Poll: How important is USB 3.0?

After making its debut on high-end motherboards, USB 3.0 is quickly trickling down to more affordable boards and making its way into notebooks. It’s easy to see why. USB 2.0 has been around forever and lacks the bandwidth to keep up with today’s external storage devices. External Serial ATA never really took off, likely due to the fact that early implementations required auxiliary power connectors. SuperSpeed USB 3.0 offers plenty of power and gobs of bandwidth with a single cable, making it a far more convenient solution.

But do you care? That’s the subject of this week’s poll, which asks for your thoughts on USB 3.0. You can cast your vote over on the right column on the front page or after clicking on the comment link below.

Last week’s poll asked for your thoughts on AMD’s decision to get rid of the ATI brand. Nearly half of those who voted (48%) are indifferent. 28% think it’s a good idea, while only 24% believe that AMD should have kept the ATI name alive. The Radeon name will live on, of course.

Comments closed
    • Voldenuit
    • 9 years ago

    Where are all the good cases with USB 3.0? Lian-Li seems to be the only manufacturer really pushing USB 3 in all their new cases.

    • dashbarron
    • 9 years ago

    Hmmm…any good USB 3.0 PCIE cards out there?

    • bobboobles
    • 9 years ago

    I wish it were vital. So far I haven’t been able to find a USB 3.0 CF card reader though. 🙁 As it stands now, if vendors don’t start pushing out hardware that actually puts the speed to use, it won’t be going anywhere /[

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 9 years ago

      You have a CF card that is faster than 480mbps?

        • Voldenuit
        • 9 years ago

        There are 666x CF cards that are (theoretically) 800 Mbps. The old CF specification tops out at 1000 Mbps, but the new CFast standard goes to 3 Gbps.

        Most people won’t be using cards like these* (nor have bodies that can keep up with them), but even a 133x or 266x card can be read faster than a lot of shoddy USB 2 card readers will allow.

        * I can imagine their utility when RAW HD (or beyond) Video capture arises, though.

        EDIT: Just saw that SD 4.0 will ramp up to 2.4 Gbps as well. Does make USB 2.0 seem rather inadequate as a transfer protocol for photo/video enthusiasts over the next few years.

    • marvelous
    • 9 years ago

    To be essential you need more usb 3.0 products but we don’t have.

    • LoneWolf15
    • 9 years ago

    I think USB 3.0 will be a critical future feature. However, I think for it to be a “must-have”, it will need to be fully integrated into all major vendors’ mainboard chipsets. This will lower chip-count, and most likely provide a higher bandwidth link than third-party controller chips will. Some of this I blame Intel for; they’ve been really slow in rolling USB3 into their own chipsets as a native feature. It’s probably in part due to Light Peak, but Intel might do well to remember that they’ve dragged their feet on a few other initiatives (e.g., DDR SDRAM as opposed to their support of RAMBUS) and how that ended up.

    Also, we need devices (such as flash drives and external enclosures) to become USB 3.0 now, so that when the above integration happens, it will be like an instant upgrade. Vendors would be wise to jump on this bandwagon early.

    USB3 isn’t must-have yet. I really wish it was, though.

      • Ashbringer
      • 9 years ago

      Vendors should make the jump now, but it won’t hurt them in the long run.

      Hey! Want a 16GB USB Memory stick now? Pay up.

      1 year later….

      Hey! Want a 16GB USB 3.0 Memory stick now? Pay up again.

      I really don’t see the problem for vendors. As long as they have a new feature that sells, they’re happy. The only problem is which will come first? The motherboard chipset or the USB 3.0 devices? My guess is they’ll both come out at the same time.

    • shakyone
    • 9 years ago

    Seriously folks. Welch is exactly right. USB 3.0 on the motherboard is a storage device feature. You shouldn’t be limited to using only 1 or 2 ports on your motherboard to get the best performance out of your external USB drive.

    Two great reasons:

    1. I love backing up my work documents to a external usb drive, then taking it home every night. I have saved my self numerous times with this practice. I do it about once a week. USB 3.0 would absolutely make all the difference in time. It would mean the little SATA drive in my USB device would actually start running at the speed it was designed to go. Vice the “Eye gouging” 2.0 480Mbps that USB 2.0 advertises.

    2. By now, almost everyone has a digital camera. We need to get some Flash card readers up to speed too (both internal and external). Digital cameras are using more and more data, storing them to the card. I despise waiting 30 minutes to download 8Gb of data to my computer at a pathetic speed. (Yes, I realize it should take 17 minutes, but no USB 2.0 card reader actually hits 480Mbps). I didn’t buy the 300x speed CF card just for making my camera faster. I was hoping it would speed up the download too! I have the fastest USB 2.0 card reader I could find. I don’t have a Firewire 800 port for anything faster. They are not common on PC motherboards.

      • Clint Torres
      • 9 years ago

      Here here!! Who the hell doesn’t like convenience? Plug N Play mass storage is just a single wire away.

    • Ashbringer
    • 9 years ago

    It’ll be a while before the mainstream cares about USB3.0. Even to this day people think of USB2.0 as just USB.

    Besides, who feels like replacing their motherboard just for USB3.0? In fact, who feels like buying a USB3.0 card, and for what?

    The only devices that can take advantage of USB3.0 are storage devices. Nothing else can really make good use of it. Of those devices, there are better alternatives to get USB3.0 or better speeds. Like eSata, or just plain Sata.

    Not to forget that early adopters get screwed, so let them deal with the problems, while pay 10x more. Don’t forget, most USB3.0 devices are probably just eSata devices with a bridge chip too, which doesn’t make them better the eSata. At least not for a good long time.

    • Chrispy_
    • 9 years ago

    USB is brilliant, period.

    Powered,
    Backwards compatible,
    Seamless OS integration,
    So Universal that it is a commodity. Every PC has USB.

    USB2 isn’t really too slow for most people. My house is 100Mbit wired, and 802.11n for the wireless devices, so my good old CAT5 cabling is the bottleneck, not USB2.

    That said, with SSD’s becoming more prevalent, USB2 is not far off being a whole order of magnitude too slow for the current peak transfer rates of these devices and USB3 is a welcome upgrade.

    • Thresher
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve been reading a bit about Lightpeak and I am not sold. Technically, it’s a significant step forward. But with intel controlling it, I suspect it will remain expensive for a long, long time, which will give USB 3.0 the time it needs to dominate the market. I suspect the technology itself will be more expensive in the long term than USB 3.0, even if intel were to give the licenses away.

    This reminds me somewhat of when IBM went to the MCA architecture in hopes of fending off “clones”. What happened is that the industry stuck with the clones and IBM lost its shirt pushing its new standard. Or perhaps the analogy is better with the whole RDRAM fiasco, where intel pushed its more expensive alternative and wound up giving AMD one hell of an opening (which it has since squandered).

      • absinthexl
      • 9 years ago

      Intel already controls USB, AGP, and PCI Express. They’re not going to overcharge for licensing fees after what happened with Firewire (Apple charged $1 per port when it first came out – guess how that ended up for them?).

    • PeterD
    • 9 years ago

    I don’t think it’s vital, but this is one of those things I would like to have, especially to speed up making backups.

    • Jambe
    • 9 years ago

    If I’m buying or building a new computer atm, it’s a must. There’s simply no reason not to have it. The only way I’d consider a device without it were if it was much, much cheaper than any alternative (like $50 or more).

    • ronch
    • 9 years ago

    USB 3.0 will be most useful for external hard disks. Sure, we have eSATA, but not everyone has that. I can’t justify buying an external drive with an eSATA interface because I know I can’t use it with any PC. And in terms of speed USB 2.0 is significantly slower than eSATA. Thus, if USB 3.0 would become popular eSATA will probably become moot.

      • Deanjo
      • 9 years ago

      Most drives that feature eSata plug also have a USB plug. Chances are that any machine that you are moving data too that does not have eSata won’t have USB 3.0 anyways so the point is kind of moot since you would be using the USB 2.0 or even worse USB 1 port to transfer anyways on the second machine.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 9 years ago

    I personally use SATA more than USB, and honestly until motherboards/memory controllers step it up and actually have 3gbit+ bandwidth as standard we will be stuck at 100 – 300 MB/sec for a looooong time.

    • xii
    • 9 years ago

    What about recording interfaces? Most professional audio interfaces use Firewire, but the future of that technology isn’t too sure. Now USB3 ubiquitousness is being questioned… What is the solution then?

    • Kaleid
    • 9 years ago

    USB 2 has for too long been outdated, bring on the USB3 gear.

    • paulWTAMU
    • 9 years ago

    nice but not currently vital. Give it a few years though and i bet it will be much more important a feature.

    • Welch
    • 9 years ago

    For those who think that USB 3.0 isn’t really useful…. your out of your freaking mind. For those who work on computers for a living, its going to be a much needed upgrade. When I’m moving an Image backup of a raid 5 to an external HDD via USB 2.0, I feel like I want to gouge my eyes out. USB 3.0 will make it like copying a few text files to a thumb drive in comparison. Transferring files from one network to another, gigs and gigs worth is going to be painless… thank god!

    If developers put this off in favor of a faster SATA connection that isn’t even utilized by the drives… I’ll have to see to it personally that my foot becomes firmly planted in their asses.

      • axeman
      • 9 years ago

      They came out with this thing called eSata, it has been around for a while. If you don’t have it, an PCIe card that has two eSata ports costs 20 bucks.

        • FuturePastNow
        • 9 years ago

        eSATA brings with it some annoyances, too. It’s always two cables instead of one, whereas USB can at least power 5V drives from one cable. Second, if the computer is running its SATA ports in IDE mode (not an uncommon condition), you’ll need reboots to plug and unplug it.

        USB 3.0 cards are coming down into the $20 range, too.

      • indeego
      • 9 years ago

      Of course it would be useful, but the industry simply isn’t moving towards it like they were USB2. There’s no coordinated effort amongst MB manufacturers or peripheral designers.

      “Transferring files from one network to another, gigs and gigs worth is going to be painless… ”
      Still limited by HDD/SSD transfer speeds, so it won’t be completely painless. Network transfers will still rival USBx for the most part out of sheer convenienceg{<.<}g

        • axeman
        • 9 years ago

        Yeah, if I’m going to be transferring huge amounts of files, it’s going to be over gigE to a local server, and someday “cloud” (though I loathe that term)? Maybe that’s why I don’t see the lack of USB 3.0 adoption as disappointing, backing up huge amounts of data to an external hard disk seems almost obsolete.

          • paulWTAMU
          • 9 years ago

          In my neck of the woods, backing up my video and music files (30-40 gigs) over the ‘net would result in hair pulling frustration as I had to upload for a week straight.

            • axeman
            • 9 years ago

            I meant someday, and then not for people that live in the sticks – face it, no one cares how fast your ‘net is 😛

            • paulWTAMU
            • 9 years ago

            except I’m not in the sticks. Amarillo has 200,000 people. It’s not NYC or LA but it’s not exactly deserted either.

            • axeman
            • 9 years ago

            I’m surprised they have the internet at all in Texas. 😛

            • indeego
            • 9 years ago

            That is hopefully a one time backup and then differentials thereafterg{<.<}g

            • Welch
            • 9 years ago

            Well even on a gigabit network your talking 125MB/s theoretical. Your lucky to hit 110 with overhead. Not to mention… have you ever had your network hick up while transferring gigs 30-40gig individual files…….. Worst thing ever, you’ve gotta start all over again. USB 3.0 has a theoretical cap at 5Gb/s. Although what I was reading said that 3.2 was a safe bet for it (I’m sure there is more accurate info out there as its changing/improving).

            Throw a decent HDD in there or rather… a SSD and you can easily smoke a gigabit connection with USB 3.0

            • axeman
            • 9 years ago

            Yeah, and we’ll all be backing up 100s of gigs of data onto SSDs real soon. The bottleneck for most people is going to be the speed of the disk, not the interface whether it’s USB3.0 or gigE for quite some time yet. Unless you can afford to buy SSDs for internal storage, external storage, and only need to back up <= 200gb, and need it done RFN, I can’t see how backing up over gigabit ethernet is a big deal.

            • Clint Torres
            • 9 years ago

            C’mon man, don’t trash USB 3.0 just because you have no personal use for it.

            It’s not a stretch to see how it can be useful. Is it?

    • PetMiceRnice
    • 9 years ago

    Without question, I always preferred Firewire for my external hard drives over USB 2.0. I have not yet tried USB 3.0, but I’m sure I would be happy with it.

    • Clint Torres
    • 9 years ago

    Don’t you nay-sayers think there is a reason a contemporary desktop has like 6-10 USB ports on it?

    It’s not because people don’t use/demand them.

    • alex666
    • 9 years ago

    USB 3.0 will dominate once the peripherals are there. Firewire will be a memory.

    I remember upgrading from an 8g seagate hdd that ran at 5400rpm to a 30g HD that ran 7200rpm, and what a huge improvement that was. I remember being blwon away by my first raptor. Most of our peripherals and storage devices have gotten pretty darn fast for most purposes. USB 3.0 keeps up the trend for transfer of data.

    • herothezero
    • 9 years ago

    eSATA works fine for me; I really only care about that much speed for hard drive transfers anyway, so the different interface doesn’t offer much value.

    • blitzy
    • 9 years ago

    i wouldnt bother upgrading to a mobo that didnt have usb 3.0

    • potatochobit
    • 9 years ago

    the next version of bluetooth/wifi wireless connectivity will probably render USB3.0 almost useless other than for massage storage transfers
    I got my money on snaggletooth 6.0

      • PeterD
      • 9 years ago

      I don’t like wireless things.

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 9 years ago

        Damn straight! Give me a wire for data, and a wire for power.

        • Kaleid
        • 9 years ago

        Agree as well.

    • south side sammy
    • 9 years ago

    I think it would be nicer to write to a usb 3.0 “disc”-SSD and not have to write/burn to a cd/dvd. Let’s face it…. much, much faster and efficient. USB 2.0 is useless so to speak.. ( thumb drives ) . Wonder what using a usb 3.0 mouse would be like for online gaming ?….. LOL…………. wonder when games and other software will say good bye to discs and swap over to high capacity thumb drives…. etc. ?

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    /[<"A nice perk but not vital Not terribly interesting Destined for quick obsolescence"<]/ These all seem about the same in terms of sentimentg{

    • flip-mode
    • 9 years ago

    Any future mobo or laptop purchase of mine will not be without it.

    • Duck
    • 9 years ago

    USB 3 is important to take over from Firewire, which sucks badly.

      • axeman
      • 9 years ago

      USB 3 is important to take over from -[

        • Duck
        • 9 years ago

        There must be lots of overheads. Maybe error correction, I don’t know.

        If you need high bandwidth external interface, like for external soundcards with many I/Os, you have to use firewire. In typical Apple fashion, firewire is way to expensive and complicated. It’s peer to peer for goodness sake. Doesn’t even work anyway unless you have a TI chipset. Pretty poor.

          • axeman
          • 9 years ago

          l[< Doesn't even work anyway unless you have a TI chipset. Pretty poor.<]l I wasn't aware of this, but it makes sense. Does this have something to do with why Firewire 800 never really seemed to catch on?

            • Duck
            • 9 years ago

            I don’t think so. Peripherals = USB2; External Storage = eSATA, 1Gbps+ NIC; Pro Audio/Video = Firewire 400. That leaves FW800 with no obvious use I can think of. No doubt it is very expensive as well so pretty much ultra niche interface at best.

    • geekl33tgamer
    • 9 years ago

    Firewire S3200 FTW – Unlike USB 3, Firewire operates in full duplex operation so data being sent (or received) don’t have to get into a bandwidth fight with each other.

    USB 3 on paper is faster (4.8GB/Sec), but some early tests of the FW S3200 standard show it can deliver much faster actual thruput than USB 3.

    There’s even plans to step up Firewire to 6.4GB/Sec if the companies trying to implement this standard all agree on a cable connector design.

    I don’t see USB 3 living on as long as USB 2 has done, personally – But is is the best we have at the moment (No actual Firewire S3200 hardware is due until late 2010, on Apple products, naturally).

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      yah, but who actually uses firewire?

        • Corrado
        • 9 years ago

        I do for external hard drives. Its nice not have the interface be the slow part of the process. FireWire 800 Western Digital 1TB 3.5″ 5400rpm drive benchmarks identical to the internal 2.5″ drive in my MacMini before I replaced it with an SSD.

        I plugged it in USB2 mode and performance dropped in half. As of now its like having a second internal drive.

          • blastdoor
          • 9 years ago

          me too — I bought two FW800 external enclosures several years ago. Far faster than USB 2.

        • Thresher
        • 9 years ago

        I do. Firewire is noticeably faster when transferring a large amount of data.

    • zdw
    • 9 years ago

    If you had to choose, would you pick the laptop with:

    USB 2.0 and Gigabit Ethernet

    or

    USB 3.0 and 10/100 Ethernet.

    I know I’d want the former…

      • slash3
      • 9 years ago

      Hooray then, for the fact that this will most likely never be a choice a consumer has to make.

        • Skrying
        • 9 years ago

        Considering TR has reviewed a few laptops still using 10/100 Ethernet I fear it could actually be the case.

        In any way I would pick USB3. But I wouldn’t buy that product in the first.

          • Corrado
          • 9 years ago

          Since I never plug my laptop in, and I rarely use USB for anything other than the memory card reader from my camera. If I use an external KB/Mouse its bluetooth. If I print, its wirelessly.

            • Usacomp2k3
            • 9 years ago

            Most modern laptops have SDHC readers built-in.

      • bthylafh
      • 9 years ago

      I’d probably take the latter, since my work and home networks are still 10/100.

      • anotherengineer
      • 9 years ago

      USB 3.0, since the wifes laptop is on wireless G

      • FuturePastNow
      • 9 years ago

      The latter, since I have wi-fi for mobile devices. However, that’s a silly choice. It’s not a zero-sum thing.

      • Clint Torres
      • 9 years ago

      More likely, your choices will be:

      Gigabit Ethernet & USB 2.0

      or

      Gigabit Ethernet & USB 3.0 + USB 2.0

      I’ll take the latter.

      • Welch
      • 9 years ago

      Ummmm… duh, the USB 3.0 and 10/100…….. You can always buy a gigabit nic for fairly cheap that won’t eat into the bandwidth like the USB 3.0 addin cards that don’t even really hit their rated peak performance.

    • maxxcool
    • 9 years ago

    since esata is a pita in terms of flexible cabling, i’d say its a critical future feature.

    however… since the hdmi standards community is looking at cat-5/6 cable as the new high def transmission model i would rather see usb adopt rj45 as well and improve it so we can all have (1) connector type… even if it comes in mini or large format.

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