USB 3 Review

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Super Speed USB 3 Review

Super Speed USB 3 has a 5 GBPS signaling rate...

This is a review of Super Speed USB the port and two devices, an add on card and an external hard drive enclosure.

Need more speed from your USB? Then USB 3 Super Speed is in your future.

The new Universal Serial Bus 3 specification is long overdue, originally submitted as an ISO 9660 RFC (Request For Comments) in it languished on drawing boards for almost two years, by August 2008 the technology had reached a point where the specifications that were proposed could be accomplished with the hardware on hand.

New technology specifications seldom become reality in a short period of time. It takes some time for everyone to agree to the "standards" that the RFC puts forward.

Remember the Beta Max and the VHS tape fiasco? Why did VHS beat out Beta Max? (Which had a higher resolution and longer shelf life.)

Part of it has to do with who is backing the RFC, that is the bigger the companies supporting the specifications and producing more of the supported products then that will be the winner.

Same goes for Universal Serial Bus 3, at this time there are three camps supporting the 3 different specifications for production of Universal Serial Bus 3 products.

For the most part you will not be in the fight for the final specification. Which one will win? Who knows, but some 'benefits" of the new Universal Serial Bus 3 will not be available when the final standard is written.

Here is a short list of 'benefits" you get with Universal Serial Bus 3:

  • USB 3 has a 5 GBPS signaling rate offering 10x performance increase over Hi-Speed USB (USB 2.0).
  • USB 3 is a Sync-N-Go technology that minimizes user wait-time.
  • Universal Serial Bus 3.0 will provide Optimized Power Efficiency. No device polling and lower active and idle power requirements.
  • Universal Serial Bus 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0. Devices interoperate with USB 2.0 platforms. Hosts support USB 2.0 legacy devices.
  • Full duplex operation. There is some incompatibility with older connectors (As reported by W i k i p e d i a...)

One of the "toss up" specifications is the power requirement that will be supplied to the Universal Serial Bus 3 device. It may be up to the motherboard manufactures as to the final power output of the Universal Serial Bus 3 chipsets that are embedded on the motherboard. Currently the power supplied to a USB 2.0 device is 4.4 volts at 500 milliamps.

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Universal Serial Bus 3 on the other hand can be as high as 4 volts at 900 milliamps. This higher power output (amperage) will allow the signal to travel further and the use of more powerful devices with out an external power supply.

What gives the Universal Serial Bus 3 the advantage over older versions of USB?

Duplex, that is if the communication is one way or two way.

USB 2 was half duplex. This means that the signal can only go one way either to the device or to the controller in the computer.

(The Ethernet NIC, the original  Ethernet was 10 MBPS was half duplex in operation, then the capability of full duplex was introduced at a later date, then 100 MBPS, now 1000 MBPS or 1 GBPS).

Universal Serial Bus 3 has full duplex capability, it can transfer data to and from the device and computer at the same time, this is one of the reasons the new USB is faster, Super Speed compared to previous versions of USB.

By adding another set of wires to the port this allows the full duplex operation. However there has been reports of incompatibility with older versions of USB namely 1.0 and 1.1 devices.

After checking the new USB 3 standard over I went in search of Universal Serial Bus 3 products.

At the time of this article only two motherboard manufactures offer the new chip set and only on select products, they are ASUS and Gigabyte.

How ever there are quite a few peripheral manufactures making Universal Serial Bus 3 products like add on cards, external hard drives, flash drives, and so on.

What I didn't find were Joy Sticks, Head Phones, or Web Cams (which would really benefit from the higher speed).

When I decided to test Universal Serial Bus 3 I bought two devices to test, an add on card and external hard drive enclosure for a spare 80 Gig SATA hard drive I have.

I purchased these two items from Newegg.com, the price was comparable to other devices for USB 2.0:

  • EXT ENC BYTECC (external hard drive enclosure)
    • The BYTECC HD6-SU3 Aluminum 2.5" Silver Universal Serial Bus 3.0 External Enclosure comes with two cables, the Universal Serial Bus 3 cable and a power cable that also connects to the Universal Serial Bus 3 add on card.
  • ADD ON CARD VANTEC
    • The VANTEC 2-Port USB 3 PCI-E Host Card Model UGT-PC302 has two Universal Serial Bus 3 ports and requires a 15-pin SATA Power Connector.

Installation of the add on card is easy, just insert in to a PCI Express slot and connect the SATA power cable.

When the OS finds the new hardware cancel the wizard and use the installer that comes on a CD to install the Universal Serial Bus 3 drivers for the card.

There isn't a OEM.TXT file to add the drivers to your boot CD at this time and the VANTEC Tech Support did not answer my query on if there will be OEM.TXT file in the future.

After installing the hard drive in the enclosure I connected up the Universal Serial Bus 3 cable, however the drive did not initialize until I connected the power cable. This is different from the older USB 1.1 and 2, an external hard drive only needed one cable if connected to a desktop and sometimes a external power source if connected to a laptop.

Once I had the external hard drive connected the new hardware wizard ran telling me that it found the new hard drive.

The hard drive was formatted for a Xbox play station, when I deleted the old partition and created a new partition on the drive my computer would hang for a couple of seconds at a time. This is a little disconcerting because my computer has a Core 2 Quad processor.

Once the hard drive was formatted I started doing tests on transfer speeds:

  • First I transferred a 10 Gig file to the Universal Serial Bus 3.0 from a 30 Gig IDE hard drive in a USB 2.0 enclosure.
  • Transfer from the 2.0 to the 3.0 and then from the 3.0 to the 2.0 took 13 minutes.
  • Next I formatted again the 80 gig in the Universal Serial Bus 3.0 enclosure and transferred a 10 gig file from a hard drive to the Universal Serial Bus 3.0 and it took just under five minutes.
  • The same file transferred from the hard drive to the USB 2.0 takes just under 12 minutes.

So the transfer speed is better and on the second format of the 80 Gig hard drive the problem of the computer hanging did not reappear.

Support offerings:

Online support for manuals and  device drivers from VANTEC, BYTECC doesn't need any drivers but they do have replacement cables available, the USB 3 to power cable would be the only one you would need a special cable for.

Over all I give USB 3 Super Speed a 10 out of 10 because it does comply with the RFC and specifications set out in the original ISO document. The only thing to watch out for will be the power that will be supplied by a laptop that has the new Universal Serial Bus 3 chipsets.

I give VANTEC a over all rating of 7 because of the lack of support on the OEM.TXT for making the USB 3 a bootable device from a CD, and their lack of response to a technical question.

I give BYTECC a overall 10 because the hard drive enclosure came as advertised and was easy to install the hard drive.

If you are in the need for super speed then USB 3 is the way to go, how ever if you are not in the need for a new motherboard then an add on card will have to do for now.

Remember my motto: 'By cheap, get cheap!"

There are some really cheap devices out there so be ware of the cheap stuff!

Thinking of upgrading from USB2? Read this first: USB 3



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