USB 3.0: Likely to Bring Many Conveniences


The next generation of Universal Serial Bus (USB) is upon us. The final specification for USB 3.0 is due in the fourth quarter of this year, and Intel has delivered a key part of the draft spec.  I’m betting that version 3.0 will make life easier for web workers in many ways. That’s largely true because of the many conveniences that I remember USB 2.0 introducing.

USB 3.0 has been widely interpreted as a way to increase speeds for consumer-oriented tasks, such as downloading HD movies. Indeed, speed is the new version’s main selling point, but version 3.0 is also likely to make mobile and other tasks easier.

USB 3.0 is expected to bring much greater download speeds than we’re used to seeing now (up to ten times greater), and is also bi-directional, meaning that it can send and recieve data at the same time. However, as Gizmodo points out in its First Look at USB 3.0, “the biggest benefit of USB 3.0, may be the new power management options.” The new version is targeted to allow peripheral devices plugged into, say, a laptop to suffer fewer charge drains. Devices being charged while plugged into a USB port will also charge faster.

I’m betting that the way we’ll experience these improvements when working will be similar to what we saw when USB 2.0 first arrived. Audio and video streams delivered over USB were herky-jerky and undependable prior to USB 2.0, and that put limits on the types of devices that manufacturers delivered with USB connectivity.

With USB 3.0, it’s almost a certainty that people will keep more USB devices connected to computers and laptops, and that’s likely to affect hardware designs. The speeds are also fast enough to allow for rich media applications based on audio and video to run more smoothly, and possibly in improved form factors.

It will take a while before version 3.0 is finalized, but if this version works like previous ones, we’ll see many hardware devices come out before the spec is final. (The same phenomenon happens in the Wi-Fi arena, where, say, Apple’s AirPort routers come out well before the versions of Wi-Fi that they’re based on are finally ratified.) We can all look forward to connectivity boosts coming soon.


Samuel Dean

@Darren, people increasingly use USB to transfer rich media back-and-forth from cameras and many other devices. That’s what I meant when I said download.




When it says “download speed” I understand that he meant downloading from a camera or other device, not from the net. Maybe transfering would have been a less ambiguous term.


OK, I must be missing something. USB 3.0 has a full-duplex data transfer rate of 4.8 Gbps, as opposed to USB 2.0’s 0.48 Gbps.

That’s great news for those of us who transfer large files to and from external media, and opens the potential for USB gigabit Ethernet adapters (great for people who use little “net books”).

But what on earth does that have to do with “download speed”? The rate at which I can transfer a file from a network resource to my workstation (the definition of “download speed”) is not limited by USB. Most broadband service peaks at 16 Mbps (0.016 Gbps), and even the new fiber-optic service plans peak out at around 60Mbps (0.06 Gbps). I don’t see how faster USB will help here.

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