USB 3.0 specification finalised

November 18, 2008 // 9:43 a.m.

Tags: #data-transfer #external #firewire #universal-serial-bus #usb #usb3 #usb-3 #usb-30 #usb-promoter-group #winhec

If you're a frequent user of external drives, you'll be only too aware that – while representing a massive improvement over the original 12Mb/s spec – USB 2.0 can leave you waiting longer than you'd like to transfer your precious data. That time could be drastically reduced in the near future, as the USB 3.0 specification has finally been finalised.

The USB Promoter Group officially finalised the “SuperSpeed” specification due to replace USB 2.0 yesterday, and is due to announce it officially during a conference on Monday with partners Intel, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, and NEC.

Although actual products aren't due until at least the end of 2009 – at which point “initial SuperSpeed USB discrete controllers will appear,” followed in 2010 by “devices [including] data storage devices such as flash (solid-state drives), external hard drives, digital music players, and digital cameras” - there's certainly a lot to look forward too.

The “SuperSpeed” USB 3.0 specification, as finalised, offers data transfer rates of up to ten times that offered by “High Speed” USB 2.0. To use figures quoted by Microsoft during the WinHEC 2008 conference, the new specification will transfer 25GB of data – co-incidentally the average size of a high-definition film – in around seventy seconds, compared to about fourteen minutes for USB 2.0 and a yawnsome nine hours for the original USB spec.

The news isn't all good, however. Because the specification has taken so long to finalise, many companies are wary regarding implementation: Microsoft itself has told developers to hold fire until the technology has proven itself, and has said that it will not be including support for the technology in Windows 7 when it ships. Even when USB 3.0 support is added, the company hasn't yet decided whether it will only be on offer in the then-latest Windows version or whether to offer the same functionality to previous versions of Windows including Vista and XP.

So long as the technology gets support from software and hardware developers alike, the future of external media could be very speedy indeed. However, USB 2.0 hardware was launched in 2001 and the only other general connectivity standard - Firewire (b) 800MBit - hasn't exactly seen a large adoption.

Tempted to become an early adopter of USB 3.0 technology, or are you still hoping that rival Firewire will bring out the big guns and knock the new spec into a cocked hat? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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