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New Apple Macbooks Ship with USB 3.0 – Flash Drives Still Lag Behind.

Posted by USB2U on 14th June 2012 | Permalink

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).

USB-3.0 Flash Drives

USB-3.0 Flash Drives

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”).


The Promise of USB 3.0 Looks More Certain in 2012

Posted by USB2U on 16th December 2011 | Permalink

USB 3.0 or SuperSpeed USB as it is often referred to has gotten off to a bit of a sluggish start but the announcement this week by the USB Implementers Forum that Intel’s new “Ivy Bridge” 7 Series Chipset has achieved USB 3.0 certification is likely give it a real shot in the arm in 2012.

Superspeed USB has been so named because it delivers a 10 fold increase in data transfer speeds compared to the current USB 2.0 standard but to achieve these speeds everything from the PC, to the cable to the peripheral or storage device connected to the PC must support the USB 3.0 standard.

Whilst we’ve seen a number of smaller PC manufacturers launch PC’s with USB 3.0 on-board the lack of any Intel based

USB 3.0

USB 3.0

solution has held the market back. The market needs Intel to deliver 3.0 support to drive competition and to bring USB 3.0 prices down.

Some sceptics have also suggested that the Intel has been dragging its heels to allow its own high-speed connection technology called Thunderbolt to get established. Thunderbolt is twice as fast of USB 3.0 and is a joint development with Apple on whose products it is already being shipped.

Mainstream PC’s with Intel’s Ivy Bridge chips onboard and support for Superspeed USB 3.0 are expected to start hitting the shops in May/June 2012. From this point on things will start to get interesting because all of a sudden USB 3.0 will be within reach of most people buying a PC, in fact within a few months it will be the de facto standard on any PC purchased.

With Intel’s support in 2012, USB 3.0 will move into the mainstream and the peripherals and cables that we use with our PC’s will also start to move over to the new Superspeed standard. It won’t happen overnight because un the short term USB 3.0 products will inevitably carry a price premium but within a couple of years USB 3.0 will just be the expected standard and referred to not as USB 3.0 but USB.

For the Promotional USB Flash Drive sector there is unlikely mass change to USB 3.0 flash drives simply because in the short term (next 12-18 mths) they will carry a price premium that most companies won’t want to pay for a “give-away” product. Equally, there is little point paying for a premium high-speed product until you are sure that most people you give them to are able to benefit from the higher speeds on offer. We’re some years away from the ubiquitous use of USB 3.0 and until that time or until the factories stop manufacturing USB 2.0 sticks the standard for promotional USB flash drives will be USB 2.0 – after all, these will still work on USB 3.0 PC’s they just won’t work at the high data transfer speeds.


Will We See Thunderbolt USB Flash Drives Any Time Soon

Posted by USB2U on 28th February 2011 | Permalink

Last week saw the announcement by Intel of a new High Speed technology called Thunderbolt™  – its aim is to deliver high-speed data transfer capabilities and support for high-definition (HD) video connection in a single cable. The

Thunderbolt Flash Drives

Thunderbolt Flash Drives

“Thunderbolt” cable and protocol supports data transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps which put simply will enable the transfer of a full-length HD movie in around 30 seconds!

The technology has been a joint development with Apple so its no surprise that it will make its first appearance in the new MacBook Pro series which co-incidentally, was also announced last week.

Of course Apple are not new to developing new fast data transfer solutions with Firewire 400 and Firewire 800 being clear examples but this jointly developed solution leaves everything else looking like a poor relation. For example Firewire 800 supports data transfer speeds of 800 Mbps (twice that of USB 2.0) and even the new USB 3.0 standard only manages 5Gbps.

Considering USB 3.0 is only just now beginning to reach the market the announcement of Thunderbolt has taken many by surprise and raised doubt over what will emerge as the dominant standard for peripherals and data transfer moving forward.

Whilst USB 3.0 products are backwards compatible with USB 2.0 the Thunderbolt standards are completely different (different cables, different connectors and completely different protocol) so USB products, including USB flash drives will not work with Thunderbolt.

USB 3.0 flash drives are only now beginning to appear on the market and are still carrying quite a heft “early adopter” premium. Whether Thunderbolt will or can spawn an equivalent to a USB flash drive is not clear but a Thunderbolt Flash Drive with data transfer speeds of 10Gbps would revolutionise the portable data storage space.

For now most people are likely to be content with regular USB 2.0 flash drives and companies that use these USB flash drives for promotional purposes need not worry about Thunderbolt because its simply too early in its development and adoption cycle for it to be considered. For now at least USB remains king but its going to be an interesting couple of years.


USB 3.0 Branded USB Memory Sticks

Posted by USB2U on 21st January 2011 | Permalink

USB 3.0 is here, its may not arrived with much of a fanfare and its arrival might, in the short term at least, be more interesting to classic early adopters but its arrival is significant and will have a bearing on the promotional USB memory stick market.

The reason why the arrival USB 3.0 is significant is because USB 3.0 flash drives read and write at 10 times the speed of comparable USB 2.0 memory sticks. But there is also a further and more subtle change heralded by the arrival of USB 3.0 and that is the ability of USB sticks to send and receive data at the same time

So, if you want your branded USB memory sticks to carry loads of data and be able to “play” this data quickly then

USB 3.0

USB 3.0

you’re going to love USB 3.0. Because they transfer data at 4.8 gigabytes per second they are ideal for handling large file formats like videos, music and digital photos. Running full motion, HD adverts directly from a USB 3.0 stick is going to be easy and will create all sorts of interesting creative opportunities for advertising agencies.

Although support for USB 3.0 started to appear on new PC’s in 2010 its only going to start being rolled out on most PC’s this year. If your PC is not equipped with USB 3.0 then you won’t have to dump your PC or Mac to benefit from the performance improvements but you will have to install a new PCI card to upgrade it to USB 3.0 – this is normally pretty easy to do and the cards will be relatively cheap.

If you don’t have USB 3.0 on your PC or Mac but you’re given a USB 3.0 memory stick the stick will still work but it’ll just work at USB 2.0 speeds.

In the short term the only drawback of using promotional USB 3.0 memory sticks is cost. As with all new “tech gear” its expensive when it first comes out and at the moment there is quite a premium to pay for USB 3.0 sticks. Give it another 12 months and the price differential between 2.0 and 3.0 will start to close rapidly and with 2-3 years all promotional USB flash drives will be USB 3.0.

The challenge in the intervening period is to get your creative hats on and think about how you can best use the improvements in speed and interaction offered by these new USB memory sticks.