USB3 Superspeed – A first look


Article: USB 3 Superspeed – A first look
Authored by: Dee
Motherboard: GigaByte GA-P55A-UD4
USB 3 chipset: NEC uPD720200
USB 3 Dock: Icy Box IB-110StU3-B USB 3.0 Docking Station

Computer technology moves
forward at a frightful pace, what is new today becomes old hat very quickly.
USB has been around for a while, the original USB1 specification being ratified
in 1996, and first appearing in PC’s around 1998. The original specification of
USB was to provide a universal high speed peripheral connection that could be
used for anything such as a printer to an optical drive, and a myriad of other
things in between. The original USB specification was 12Mbps, and was soon
found to be too slow for many of the peripherals that were soon onto the market
supporting a USB connection.

In April 2000 the USB2 specification was announced, and
incorporated into motherboards and peripherals alike. The USB2 specification
had a maximum bandwidth of 480Mbps, and at the time, could cope with the speed
of most of the peripherals that were around. Members here at have been
using USB2 enclosures to house their optical drives for years, and up until 16x
DVD burners surfaced could cope quite easily with the transfer rate required
for burning at maximum speed.

16x DVD writers have been around for about 5 years, and HDDs
have been around a bit longer which were faster than the USB2 interface could
cope with. Of course, these devices all worked with USB2. In the case of
optical drives, you just kept the burning speed down to around 12x, and
everything worked quite well. In theory, USB2 had enough bandwidth to cope with
around 20x – 24x writing and reading speeds, but poorly designed host
controllers on both the peripheral and PC host meant that these speeds were
very rarely achieved. There were faster alternatives to USB2, such as Firewire 800
and eSATA for example, but these connections have never really caught on with
the majority of PC users.

The great hope was in a faster, much faster USB interface,
and we have waited a long time to see this new fast USB interface appear, and
finally it arrived not long ago in the form of USB3 (Superspeed USB). USB 3 has
a maximum bandwidth of 5Gbps, which is over 10x the performance of USB2. So
this is quite an update to the specification.

Motherboard manufacturers didn’t take long to start
incorporating these shiny new Superspeed USB interfaces into their PC
motherboards, and not only at the high end of the market. GigaByte, for example
has USB3 equipped motherboards for their full range of P55/H55/H57/Q57 motherboards,
and many of their X58 chipset motherboards.

USB3 devices are also starting to appear, from fast SSD
drives, to low priced USB3 docking stations, and in this article we will take a
first look at both the PC host and the peripheral side of USB3.

Let’s move on to the next page where we will look at the
USB Superspeed hardware…..