What is USB 3.0?
USB 3.0 has become the long-awaited successor to USB 2.0 which has been the standard interface in PCs and notebooks for almost a decade. USB was developed in1996 to be a simple, manageable connection between PCs and peripherals. Until then one had to struggle with parallel or serial ports. Success knocked with the launch of USB 2.0, transfer rates of up to 480 Mbps meant one could plug devices into the system via Plug & Play, and owing to its integrated power supply many devices like pen drives, small hard disks or even webcams did not need to have a separate power supply. The only hitch, is that nowadays the maximum of 480 Mbits/s (practically rarely over 300 Mbps) is simply not enough. That is the reason USB 3.0 exists. It promises a tenfold increase in the speed as compared to USB 2.0, which is said to be up to 5 GBps.
Will USB 3.0 stay for a while or will there soon be a successor?
Now USB 3.0 is set to become the new standard interface in electronics as the case was with USB 2.0, and it should endure for a good number of years. However, it is not going to be as easy for USB 3.0 as predicted. Its transfer rate will definitely fall short in coming years, with HD and 3D video becoming common. To top it all even Intel which is the driving force behind all the USB specifications, is competing with it: A new, optical interface with the codename “Light peak” is already expected to hit the market by 2010 and is expected to deliver a data rate of upto 10 GBps.
Can my PC be upgraded?
Those who don’t want to buy a new motherboard right away but still wish to upgrade to USB 3.0 today must buy an add-on controller card. Cards are available only for PCI Express 2.0, however, those who do not have a PCI Express slot in their PC(almost all PCs which were manufactured before 2005) will not be able to upgrade to USB 3.0. But those who even have a new hardware often have only a PCI Express 1.0 interface: Here the cards can be used, but again, the full potential cannot be obtained. The trick: insert the controller card in a 4x, 8x or even a 16x PCI Express graphics card slot. It will use two channels, since the speed of PCIe 2 is exactly double that of PCIe 1.0.
Is it possible to connect old USB sticks to USB 3.0?
The new super speed interface is absolutely compatible with the older versions. Along with the new speed level Super Speed (5GBps), the old levels Low Speed (up to 1.5 MBps), Full Speed (up to 12 MBps) and High Speed (480 MBps) are compatible without any limitations. This is because the new Type A socket which is generally found on PCs or notebooks will accept the old plugs. However, if the old USB 2.0 devices are connected to the USB 3.0 port they do not use the maximum possible speed, which is up to ten times higher.
What exactly is the difference between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0?
The speed level “SuperSpeed” allows data transfers up to 5 GBps. To make such high data rates possible the connector pins of the plug are extended: USB 2.0 can manage with four pins whereas USB3.0 requires fi ve more pins. Of course, the cable also has to be changed with it. Two additional wire pairs are needed for USB 3.0 cable than those required in USB 2.0, for individual wires which handle transmission and reception, and a circuit and connections are sheltered. Many USB ports and sockets are extended so that pins can be put in the plug board apart from the generally well-known “Type A”: in this case the additional pins make contact with the rear part of the plug which fi ts in perfectly
Those of you who are unable to or who don’t wish to shift toUSB 3.0 do not have to give up on the hope of faster data rates than USB 2.0. External SATA (eSATA) is in greater circulation,in PCs as well as in notebooks. The same transfer rates are possible with eSATA as with internal SATA connections. However, almost up to 300 MByte/s in practice and the teething troubles by eSATA like the inability to hot plug are already rectifi ed. However, eSATA is not as good as USB 3.0; the cables are less fl exible and a lot shorter, and there is no USB Hub which would facilitate the connection. The next option is Firewire 800 which is nowhere in the league of eSATA or USB 3.0: more than 120 MByte/s is just not possible, and there is hardly any hardware available at reasonable prices.