Created in 1996, the Universal Serial Bus or USB quickly became the preferred technology for computer peripherals. With the introduction of USB 2.0 in April 2000, computer users rejoiced that their go totechnology had become even faster and easier to use. And now with USB 3.0 products becoming more prevalent, consumers are excited to see what enhancements have been made to the tried and true technology. Here’s what you need to know about how USB 3.0 is different from USB 2.0, and why it matters.
USB 3.0 is 10 Times Faster than its 2.0 Predecessor
The main benefit to USB 3.0 technology is that it is approximately 10 times faster than USB 2.0 technology. And while this increase in speed may be virtually unnoticeable in some products, like your USB 3.0 keyboard, there are certain types of peripherals that will showcase the speed upgrade, namely portable and external hard drives.
Consider this: If you’re backing up a large music or image collection, or you’re creating a copy of your video files, transferring these files via USB 3.0 will take much less time than performing the transfer via USB 2.0. USB 3.0 is able to transmit nearly 5 Gbps, whereas USB 2.0 is capable of transmitting 480mbps of data. Because of its much faster speed, a backup that may have taken a USB 2.0 drive more than 15 minutes in the past can now be completed in just over 1 minute on a USB 3.0 drive.
USB 3.0 Ads Additional Functionality but Stays Backward Compatible
Though the wiring that goes into the USB 3.0 cables is different than USB 2.0 wiring, the plug that connects to the USB outlet remains standard, providing full physical and functional backward capability. This means that your newly purchased portable USB 3.0 hard drive will work just fine with your older laptop that only has USB 2.0 ports. However, in situations like this, the USB 3.0 product will perform at the same level as a USB 2.0 product, so speed and power benefits will not be fully realized.
In the computer world, it’s common knowledge that your system is only as fast as its slowest component, and this certainly holds true when talking about USB 3.0. In order to reap the greatest benefits in speed, your receiving device will need to be able to function as quickly as the USB 3.0 device sending the data. For example, if you’re using a USB 3.0 external desktop hard drive to back up data to a machine with a magnetic hard drive that writes data at 7200 RPM, the process will be slowed considerably. However, if you’re backing up that same data to a solid state device like a flash drive, you’ll likely be pleased and impressed with the speed of the transfer.
USB 3.0 Allows for Bi-Directional Data Transfers
Another difference between USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 comes in the form of its signaling methodâ€”USB 2.0 uses a polling mechanism where USB 3.0 uses an asynchronous mechanism. In layman’s language, this means that USB 3.0 is capable of simultaneously sending and receiving data, while USB 2.0 can only handle only one direction of data at any time. This particular difference is likely to be the most noticeable in cases involving transferring data between USB hard drives, as bi-direction data support isn’t an issue in less complex USB devices like the standard computer mouse.
USB 3.0 Includes Power Management Improvements
Enhanced power management is also available in USB 3.0, making these devices more efficient and less costly to operate than similar USB 2.0 devices. Using about 1/3 of the power necessary for a USB 2.0 device, USB 3.0 devices are built to shift into a lower power state when not being actively used by the device. Additionally, USB 3.0 technology has a higher energy capacity, allowing the technology to power more devices from one hub and to effectively handle hardware with more robust power needs.
— About the Author —
Dan Coppen is a business technology writer. Follow him at @dancoppen for more tech insights.