Superspeed USB is Finally Here
USB 3.0 has been lurking in the shadows for quite some time, but it’s finally here. Slowly but surely, computers with USB 3.0 onboard are beginning to come out of hiding and land at retailers, as are new external hard drives and accessories.
To see how speedy this new USB spec really is, Tom's Guide snatched up the N61Jq-X1, a multimedia entertainment laptop from ASUS. This latest entry in the N61 series has USB 3.0 built-in, and ASUS boasts that it is 10 times faster than USB 2.0. To test how fast USB 3.0 really is, we paired the N61Jq-X1 with two USB 3.0-equipped external hard drives: a 500 GB BlackArmor PS 110 from Seagate and a 1 TB MyBook 3.0 from Western Digital. The former uses a 2.5" drive, while the MyBook is a 3.5" drive. Both drives spin at 7200 rpm.
Before we get down to the numbers, let’s talk about USB 3.0. What’s the big deal? Well, besides arriving nearly a decade after USB 2.0 launched, 3.0 is supposed to be able to reach speeds 10 times that of USB 2.0—in other words, a rate of 5 Gb/s compared to 480 Mb/s. This results in theoretical data transfer speeds in excess of 400 MB/sec. Also, USB 3.0 sends over twice as much power to whatever it’s charging, so your next USB-powered MP3 player will only need to charge for maybe 30 minutes instead of an hour. Lastly, USB 3.0 is more efficient because the ports can go into a power-saving idle mode when not in use. All of this is well and good, especially the transfer speeds, but only when we test USB 3.0 between the two external hard drives and the N61Jq-X1 will we find out how fast the new spec really is.