SuperSpeed USB 3.0 to Match Thunderbolt Speeds in 2014
The newest version of the universal serial bus protocol is set to get a performance boost in 2014 with data transfer speeds doubling to 10 gigabits per second while maintaining backwards compatibility with the huge existing USB ecosystem. In a recent announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group said that consumers will be able to take advantage of the increased speeds in 2014 after the updated specification is completed later this year. More availability of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 devices will appear in 2015.
The group which consists of Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Renesas Electronics, ST-Ericsson, and Texas Instruments, pushes the new spec as an alternative to the high-speed Thunderbolt interface that Apple has been trying to push with its Mac lineup. With the speed bump, USB 3.0 will be approaching Thunderbolt’s territory with support for external devices that require high-speed data rates like SSDs and secondary monitors. In addition to the speed bump, the new specification could bring tweaks to power delivery that will allow for faster device charging and may have enough power to run laptop PCs.
With the Thunderbolt protocol, USB 3.0 users may need to buy all-new cables to take advantage of the higher data rates when products start hitting stores shelves next year. While current SuperSpeed cables aren’t certified to be interoperable with the upgraded 10Gbps controllers, the group did mention that “it is possible” that the interconnects will be compatible. Computer manufacturers will also be forced to build new controller hardware once the protocol is standardized later this year, meaning consumers will need to buy all-new hardware if they want to see the improved speeds.
Although the product as a whole is considered to be niche, Thunderbolt still seems to have certain advantages over SuperSpeed, including dual 10Gbps channels, the ability to daisy-chain devices for faster throughput and long cable runs. Most recently, Corning announced it would be releasing new fiber optic products in 2013, suitable for use as Thunderbolt cables, which can theoretically be used to operate devices roughly 100 feet away. Intel also seems to be trying to research different ways to bring faster versions of the Thunderbolt protocol to market, though no timeline for the updates seems to have been announced.
Looks like we have quite a bit of technology upgrades on the horizon and while patience is a virtue, most computer users won’t need to be that patient at all with products that provide this much speed coming up.