SuperSpeed USB More Like HalfSpeed

This week marks a major milestone for the universal serial bus (USB) standard, which has just received its official 3.0 stamp of approval (PDF warning). The new standard is expected to be available in early 2010, and bring along a substantial speed boost.

According to official specifications, USB 3.0 will officially be known as SuperSpeed USB and carry with it a whopping bandwidth of 5 Gbps, which is roughly 1 CD’s worth of data (650 MB) per second. At this point, no hard drive that’s solid or otherwise can write or read at this rate, but it will certainly leave room for expansion. Some reports have indicated that SuperSpeed USB will operate at 4.8 Gbps, but the official specification calls for 5.0 Gbps.

The drawback with the USB standard is that it’s a host-based technology. This means that data transfer relies heavily on the host CPU to do all the processing. This is why we don’t see USB 2.0 (480 Mbps) exceed more than 50-percent of its total bandwidth — FireWire on the other hand comes a lot closer to its maximum bandwidth capacity. Because SuperSpeed USB is based on the same standards as USB 2.0, we can expect to see the same bandwidth drawbacks.

The new SuperSpeed USB will also be backwards compatible with older USB hardware, but you will still be required to use fully compliant SuperSpeed USB devices to achieve the highest throughput. Connectors will also be completely different, with the new SuperSpeed USB connector having more pin-outs and a different form factor — although we can expect new devices to contain both the old and new form factor.

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  • tipoo
    so using a fast USB 3.0 device will cause most single core computers to lag like hell?

    ah, well. the added bandwidth sure sounds great! but if USB 2.0 is only running at half its bandwidth capacity most of the time, what makes this any different?
  • Anonymous
    I think it's pretty lame to rely on the CPU to do the transfer.
  • joex444
    I use eSATA.

    Few devices will make any meaningful use of USB3.0 when it comes out, but by the time we're ready for USB4.0 we will find USB2.0 to be pathetic. So I guess it makes sense to move towards USB3.0 at this time, but for external HDs we should expand eSATA. It is the simplest way to do things, even the best constructed USB3.0 -> SATA interface will rob some bandwidth from the HD that a direct eSATA connection would offer.