USB 3 – Is now the right time to switch?

I thought of writing this article last week and the main theme was going to be around whether now was the right time to start purchasing USB 3 devices in favour of devices that were limited to USB 2 speeds. It appears that it may no longer be valid since Makro last week had a 2,5“ 1 TB portable HDD which supported USB 3 at the same price as Game‘s special for the same device that was limited to USB 2. “œEarly Adopters“ may be forgiven for thinking that they are reading an archived article because their purchasing algorithm is similar to this:

For the rest of us it is either a purchase made after careful consideration of various factors which include price and availability vs functionality gains or, a purchase based on the advice of an “œEarly Adopter“.
Most of the readers of this blog need no introduction to the improvements made with USB 3, also known as Super Speed USB. They range from faster data transfer rates (realistic transfer rates of 3.2 Gbits/sec although the theoretical maximum is 4.8 Gbits/sec), full duplex data transfer and device polling is replaced by interrupt driven protocol which results in a considerable reduction to the power drain often associated with leaving idle devices connected to your notebook. I was most excited about the feature that allowed up to an 80% improvement in USB power delivery which essentially meant that it would take a shorter time to charge my iPad, that was if Apple supported USB 3, which they currently do not. Apple have done another “˜Firewire‘ and shipped the new line of MacBook Pro‘s with Thunderbolt, a new I/O peripheral protocol developed by both Intel and Apple. Although Thunderbolt is capable of much faster data speeds than USB 3 (10 Gbits/sec) and has the ability to daisychain devices, I suspect that it will only be utilised by a niche market. I suspect however that Apple will eventually support USB 3 on it‘s newer devices much the same way in which the older Mac‘s were equipped with both a Firewire and USB 2 port. In any event I plan to do a review of Thunderbolt in an upcoming post as there are already devices on the market that support this protocol.

Returning to the discussion on USB 3, I strongly doubt that the prices of USB 3 and USB 2 devices will remain similar for much longer. With companies advertising USB 3 drives as being ten times faster than USB 2 devices, neglecting to inform the customer that those comparisons are only relevant if you have a Motherboard or PCI card that supports USB 3, I expect more and more consumers opting to purchase USB 3 devices. Furthermore, due to the backward compatibility of USB 3 to USB 2, I predict that manufacturers will shortly only manufacture devices that are USB 3 compatible. This would result in USB 2 devices, especially storage devices, being sold at a considerable discount. I am certain there would be a market for these devices amongst those who are happy with the current data transfer rate of USB 2 and see these prices as great value for money.
If you are the type of person that has one or two peripheral devices,  you should consider getting future devices that are compatible with USB 3 provided you are not paying too much of a premium for it. If you are an early adopter and have already purchased your USB 3 docking station and PCI Card then you may want to consider getting the discounted USB 2 drives because the discs contained within may be a very cost effective way to augment your storage capacity. Because you can never have too many, Right?