Earlier this week Apple took the wraps off new versions of its range of MacBook Pro and MacBook Air range of laptops and for anyone with a penchant for speed they’ll have been delighted to hear that every model across the range now ships with USB 3.0.
In fact not only are they shipping with USB 3.0 but Apple have included two USB 3.0 ports on every MacBook (Pro and Air) as well as at least one Thuderbolt port.
The inclusion of USB 3.0 is as significant and the exclusion of any USB 2.0 ports that we’ve all become familiar with over the past 5 years or so. But given that you can still plug any old USB 1.x or USB 2.0 product into a USB 3.0 port then it makes sense if you’re going to commit to USB 3.0 to drop the earlier versions completely.
USB 3.0 has been a long time coming. Development started on the new standard in 2007 to have the same ease-of-use and plug and play capability offered by USB 2.0 but with a whopping 10X performance increase in data transfer rates. The speed improvements are achieved by using a technology that has been dubbed “SuperSpeed” – this allows multiple streams of data transfer and boosts its peak bandwidth to 4.8 Gb/s (~572 MB/s).
To put the speed improvements into context if you transferred 100 albums from a MacbookPro to and iPod using a USB 2.0 the transfer would take around 2 minutes but if you use USB 3.0 (then assuming everything in the chain uses USB 3.0) then the transfer drops to around 15 seconds!!
The only slight challenge in the short term is to get the benefit of speed improvements on offer from USB 3.0 everything you use must be USB3.0 (cables, peripherals, ports etc.) If anything uses the older, slower standard (2.0) then you simply won’t get the speed benefits but at least things will still work/transfer – just more slowly!
Like any new technology there is always a premium to pay for being one of the first to buy it so for the next year or two or so expect to pay more for USB 3.0 cables, USB 3.0 peripherals and USB 3.0 flash drives.
Whilst USB 3.0 flash drives continue to attract a premium price they are unlikely to be used for promotional purposes. There is simply no point in paying a premium for a product that for most people will only work at the slower speeds. For the foreseeable future your average PC (and Mac) user will, unless they have invested in a new MacBook, happily continue to work at USB 2.0 speeds. So whilst there is lots of buzz and interest in USB 3.0 it’s not really relevant if you want to buy printed flash drives to give away at a trade show, an event or an seminar (unless you are giving them away to an audience of hard core, early adopter “techies”).