ready for USB 3.0 – the new standard

Whatever it is you are moving, storing, transferring or archiving, USB 3.0 will be a revelation, moving some 15GB of data per minute. The USB-IF has no doubt that the standard will conquer the computer and home electronics market in no time – so, ready or not, here it comes. If you have questions about the imminent arrival of USB 3.0, or any other computing matter, contact one of our Account Executives today, or fill out a Quick Rental Quote form for a speedy reply.

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