Monday, 22 August 2011

10 question about USB 3.0

1. What Is USB 3.0 ?

USB 3.0 is the successor to USB 2.0 which has been long awaited. USB 2.0 has been since almost a decade is an interface standard for PCs and notebooks. In 1996, USB has been developed as a connection between computers and devices periferial practical. It was still in use serial and parallel connections.

Success is achieved with the new USB 2.0. Data flow with transfer speeds up to 480 MBit / sec, the device-pairs may be revoked when the PC is operated. And thanks to the power supply integrated many devices such as USB-flash or webcam does not require its own power-supply.

The only drawback: It is 480 MBit / sec (in practice, rarely above 300 MBit / sec) is no longer adequate. Since 2007, Intel promises that USB 3.0 is completed November 2008.

USB 3.0 problems concerned: Data flow with speeds of up to 5 Gbit / sec - USB 2.0 10-fold. Similar techniques are now also available for serial data transfer, which is also used in other serial interfaces such as PCI-Express and SATA.

2. Is USB 3.0 will be used for longer periods of time or soon there will be a successor?

Such as USB 2.0, USB 3.0 interface also will be standard in all areas of electronics - will thus be used for several years. But will not that easy for USB 3.0:

In general, all cables will be sought to be replaced with wireless connections. Certain wireless standards - such as WirelessHD for audio and video content transfer HD - has now reached 3 Gbit / sec. Coming years this rate will have much improved.

Besides Intel, which is the driving force behind all of the USB specification creates its own rivals: This year will also be out of a new optical interface with the codename 'Light Peak' which offers data speeds up to 10 Gbit / sec. So it would be stressful for USB 3.0.


3. Is my PC have to use USB 3.0?

If you do not want to immediately buy a new mainboard, but want to move to USB 3.0, it takes a controller card that is only available for PCI-Express 2.0 (from 30 Euros). For those of you who do not have the PCIe-slots on PCnya (force before 2005), need not expect to USB 3.0.

But with new hardware too often only available PCIe 1.0 interface. Here the controller card can indeed be used, but full speed is not reached. The trick: Insert the controller card into the graphics-card PCIe 4x, 8x or even 16x. With it you reach full speed.

4. Is moving now profitable?

Although there were only a few weeks USB 3.0 available on the market, price is not expensive. But there are restrictions, so it is not possible SuperSpeed full speed. When you are happy to buy new hardware or want a very high transfer speeds with no SATA, available USB 3.0 devices are the first that is not too expensive.

For other users, it is better to wait: Soon (semester 2 this year) USB 3.0 will be available on many motherboards and notebooks through integration into Intel chipsets, nVidia and AMD. External hard drive and USB-flash will be available at cheap prices and the controller chip to the second generation no longer have to face the problem of speed as it is today.

5. Is the old USB devices can also be mounted on a USB 3.0 port?

SuperSpeed-new port is fully downward compatible. In addition to a new level of speed SuperSpeed (5 Gbit / sec) are also supported LowSpeed ​​(up to 1.5 MBit / sec) and FullSpeed (up to 12 MBit / sec) which has been used on USB 1.0, HighSpeed (480 MBit / sec) of USB 2.0 without restrictions.

Because port Type A is commonly found on PCs and notebooks do not change shape, the old plug can still be installed. Old USB 2.0 devices are not able to take advantage of new transfer speeds of nearly 10-fold, but our tests prove the increase in speeds up to 10%.

6. Hardware which has been available and at what price?

Sales of USB 3.0 devices has begun, but it is still unclear. Currently only available in a host-controller chip - NEC? PD720200 used on all motherboards available.

Here there are two options: Using a new mainboard with the NEC-controller, such as Asus P7P55D-E Pro (about 150 euro, left image) and Gigabyte (Series P55A & 790XTA, 100 Euros upwards). But usually also require a new mainboard hardware components - CPU or RAM - which is also new (100 Euros upwards).

As an alternative available PCIe-card. At the close of editors there are only a few models and only one is available: Host-controller USB 3.0 from Sharkoon (about 40 Euro, 2 x USB 3.0). Since mid-December are the same card from Buffalo, IFC-PCIE2U3 (about 65 Euros) and U356 from Asus (around 35 Euro, 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x SATA 3).

But all is not useful, if you do not have a device periferial currently still rare. Since late last November Sharkoon SATA QuickPort offers USB 3.0 (about 50 Euros, the image on page 42), where you can use 2.5 and 3.5-inch hard drive for data transfer. Before Christmas is also available external hard drive from Buffalo HD-HX series (picture above) in capacity of 1, 1.5 and 2 terabyte (about 190-370 Euros).

7. Where exactly is the difference between USB 2.0 and 3.0?

To achieve a higher rate of speed on USB 3.0 are all slightly improved: In the protocol specified level SuperSpeed ​​with data transfer speeds up to 5 Gbit / sec. For that pin plug plus: When enough with 4 USB 2.0 pin, for USB 3.0 it takes 5 other pins.

Thus, the cord must be adjusted: In addition to the two pairs of USB 2.0, there is another pair of each to send and receive, as well as one for the power-supply and mass.

To place a new pin plug port and expanded - with the exception of type A is widely used. Here the extra pin is placed in the rear, the shape is essentially unchanged.

8. Test results: USB 3.0 is good ?

Because at this time? PD720200 only one available, we performed tests based on the relevant hardware: In the lab tested the mainboard Asus P7P55D CHIP-E Pro, USB 3.0 card from the Sharkoon QuickPort and Buffalo HD-HXU 3.

The results are impressive: With QuickPort and Buffalo use the latest SATA hard drive with maximum speed. There is no difference between SATA and USB 3.0. This means four times the performance of USB 2.0.

All faster when using a fast SSD in QuickPort: Speed ​​up to 200 MByte / sec can be achieved. But there is a decrease: Intel X25-Mg2 we tested reach speeds of 260 MByte / sec - according to the specifications of up to 640 MBit / sec.

NEC clearly has not reached maximum performance, the chip stops at 200 MByte / sec. With 2.0 in hardware 3.0 ports have a positive surprise: a shorter access time and performance increases up to 10%.

9. What alternatives are there?

That has not been moved to the USB 3.0 can also achieve higher speeds than USB 2.0. External SATA ports are increasingly used in PCs and notebooks. With an eSATA enabled the same speed as internal SATA. In practice up to 300 MByte / sec.

These weaknesses also lost early eSATA (lack of features and power-hotplug additional ports). However, eSATA is not better than USB 3.0: stiff and short cord, no USB-hub to facilitate installation of the device.

Another alternative is Firewire 800, but can not compete with eSATA or USB 3.0. Above 120 MByte / sec is technically impossible, there is almost no hardware - even if there are very expensive.

10. Who needs a USB 3.0?

Actually every user, though not immediately. Which mainly uses periferial slow on the USB-port - for example a scanner, printer, mouse, keyboard or webcam - no need to immediately move to 3.0. In this application SuperSpeed ​​offers no advantages. However when you copy large amounts of data to the hard drive or USB flash, you should immediately move! At the speed of data we measure up to 200 MByte / sec eSATA which is currently only able to match.


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