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USB 3.0 – I’m a Believer!

By: on March 2, 2010 in I/O

My conversion to Windows 7 RTM is complete. The new install took all of 20 minutes, but took way longer to install and configure everything I needed. I even decided to bite the bullet and install Office 10 Beta. So far, so good. The application I’ve used the most is Outlook, and it has one nice feature I really like: the ability to have different Inboxes for different accounts, each mapped to a different .ost or .pst. However, the way they implemented it is slightly annoying: each one needs to be expanded to see the Inbox. I have yet to find a way to see all of the Inboxes with a coherent view so I’m not constantly expanding and shrinking my different accounts. If anyone has an idea on doing things better, click the Contact link above.

Last week I also ordered a 2-port ExpressCard SuperSpeed USB 3.0 adapter. Since my (hopefully) soon-to-arrive laptop only has 256GB of storage (current one has 512GB of SSD goodness; it’s going to become my backup laptop), I need extra storage for my VMs and going back to plain old 7200rpm drives with USB 2.0 just isn’t going to cut it. I was thinking about getting a SSD and putting it in an enclosure, but realized that I’m still bound by USB 2.0. USB 3.0 is fairly new and very few laptops have it built in, so I figured I’d just expand out myself. It can support up to 4.8 Gb (that’s gigabits, folks) per second. That’s obviously a high end, more theoretical limit. USB 2.0 has a high water mark of 480 Mb (megabits) per second rate. That’s quite a difference, even if you get half of the rated speed for USB 3.0. USB 3.0 uses a slightly different connector on the end going into a USB 3.0 enclosure, so while you can’t use your existing USB cables, it is downlevel compatible so you can plug the other end into your computer as you would any USB cable you have now and it’ll work at the speed of your USB port. If you plug the USB 3.0 device into a USB 2.0 port under Windows 7, you see this:

Nice, huh?

If you’re curious, I ordered these from Amazon:
Superspeed USB 3.0 to SATA 3GB/s 2.5″ enclosure
2-port USB 3.0 ExpressCard
The ExpressCard supports up to that 4.8 Gbps, so right now my speed limiting factor is the drive enclosure. I didn’t find too many USB 3.0 ones out there for 2.5″ drives.

I did a quick test with two different drivers – the first, a Hitachi 7K200-200 (HTS722020K9SA00) 7200rpm drive and the Intel SSDSA1MH080G1GN first generation 80GB SSD drive. The Hitachi required the DC5V to USB cable to power it, while the SSD just required the USB 3.0 cable (keep that in mind for your configurations if you are limited on ports). Both drives had similar results:
With USB 3.0, they both achieved somewhere between 60 and 65 MB/s (megabytes in this case) according to Windows 7.
With USB 2.0, they both were only able to get up to about 30 MB/s.

In theory, 4.8Gbps should net me a max transfer of over 600 MB/s, but let’s get real: I’ll never see that on my laptop.

Wow. One simple tweak, 100% improvement in throughput. Right now I’m considering getting either a 256GB SSD drive (which would be expensive, but much lower on power consumption) or the Seagate Savvio 10K.3. The other problem is the heat that will be generated from a 10k drive in a small, non-vented enclosure. Newegg has the Savvio for just over $300 right now. That’s pretty crazy considering what a 100GB 7200rpm drive cost just a few years ago. That’s where the SSD may be a better idea. I’ll figure it out.

Either way, it’s going to be a pretty fast and flexible combination for doing demos and classes on the road. I suspect many of you reading this blog (and again, I apologize that the comment section is down so if you want to respond to this post, use Contact above) are in the same boat as I am, and it’s nice we finally have choices for powerful, lightweight rigs on the road.


One response to “USB 3.0 – I’m a Believer!”

  1. Niche says:

    There are several types of USB connectors, including some that have been added while the specification progressed. The original USB specification detailed Standard-A and Standard-B plugs and receptacles. The first engineering change notice to the USB 2.0 specification added Mini-B plugs and receptacles.

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