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Monday, February 7, 2011

The Forecast for USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Adoption in 2011

USB 3.0 has slowly been working its way into the mainstream since 2010, but the SuperSpeed transfer technology still has a long, long way to go before it garners the same universal support that USB 2.0 enjoys. Want to help USB 3.0 along by making the necessary upgrades to take advantage of that massive speed boost over USB 2? Or are you waiting for that one killer device (or price point) that makes the upgrade worthwhile?

We’ve done some digging to see what’s in store for USB 3.0 in 2011--join us if you’ve got the need for SuperSpeed.

Our first USB 3.0 coverage of 2011 highlighted the crazy expensive Phase One camera back and a few USB 3.0 to eSATA adapters. Those adapters won’t do you much good unless you’ve already upgraded to USB 3 and have some eSATA external drives lying around, though. Getting equipped with USB 3.0 isn’t as costly as you might expect: a PCI Express card with a couple SuperSpeed ports only runs about 40 bucks on Newegg. Laptop makers like Dell, HP and ASUS are slowly upgrading their notebook lines with USB 3.0 ports--if you’re buying a laptop sometime this year, finding one with USB 3.0 support shouldn’t be too hard.

Then, of course, we’ve got motherboards. Good news and bad news, there: a ton of motherboards support USB 3.0 now, but you’ll want to hold off buying an LGA 1155 Sandy Bridge motherboard until April due to Intel’s chipset flaw. Intel itself has been extremely slow to adopt USB 3.0 support, so motherboard manufacturers like ASUS and Gigabyte have been doing it themselves. Intel plans to finally add in USB 3.0 to its chipsets in 2012 with Panther Point, the chipset accompanying its 22nm Ivy Bridge processors. USB 3.0 isn’t in Intel’s chipset plans for 2011, but that shouldn’t stop you from picking out a motherboard that throws in its own USB 3 support.

So what is coming down the road for USB 3.0 in 2011? Storage, storage and more storage. Kingston launched the DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0 flash drive in 2010 and followed up with the HyperX Max 3.0 external SSD. The 256GB flash memory version is a tad costly at over $600.

The Mach Xtreme MX-GX flash drive launches on February 14 in sizes from 8GB to 64GB. HiMax is taking a different approach, delivering a USB 3.0 Pico Projector instead of yet another flash drive.

SuperTalent’s USB 3.0 Storage Pod may be the best deal out of the bunch: it uses a 500GB HDD that’s actually powered by USB 3.0, which is fast enough to reach the full potential of the SATA drive. And it’s supposedly only $99--though it was meant to ship in early January, we can’t find any online retailers carrying it. Keep an eye out for this one, though. Some other affordable USB 3.0 HDDs include the slim Freecom Mobile Drive Mg and the capacious Samsung models launching in April.

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