Why you should insist on USB 3

Written by Antony Leather

March 21, 2012 | 08:38

Tags: #usb-3

Companies: #bit-tech

Even when a motherboard has offered USB 3 out of the box, the USB 3 controllers are not native to the motherboard chipset. Instead, motherboard manufacturers have had to opt for third party controller chips. While these work fine, you often need to install separate drivers, meaning that many situations you’d happily be able to use USB 2 ports for, can be troublesome using your motherboard’s USB 3 ports (we’ve had plenty of issues, including USB sound cards and the like spazzing out occasionally when using USB 3 ports).

Thankfully, one of the few things we do know about Intel’s forthcoming Z77 chipset, is that it has native USB 3 support. This should mean that USB 3 should finally start becoming the defacto-standard when it comes to USB storage, or any other area where speed, full duplex communication or increased power over USB are key.

Speed tests

We used a single 5GB video file for the single file transfer tests, reading from and writing to the external storage drive. We used a 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 for the tests, combining the same hard disk with USB 2 and USB 3 external enclosures to obtain the speed results. For the combined reading and writing test, we transferred data to and from the hard disk at the same time and measured the time it took to do this.

Single File Transfer Speeds

5GB video file

  • USB 3 drive and USB 3 port
  • USB 3 drive and USB 2 port
  • USB 2 drive and USB 2 port
    • 80.1
    • 31.4
    • 26.2
    • 24.5
    • 23.7
    • 22.9
MB/sec Faster is better
  • Read Speed
  • Write Speed

Dual File Read and Write

2GB video file

  • USB 3 drive and USB 3 port
  • USB 3 drive and USB 2 port
  • USB 2 drive and USB 2 port
  • 25.0
  • 81.0
  • 108.0
Seconds (lower is better)

I, for one, am tired of explaining to people why that bargain basement USB 2 hard disk may not be such great value. You only have to look at the tests above to see that not only are USB 3 devices miles faster over USB 3 ports, but they also have noticeable advantages when using them with USB 2 ports too.

From now on, it most definitely pays to buy USB 3 instead of USB 2, even if your current motherboard doesn’t support it. Your next PC or motherboard or case for that matter certainly will, so investing in a USB 2 external hard disk is a very short-sighted thing to do, especially given how expensive they are. USB 3 got its foot in the door of the universal serial bus party some time ago, but it’s only just about to take over the reigns from our old friend, USB 2. This is a good thing, and it’s about time too.
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