How fast is USB 3.0 really?

MacWorld by James Galbraith

As a Mac user, I’ve never been a big fan of USB for storage. Keyboards, mice, sure. But a hard drive connected via USB has always been slow compared to those using Apple’s FireWire, FireWire 800, and (most recently) Thunderbolt interfaces. And booting from a USB drive on the Mac was a no-no for a long time.

Times have changed, however. And thanks to USB 3.0’s availability on almost all shipping Macs (and, in the case of the Mac Pro, something you can add via a PCI card), its bootability (since late 2005—but what can I say, I can hold a grudge), its improved performance, and its relatively low price, my bias is quickly disappearing. (Though the first certified USB 3.0 consumer devices were announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2010, Macs didn’t begin shipping with USB 3.0 ports until June 2012, when new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models were released.)

USB 3.0 (also known as SuperSpeed USB) has a maximum bandwidth rate of 5 gbps (gigabits per second). That translates to 640 MBps (megabytes per second)—ten times faster than USB 2.0 (aka Hi-Speed USB).

By comparison, Intel’s Thunderbolt technology allows theoretical data-transfer speeds of up to 10 gbps on each of its bi-directional channels. On paper, that’s twice as fast as USB 3.0, but how fast is Thunderbolt really? Also, you’ll currently you pay quite a premium for Thunderbolt (often an extra $100 or more for a drive of the same capacity) and USB 3.0 ports offer backward compatibility with USB 2.0 devices. read more...

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.