For years we have been stuck with slow data transfer speeds between storage devices, and now suddenly we have two new interface standards that promise to make slow data transfers a thing of the past. Enter USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0. We have tested both these interfaces and already have the results ready for you to decide which one is truly revolutionary and to be looked forward to. But first, let us look at what exactly these two new technologies are all about.
SuperSpeed USB or USB 3.0
After the agonizingly slow speeds of USB 1.1, USB 2.0 was a huge leap, as it increased the data transfer speeds by almost three times. USB 2.0 has a maximum data transfer speed of 480 Mb/s. Now, USB 3.0 has a maximum data transfer speed of 4.8 Gb/s, which is ten times that of USB 2.0. This bandwidth is even more than that offered by the SATA 2.0 3 Gb/s hard drives currently available. Naturally, the fastest hard drives available today can achieve its maximum potential when used as an external hard drive with USB 3.0 interface.
Being backward compatible, USB 3.0 connector plugs can be easily used with older USB ports on PCs and laptops and the speeds will automatically drop back to that of the older interface. The connector plug looks similar to the older USB connector plug, but a closer inspection reveals the presence of five new pins alongside the original four. These extra data lanes enable SuperSpeed performance.
It goes without saying that due to the addition of five extra lanes, the USB 3.0 cable is different and thicker than its older counterpart. USB 3.0 ports work with older cables as well, thus allowing you to plug in an old USB 2.0 hard drive. However, one problem that you may come across is, a USB 3.0 cable cannot be plugged into a USB 2.0 device, but that is understandable. USB 3.0 plugs can be easily differentiated from USB 2.0 plugs because manufacturers color code USB 3.0 plugs with blue plastic. Note that a USB 2.0 micro-USB plug can easily be plugged into a part of the USB 3.0 port on devices and it works in the USB 2.0 mode.
SATA 3.0 (SATA 6 Gb/s)
The SATA interface has been getting comparatively regular upgrades as it progressed from SATA 1.0 or 1.5 Gb/s to SATA 2.0 or 3 Gb/s and now to SATA 3.0 or 6 Gb/s. After taking into account SATAs 10-bit encoding overhead, the effective bandwidth of this latest interface comes to 600 MB/s, which is twice that of its predecessor. It would seem that with SSDs threatening the very existence of mechanical hard drives, SATA 3.0 is the savior it has been looking for. But we'll know about that only after going through the test results.
SATA 3.0 is backward compatible with older SATA interfaces, thus you can use SATA 3.0 devices with your existing motherboards with older SATA ports. The resultant connection will be equivalent to the older SATA interface. Likewise, older SATA devices can be used with SATA 3.0 ports, but the connection will only be equivalent to the older SATA interface. To get true SATA 3.0 connection, the device, port, as well as the cable have to be certified SATA 3.0.
USB 3.0 card
USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 add-on cards are available to allow easy and inexpensive upgrade to the new interface. These cards work with a PCI Express slot. The other, but more expensive way is to upgrade to a new motherboard featuring these interfaces, though there are not many around at present.