TechBite: Adios USB 2.0–Hello USB 3.0

By Steve Bass

USB 3.0: Brand Spanking New

It’s not like I have anywhere important to go to, but I still hate to wait. That’s why I’m enjoying USB 3.0.

Let’s get the numbers out of the way; then I’ll talk practicalities.

USB specs are inflated… they always are. USB 2.0 is rated at 480 Mbit/s (about 57MB/s) while USB 3.0 is 4.8 Gbit/s (572 MB/s). In the real world, the only users getting these speeds are the marketing people who dreamed up the specs. On my PC, USB 2.0 moved files at 25MB/s and USB 3.0 can get up to 55MB/s.

Here’s a comparison between file transfers with USB 2.0 versus USB 3.0.

I used TeraCopy, a free copying utility, to measure the transfer speed.

TeraCopy shows you the speed of the transfer.

USB 3.0 Right Now
Unless you have a need to be on the edge, I’d say wait. But I know some of you want USB 3.0 now, so you have two choices: Buy a new PC with it built into the system board, or spend about $45 for a USB 3.0 adapter.

I used StarTech’s 2 Port PCI Express SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Card Adapter with two external ports. (For $60, you can choose a card with one external and one internal port for connecting internal USB devices.) They’re both backward compatible to USB 2.0. You’ll also need a USB 3.0 cable, about $15.

Installation is no different from sticking in any other adapter–open the PC’s case and insert the card into an empty PCI Express slot. You’ll need to make a connection from your PC’s power supply to the card using an LP4 molex connector (most power supplies have extra connectors).

Be aware that the maximum throughput of these cards is limited by your PC’s bus interface. PCI Express Gen 1.0 is stuck at 2.5 Gbps. (Use the freebie SIW–System information for Windows–to find out your PC’s bus interface speed.)

If you have a notebook, you can try StarTech’s Card Adapter. Because the adapter isn’t powered, though, the external device you use may need its own power source.

On a sad note, you’ll be disappointed to hear the USB connector that plugs into your PC is still dopey–you’ll have to continue guessing which side is up.

New USB 3.0 cables (you’ll still have
to guess which way to plug it in…)

TechBite continued here: Need a USB 3.0 Device?

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5 thoughts on “TechBite: Adios USB 2.0–Hello USB 3.0”

  1. Those speeds are a little disappointing…I was looking forward to the 10 times speed increase…but 2 times is still quite an improvement.

  2. The spec says that the upside must have the symbol and must be “Up”, not sure about vertical connectors.

  3. I’ve checked 100% of all my USB 2 plugs (computer end) and find that they all have the joint (or seam) in the metal part on the same side. Every USB connector on all of my PC’s and laptops are oriented the same way. So, on horizontal connectors the seam is always on the bottom. On vertical ones, it’s usually on the right, but it’s consistent within the same PC. This also applies to extension cables. The seam goes on the side with the seam.

  4. I’ve only encountered one, one USB device, where the “up” side of the connector wasn’t the side with the USB symbol on it. Pretty simple, really…

  5. C R Taliaferro

    A very small piece of red electrical tape stuck on the upside of the connector solves the stupid design fault of not knowing which way is up!

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