USB 3.0 – The next generation of increased data transfer speeds

In a fast-paced society, with incessant data flood, people simply don’t have the time to wait for slow copying processes. Today, it is vitally important to be able to make use of data as quick as possible.

Grant Rau, business development manager at Kingston Technology SA (image: Kingston)

As the technology revolution marches forward, USB continues to be the most widely used connection technology in the world – found on most devices, from PCs and laptops to tablets, printers, televisions and even car stereos.

Ten times faster

The past decade has seen dramatic changes in the types of data that is stored. With the decreasing price and increasing capacity of data carriers, the question isn’t about how much data can be stored, but how quickly this data can be uploaded onto the hardware at hand. Enter USB 3.0 technology – which is on average ten times faster than the USB 2.0 technology, and is currently used on billions of devices around the world.

According to tests conducted by Kingston Technology: it took one hour and 40 minutes to copy a high resolution HD film, 25.7 GB in size, whilst using USB 2.0 technology. With USB 3.0, it took a mere six and a half minutes to copy over. In the hour and a half that was spared, a user could fly from Johannesburg to Durban, run 30 kilometers or even copy 15 additional HD films.

From 2.0 to 3.0

The USB 3.0 standard, called SuperSpeed, was announced in 2008, and by 2010 the first devices with USB 3.0 interfaces were released. While the previous version, USB 2.0 is capable of a transfer speed of 480 Mbps, the newer technology provides speeds of 5 Gbps. Copy speed is not the only advantage with the new technology. Due to its higher amperage, users can provide a power supply to several devices which are USB 3.0 compatible, charging them faster – without the need for an external power source. What’s more, the increase in energy efficiency means that USB 3.0 ports provide connected laptops, tablets and peripherals with a longer battery operating time.

On top of all this, the two standards are mutually compatible, so a notebook with a USB 2.0 port can read a USB 3.0 flash drive. It’s also just as simple to connect a mobile phone to a newly purchased, USB 3.0 equipped device via the cable that runs on 2.0 technology.

Incidentally, the USB 3.0 connector can be identified by looking at its colour. Although it’s not an obligatory part of the standard, in most cases the tab inside the connector is blue.

Rapid expansion

The current total of PCs and peripherals that can be connected via USB totals over 10 billion, and this number is increasing by three billion each year. A growing proportion of these now use 3.0 technology, as the majority of motherboard, PC and notebook manufacturers have already launched products with a 3.0 port. According to studies, by 2015 the number of devices with USB 3.0 will have surpassed two billion, and the ratio of computers with built-in USB SuperSpeed connections is expected to reach 100%. According to In-Stat surveys, around 70 million USB 3.0 devices were sold in 2011, but by 2014 this number is predicted by the analysts to rise to one billion. As Kingston Technology sees it, this technology is sure to have a great future because, by pairing it with Solid State memory Drives (SSDs), one can create the world’s fastest combination when it comes to data transmission – achieving huge advances in performance.

Valuable minutes and seconds saved

The copy speed of USB 3.0 technology opens the way for countless new possibilities. The amount of time saved can even be measured in hours, as according to the tests conducted by Kingston, 10 GB of images (up to 2780 pictures) can be transferred in 5 minutes instead of 43, and the same volume of files (4771 documents) will only take 8 minutes to copy using USB 3.0, as opposed to 54 minutes with USB 2.0.

This technology also allows larger files and documents to be opened and edited straight from the flash drive. Thanks to the increased transfer rate, applications can be run directly from the USB stick. Even operating systems (like Windows 8) can be run from the USB stick, since USB 3.0 offers such speed and performance, as if the OS was running from the computer’s own hard drive.

The same goes for games, which can be just as important for many users. Gaming enthusiasts can load their favourite titles on a USB 3.0 flash drive and play using them anywhere they go, on the compatible device of their choice.

The future of USB SuperSpeed technology

Soon all computers will have a USB 3.0 slot, with industry players expecting to see the distinctive blue port on countless other devices – providing a guarantee not just of lightning-fast transfers and invaluable time-savings, but also lower energy consumption and faster charging.

Grant Rau, business development manager at Kingston Technology SA