USB 3.0 - what it is ?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by XPcentric, Feb 26, 2011.

  1. XPcentric macrumors 6502

    Oct 16, 2008
    I want to buy an external hard drive, some specify are compatible USB 2.0 while other also 3.0

    Does this compatibility depends on:
    - only the external hard drive ?
    - only the macbook interface ?
    - both the hard drive and the mac interface ?

    I have a macbook from 2008 and dont know if it would matters if I bought a USB 3.0
  2. bobr1952 macrumors 68020


    Jan 21, 2008
    Melbourne, FL
    Well, Macs don't support USB 3 and probably never will but any external drive you buy will be backward compatible to USB 2--so it really doesn't matter if it supports 3 or not.
  3. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    USB 3 is backwards compatible. tests have also shown that USB 3 is slightly faster than USB 2 on a USB 2 port...but frankly it's not worth the price if you don't intend on buying a computer with USB 3.
  4. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Not 100% true; CalDigit makes a USB3 expresscard and PCIe card with Mac drivers that is, from what I've read, compatible with most USB3 drives (LaCie does as well, but it's ONLY compatible with LaCie USB3 drives). It's not built-in support, and it's only available for computers with an expansion port (currently the Mac Pro and MBP 17"), but it does exist.

    That said, what toxic said is true unless the OP has a 17" MBP; the computer in question does not have an ExpressCard slot, and therefore buying a USB3 drive has no particular advantage, although it would still be usable.
  5. venomz, Feb 26, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2011

    venomz macrumors member

    Oct 1, 2010

    USB3 Drives have the advantage of being widely available and extremely cheap, in some cases there is no price premium when selecting a USB3 drive over a USB2 drive.

    Thunderbolt gear won't be widely available for a while.

    I'd expect Apple to integrate USB3 eventually but it'll be a couple of years as a silent update to the legacy USB2 ports.
  6. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    USB 3.0-What is it?

    Yesterday's news.
    USB 3.0 support cannot be a silent update because it uses a different port than USB 1.1/2.0. Apple has already so far surpassed USB 3.0 that it is not funny. Thunderbolt™ is substantially faster and includes support for USB 2.0. I have no doubt that Apple will eventually incorporate USB 3.0 support into Thunderbolt™. However, it will be as important as the fact that Airport Extreme now supports Wireless-A.
  7. venomz, Feb 26, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2011

    venomz macrumors member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Silent means it won't be a major publicized update when they replace the USB2 ports with USB3 ports.

    More importantly, intel came out and said that there won't be PCI-E or PCI Express adapter cards for Thunderbolt, which means that widespread adoption is going to take a while.

    So that more or less excludes all existing Mac Pro owners, as well as all existing PC owners.

    Furthermore, Apple is probably 6 to 9 months away from including Thunderbolt on all of its computer lines.

    Thunderbolt is a few years away from widespread adoption because it requires a new machine, and professional users with large stockpiles of USB3 and eSATA equipment aren't feeling a bandwidth crunch, so there is little incentive to migrate in the short term.
  8. Makosuke, Feb 27, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2011

    Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    I'm with venomz; it's going to be at least a year before we start seeing widely available Thunderbolt peripherals, and even then I'd expect them to have the same kind of price premium currently found on FW800 peripherals versus simple USB2 ones. I could be wrong, but given that USB3 already has a pretty decent foothold for such a new technology, and it's easy to add to a PC (which is what drives the price of universal peripherals), I'm willing to bet that USB3 remains cheaper for the foreseeable future.

    It's also worth noting that unless the SATA-USB3 bridge is poor, the real-world sustained transfer rates from a single modern hard drive are nowhere near what either USB3 or Thunderbolt can sustain. So even if Thunderbolt drive docks/cases were readily available, the still wouldn't be much, if any, faster than one connected with USB3 in real-world situations. If there's a price premium on the Thunderbolt drive, there's a legit reason to want a USB3 one.

    Not saying Thunderbolt is a bad technology--I'm quite excited about it, in fact--but there's a very obvious reason for wanting USB3 ports on a Mac sooner rather than later--I currently need to buy FW800 cases for my mini home theater/server, and even those are a bottleneck. If I were able to instead buy a cheap USB3 drive case, I'd be quite happy with that.

    I'm actually considering buying one of those CalDigit cards for my new MBP, so I'll have that as an option, and I'm also going to get an eSATA expresscard, so I can get faster transfers from my external drives NOW rather than waiting until I can afford Thunderbolt drive docks.

    Also: I'm pretty sure the reason Apple isn't shipping anything with a USB3 port yet, and may not for a while, is because they're using Intel's chipset, which doesn't support USB3. They'd need to source a USB3 controller from another vendor and add it to the motherboard or a mini-PCIe card, which I can kind of see why they would want to avoid on the MBP line.
  9. joaoferro99 macrumors member

    Feb 14, 2008
    S. California
    without uas support, usb3 is useless. stay with eSATA is cheaper and better and easier.

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