Gift shopping? USB 3.0 is still a better option than thunderbolt

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by wwohl, Nov 28, 2013.

  1. wwohl, Nov 28, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2013

    wwohl macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 2, 2013
    #1
    I was unable to find a thread dedicated to thunderbolt information and Ive been seeing a lot of people purchasing thunderbolt devices and wondering why.. I think that bandwidth discussions are frequently confusing to people. In there attempts to have the best stuff, they wind up wasting money on the newest tech like thunderbolt. Its cool, but they don't need it.. Let me explain. Im gonna talk about its practicality for data transfer and hooking up peripherals for the average consumer. Thats 99% of us here.

    Thunderbolt has a theoretical throughput of 10Gbps each direction. TB2 is even faster. Lets talk about storage and data transfer. Now, if you were going to buy something like an external hard drive or an enclosure, you'd want the fastest connection right? right? Well hold on...

    Thunderbolt may have a theoretical throughput of 10Gbps. But where is the information coming from and going? We have to consider where the bottle necks are in the system. So if I wanted to transfer a file from my internal 1TB spinning 5400 rpm hard drive to my external seagate 3TB barracuda drive connected via USB 3.0, where are the bottle necks?

    USB 3.0 has a theoretical throughput of 5Gbps.. half of thunderbolt
    My drives are connected via SATA III 6Gbps
    My external drive has read/write speeds of 170/152
    My internal drive has read/write speeds of 80/74

    That file has to be read from the internal HDD and written to the external HDD. Unfortunately, my super slow internal 1TB drive can only read at about 80 mbps.. When I transfer that file, it happens at less than 100 mbps. Theres a USB 3.0 cable there with a throughput of 5000 mbps.. But the drives can't access the data that fast. For anyone using a standard hard drive or even a single SSD, you're likely to never max out the current USB3.0 spec while transferring files. Even if you had a super fast platform, you're going to saturate the SATA III equipment before TB as well

    Now, if you have 4 SSDs all running in RAID0 and you're transferring to an external raid enclosure with 4 SSDs all running in RAID0, by all means, use thunderbolt to maximize your transfer speeds. Your hard disks can provide the data and write it fast enough to make use of the TB technology. However, if you have this sort of setup, I doubt you're at all concerned with the price of a thunderbolt cable.

    Now, TBs daisy chaining capabilities are pretty cool. But seriously, most consumers are not going to have more than 3 devices and their computers likely provide the connections to manage that. In addition, USB 3.0 can take advantage of USB hubs and maintain connectivity and full transfer speeds to multiple devices. USB3.0 can power docking stations and provide video, audio, internet and a plethora of USB connected devices to the PC through a single USB3.0 cord. My dad is rocking this setup now with a Lenovo USB 3.0 dock powering two 20" monitors at 1080p, speakers, ethernet, mouse, keyboard and HDD... all through a single USB 3.0 cord to his laptop.

    Ive tried to convey that USB 3.0 can do anything the average consumer needs. In my opinion, its the only option for the 99% of the consumer market. Even most of the consumer professionals couldn't take advantage of TB. And thats just the thing, its not just that you don't need it, you also probably can't even make full use of it.

    So price... Thats the big deal for most people
    USB 3.0 cable $5
    TB cable half the length of the above cable -$30
    Seagate Backup Plus external HDD USB 3.0 3TB - $99
    Seagate Thunderbolt adapter (just a TB to SATA cable, doesn't include the drive like the above) - $140 !!!!

    The cost of TB is astounding. There is no reason any consumers should be purchasing this stuff right now. Especially since you're not likely to notice a difference. And USB 3.0 is so much more abundant. Ive actually heard people on the forums say there should be all TB ports and no USB... WHAT!? Think about that.

    For those of you who bought a thunderbolt apple display. By all means, connect it with a TB cable. For those of you considering picking up a second monitor and thinking you're limited to TB as your connection, simply use a display port to HDMI adapter and save a bunch of money

    Hopefully this information helps some people make smart financial decisions when they're shopping this holiday season. If you're a regular PC user or even a professional who's works frequently on a PC, think hard about whether or not the cost is worth it. Just because its new doesn't mean you need it, nor can you make use of it.

    Happy holidays.


    Bill

    PS. USB 3.0 will be 10Gbps very soon...Sooooo?

    Id like to hear your thoughts and please correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  2. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    Location:
    NH
    #2
    TB makes much more sense where you are running multiple drives and/or SSDs or RAID arrays or where you don't want to deal with USB protocol overhead, stacks, or quirks. USB kinda sucks as a disk drive interface, but with a big enough hammer you can make anything work well enough for thr typical consumer. Those of us that move and edit massive amounts of video and RAID drives to give us decent data rates appreciate the performance TB provides.
     
  3. John Kotches macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Location:
    Troy, IL (STL Area)
    #3
    ColdCase:

    The problem is that there isn't enough volume in that market segment to get pricing down.

    Thunderbolt is an impressive technology that is largely withering on the vine.

    Until the pricing of the peripherals gets much lower it will remain a very niche player in the market.
     
  4. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    Location:
    NH
    #4
    Thunderbolt seems to be thriving in the commercial, pro and pro-sumer market... like eSATA, which is a smaller than the consumer market. It is far from withering on the vine, however, as many USB fan boys like to claim in their FUD. Next generation desktops will have little internal storage and depend on high speed thunderbolt to external drive enclosures... although, in some minds, desktops are also withering on the vine and are a niche market.
     
  5. wwohl thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 2, 2013
    #5
    For the Pro market, its definitely a good technology. I wrote this because I keep seeing people with a Macbook hooked to a external enclosure spending the extras $100s for it.. And not actually needing it

    For those guys with 10s or 100s of TB, sure.

    I honestly don't see it ever catching on in the consumer market. Even for the ultra thin Macbook Airs that have limited storage and connectivity and need external devices at home.

    I won't say that desktops are dead. But I think were gonna see more people docking there laptops at home. That used to be reserved for lenovo laptops and the docking stations were super expensive. Now a day, a USB or TB dock can work with any computer and allow people to use a single cable to access all of there full size "desktop" peripherals.
     
  6. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    Location:
    NH
    #6
    Many will also question paying $200s - $500s extra for an Apple laptop and not really need it.

    Many use TB for the docking convenience of the Apple TB display where other TB or USB devices may be plugged in.

    But then again, why pay $100s more for a TB display when you don't need to? ...
     
  7. bkar89, Nov 29, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2013

    bkar89 macrumors regular

    bkar89

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2012
    Location:
    Norway
    #7
    I have the WD Thunderbolt Duo drives. The thing that stuns me is the stability! It's like having internal harddrives, like a desktop computer. Rock solid! I have always expirienced USB based drives as a bit wonky.

    I prefer Thunderbolt over USB3, when at home using my macbook as a desktop, connected to a mouse, keyboard and display. Having the mac in clamshell mode. If you are more portable or just not as picky when it comes to stability, or just running a single drive. no doubt you'll be better off with USB3

    I do completley agree, most people will never need the performance of Thunderbolt. I bought the drive, because I know I'm going to enjoy the performance, and i was planning on getting a TD display. Ridding my self off the old desktop beast once and for all. That display is now (a year later) on its way (I finally caved).

    People that have a MBA and mostley use it for facebooking and such, have (almost needles to say) no use for a Thunderbolt connected drive. Parhaps even USB3. A good NAS setup might aford better mobility, and still be able to stream HD content

    But! If you're running USB3! it doesn't make any sense calling your drive Thunderbuddies4life! and well, thats just sad really...
     
  8. MCAsan macrumors 601

    MCAsan

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2012
    Location:
    Atlanta
    #8
    Wake me up when you can hook an MBP to an ATD via USB. ;)
     
  9. dyn macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Location:
    .nl
    #9
    Thunderbolt and USB3 are so much more than just storage alone. If we compare the two technologies on multiple levels than Thunderbolt is more expensive but also more robust and stable. USB3 and displays is not a very good combination. Thunderbolt and displays is because it can talk directly to the graphics card and it also has more bandwidth available. Also, Thunderbolt devices seem to have better support in OS X (think drivers and such!).

    I bought a Thunderbolt dock because I wanted to hook up 1 cable for everything (so display, NIC and USB). I could have used USB but I'd have to choose to either use an external display or the TB-GbE adapter (I have a MBA). The other thing was to replace the USB2 hub with a USB3 one with in-built NIC. That would require me to use a 3rd party driver which will be a problem when a new OS X version comes out (I can wait for a new driver but the problem is that I have no idea if there ever will be an updated driver). Using USB3 for the NIC is also a bit problematic when it comes to filetransfers. USB is very dependant on the cpu, Thunderbolt isn't. USB will spike the cpu usage quite a lot. The Thunderbolt dock hasn't done so (this is one of the reasons why the Thunderbolt dock is more robust and stable). I can now also use the TB-GbE for testing purposes (use the NIC in the TB dock for normal connection; the TB-GbE for the test network).

    The biggest advantage is the ability to run nearly any protocol over Thunderbolt. This means that I could add USB3.1, 3.5, 4.0 or whatever they come up with. In case of USB they can only release a new version and you'd have to replace all components to be able to use the new features. Thunderbolt is more future proof. Consumers can benefit from that too.

    For simple storage I'd even use USB2 or store it somewhere on the network.
     
  10. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Location:
    5045 feet above sea level
    #10
    Except thunderbolt gets updated as well. Not sure what you're going after
     
  11. dyn macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Location:
    .nl
    #11
    Then read up on what Thunderbolt is exactly. Simply put: it is external PCIe. Supporting a new protocol is like inserting a new PCIe card. You can do this only very limited with USB. Like with graphics cards, networking and things like that. USB is not a low level protocol like Thunderbolt is. Just very different technologies that will coexist (if we are realistic we need both in the same machine).

    The updates to Thunderbolt are about adding bandwidth but keeping backward compatibility. The generation after TB2 will add something Apple is already using as of OS X Mavericks: Thunderbolt bridging (Apple is using a software approach, the new TB will be the hardware version of it; the latter will have better performance).
     
  12. wwohl thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 2, 2013
    #12
    Good info Dyn,

    Theres no doubt with robust needs, TB is better suited. My original post was difficult to write because I felt the need to make it clear to most user that it wasnt necessary while trying not to offend the ones that actually make good use of it. All came after a discussion with a friend and seeing others who were saving pennies to buy their first (and likely only) TB device.

    Its true, most of my discussion was about storage. Some users may prefer a TB connected setup for a desktop environment they can connect there laptop to.

    However, I set up a Lenovo USB3 dock for my dad. He's running two monitors, external drives, peripherals, sound and a webcam through a single USB3 with his Lenovo laptop in clamshell and hasn't experienced a single hiccup. While the display link had some early hiccups with OSX, I think those have been remedied.

    As far as the future.. Im not sure that even current TB devices and cables can take advantage of TB2. So there are updates happening that have already fossilized some current hardware. I expect USB3 v2 or whatever its gonna be called to do the same. However there are still a plethora of USB devices compared to TB.

    My connected USB3 drives haven't given me a bit of trouble as far as stability or recognition. I wasn't aware of the added CPU workload though

    ----------

    I agree. And the ATD has really become apples TB dock/monitor desktop station all in one for the MBP. Its a topic of its own and since it comes with a TB cable/mag safe connector, thats a no brainer.
     
  13. bniu macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2010
    #13
    Yes, USB 3.0 is nice, but as a 2011 MacBook Pro owner, I don't have USB 3.0 ports but I do have a high speed thunderbolt port. For me, Thunderbolt is just way simpler, I can hook it up to my TB display, if I ever get around to it, I'll get a second TB display to daisy chain it to that, and then have my pair of WD Thunderbolt Duo drives daisy chained onwards to that, plus my pair of Seagate Thunderbolt drives daisy chained onwards to that.

    All 6 devices, connected to a single port on my MBP, say what you want about me spending $$$, I think the setup looks very elegant. I like my electronics to look nice, just like some people spend big money on fashion. Even if I were to get USB 3.0 in the future with a new MBP, I still like the elegance of Thunderbolt with a single cable connected to my MBP and not multiple cables branching off of it.
     
  14. John Kotches macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Location:
    Troy, IL (STL Area)
    #14
    Dude,

    Stop painting those with contrary experience and opinions as fanboys. It does nothing to further discussion.

    Desktops and laptops are a declining market. Not niche but headed that way. For most people a tablet can handle their computing needs.

    There will always be a market segment that needs a traditional desktop or laptop. I'm one of them as I run virtualization for prototyping.

    But until pricing gets dramatically lower, thunderbolt will remain a very niche player, especially with USB 3.1 launching soon.
     
  15. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    Location:
    NH
    #15
    John, Sorry if you took this as painting anyone specifically as a fan boy as it was only meant to remind those here that there are plenty of paid USB consortium members about that love to eloquently poke FUD into discussion. Please don't take it personally, unless it applies to you :)
     
  16. dyn macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Location:
    .nl
    #16
    It is just another piece of technology so we have to treat it exactly as just that. It really depends on what you want to do, but the biggest joy with Thunderbolt is that you can mix and match high end and low end devices. You can use a very simple ultrabook that you can easily carry to a client and do high end video editing with for example. With USB it is a bit more difficult due to its nature. It has a higher latency, is more cpu dependant and so on.

    It seems that as of 2013 both Thunderbolt and USB3 are really getting started. USB3 support is improving (it is becoming more and more reliable) and the amount of Thunderbolt products is increasing. Reliability is USB3's biggest problem and it is good to see that it is improving. It is good to have the option of both USB3 and Thunderbolt so we can pick what we want.

    TB2 isn't that different from TB. It can pack 2 channels together to form one (that's why it is 20Gbit instead of 10Gbit). The current MBP Retina models have TB2 and they have shown to be perfectly compatible with existing TB gear. TB might scale in the amount of channels and the ability to pack channels together in order to gain speed. It's similar to how PCIe works which is a good thing (you can stick an x1 card into an x1, x4, x8 or x16 slot and it'll work but only on x1 speeds).
     
  17. cerberusss macrumors 6502a

    cerberusss

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #17
    Not with continuous file transfers. But I wonder how ThunderBolt and USB 3.0 stack up when it comes to small random reads/writes.
     
  18. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #18
    To a single drive, they are still very close. Look at the small read/write tests towards the bottom of this page.
     
  19. Fishrrman macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #19
    Once USB 3.1 arrives, there will remain few arguments for using Thunderbolt at all (at the consumer level), save for a few highly-specialized applications...
     
  20. cerberusss macrumors 6502a

    cerberusss

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #20
    Wow, very interesting... I wonder what use case remains for Thunderbolt. Docking stations?
     
  21. MCAsan macrumors 601

    MCAsan

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2012
    Location:
    Atlanta
    #21


    Love that specialized application between rMBP and ATD. I wonder how Apple missed all this in designing the new Mac Pro.
     
  22. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #22
    I think TB is good for pro settings with RAID where the speed can be utilized. Also docks and daisy chaining like you said. But for a single disk drive backup setting it is hard to justify the price of the TB drives.

    I bought myself a TB cable only for use when transferring data between two Macs using Migration Assistant, and it is really fast and works well for that, but I don't even own a TB attached drive.
     
  23. dyn macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Location:
    .nl
    #23
    Depends on what you want from that single disk drive. If it is low latency speeds and such USB may not be a good idea after all. For most people even a USB2 drive will be good enough. They want to store something elsewhere. You don't need to have high speeds for that.
     
  24. wwohl thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 2, 2013
    #24
    But really, how much does the latency really matter during occasional file access or data transfer?
     
  25. dyn macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Location:
    .nl
    #25
    Like I said: there are people who require it and where it will be a problem. For most users it won't be and USB2.0 will be enough. For these kind of users the additional bandwidth of USB3 and Thunderbolt are useless. For those who require it, USB3 is a nice low-cost option (with aforementioned disadvantages), Thunderbolt the high-end option.
     

Share This Page