Intel announces, demonstrates USB 3.0

Gelsinger expects the final version specifications to be finished by the first half of 2008, with USB 3.0 peripherals realistically appearing in 2009 or 2010. There are an increasing number of devices that could potentially take advantage of the additional bandwidth, including external hard drives, flash readers, video cameras, and the all-new USB-compliant llama expected to be genetically delivered from the Andes sometime in late 2011.

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USB 3.0 To Boost Peripherals to Multi-Gigabit Speeds

USB 3.0 is built upon, and is backwards-compatible with, the USB 2.0 “High Speed” spec. It would be generous to even call the specifications “early” at this stage, but the group still had lots of information about how USB 3.0 will work and what features it will provide. The spec should be finalized sometime in the middle of 2008, with initial devices available in ’09, and broad deployment by 2010.

The main two goals of SuperSpeed USB are to provide a 10X boost in transfer rate (from 480-Mbits/s in USB 2.0 to 4.8 Gbits/s in USB 3.0), while dramatically lowering power consumption. One example of their speed goals is to transfer a 27GB HD movie to a portable device in 70 seconds. The same thing would take 15 minutes or more with HighSpeed USB (2.0). The SuperSpeed devices will use the same connectors and the same programming and device models as existing devices.

Consider that it takes maybe one or two tenths of a second to transfer a typical 4 Mbyte song to a portable music player with today’s USB 2.0. That’s “fast enough” for some users, but just try to fill up that 80-Gbyte iPod and you might as well walk away and cook dinner while you wait: 3,000 songs would take perhaps 400 to 600 seconds – up to 10 minutes.

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Faster USB 3.0 Is Coming

The third-generation Universal Serial Bus interconnect will transfer data at speeds up to 4.8Gbit/s, ten times faster than USB 2.0’s 480MBit/s. It will be backwards-compatible with USB 2.0, which is backwards-compatible with the first USB 1.1 definition.

Intel stated that the USB 3.0 specification would be optimized for low power and improved protocol efficiency. The USB 3.0 ports and cabling will be designed with both copper and optical cable capabilities, meaning even higher speeds will be possible in the future.

The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) will act as the trade association for the USB 3.0 specification.

There is also a Wireless USB (WUSB) transfer format and this operates at 480Mbit/s, the same as USB 2.0, in its 1.0 incarnation. Intel also revealed a WUSB 1.1 interconnect format, operating at a speed of up to 1Gbit/s.

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