I had an opportunity to interview Jeff Ravencraft, President of the USB Implementers Forum, about the USB 3.0 “Super Speed” standard. For those who do not know how the USB Implementers Forum works, they do not manufacture the devices. What they DO is “facilitate the development of high-quality compatible USB peripherals (devices), and promote the benefits of USB and the quality of products that have passed compliance testing.” In simpler terms, they make sure that any product with the official USB logo is prime quality.
The new USB 3.0 standard is, as mentioned, ten times faster than the current USB 2.0. In addition, it provides that speed at 1/3 the power consumption due to a rethinking of the polling architecture. That is to say, the polling architecture is out, and a new interrupt based architecture is in. While previous version relied on the host mass broadcasting data to all USB devices, leaving the device to filter out all the noise, the new scheme uses direct communication with the device needed.
Powering devices and charging via USB got a boost as well. New USB 3.0 drives can spin up off the USB power alone, without the aid of an additional power cable. That cable delivers full duplex data transfer as well (compared to the half duplex of USB 2.0) with a boost to 9 cables total over the previous 4.
To accomplish this radical rethinking, everything has been updated, including the devices, hosts and cables. Everything is still, to some degree, backward compatible with USB 2.0 hardware. The ports on USB 3.0 devices will accept the USB 2.0 cords and will fall back to the USB 2.0 architecture and speeds. In action you can see improved data transfer (see video below) and even the ability to stream uncompressed HD video from the camera to the screen, and then to an external USB 3.0 hard drive with no lag what-so-ever.
Now the wait for these devices is…. wait, they are already here! HP, Asus, and Western Digital has all gotten a few certified devices off the assembly line and ready to go. There are 6 months of devices backlogged for approval by the USB Implementers Forum, and we will begin to see this new format take off.
Video of Super Speed USB 3.0 comparison after the break…