What Is SuperSpeed USB 3.0
And What Are The Benefits?

You may be wondering what SuperSpeed USB is and what benefits it offers to computer users over the standard USB 2 interface. SuperSpeed is basically the name given to the next USB interface type, 3.0. So if someone refers to SuperSpeed USB, it's just a fancy way of saying USB 3.

Some new release desktop computers, laptops, and hard drives have started including USB 3 technology in their hardware, but it will be a long time yet before the technology becomes a standard feature in the consumer market.

So what exactly is SuperSpeed USB? It is the next major release of the Universal Serial Bus technology which was first created in 1996 by a group of companies led by Intel to standardize and simplify the connection of peripherals to personal computers.

USB 2 was the second major release of this technology, and has been a mainstay in the computing world for years. But as the need for faster speeds and higher bandwidth grows and grows, USB 2 encountered limitations on transfer speeds.

That's why USB 3 was invented to address the limitations that USB 2 has at the moment. SuperSpeed USB offers the following benefits for users:

  • Much faster transfer rates of up to 4.8Gbps, compared to the USB 2 speed of 480 Mbits/s
  • Higher bus power and increased device current draw to accommodate more bus powered devices
  • New power management features
  • Full-duplex data transfers and support for new transfer types
  • New connectors and cables to accommodate higher speed transfers but maintains backwards compatibility with USB 2 devices

Will existing peripherals work with USB 3?

Yes, USB 3 has been designed with backwards compatibility in mind. While USB 3 requires new physical connections to take advantage of the higher speed and power features, the connector size is the same and the four USB 2 contacts are in the same positions. The extra 5 USB 3 connections only come into contact when matched to a proper USB 3 connection.

What peripherals use USB 3?

You can expect to see external hard drives including RAID type systems, flash drives and Blu-ray drives to start being released with SuperSpeed USB technology very soon, if not already.

As USB 3 is still fairly new and more expensive to manufacture than USB 2, they will initially show up only on high end computers and laptops.

Expect to see other devices such as:

- High resolution web and video surveillance cameras
- Bus-only powered displays like DisplayLink's video technology
- Multi-channel audio interfaces
- Digital video cameras and digital cameras for much faster download speeds

What is the future of USB 3?

In the near future USB 3 technology will be integrated into motherboards just like USB 2 has been. USB 3 will eventually become the norm and Windows and Mac will start to natively support the technology.

You can't see USB 2 disappearing anytime soon though, because many devices simply do not need the higher bandwidth and features of SuperSpeed USB. But for most devices where data transfer is important, USB 3 will take over.