Skip to navigation
Real World Computing
USB cable

Why do so few PCs have USB 3?

Posted on 14 Jan 2013 at 14:06

Paul Ockenden wonders why it's taking so long for USB 3 to become ubiquitous

I'm looking at my calendar, which says it's 2013, but you’d never guess from inspecting the USB ports on a typical PC.

An unscientific survey of the laptops on display in my local PC warehouse reveals a good third of them with only USB 2 ports; those that do offer USB 3, have only one, the remainder being USB 2. Yet USB 3 has been around for years: PC Pro first benchmarked USB 3 hard drives in November 2009. You might expect three years later to be seeing USB 4 or possibly even USB 5.

Buying a machine with USB 2 ports right now seems silly unless you’re on a tight budget

It isn’t as if the electronics are expensive: for example, USB 3 external hard drives no longer command a premium over USB 2 versions, and USB 3 flash drives are now quite reasonably priced. I have a Dane-Elec Pro USB 3 drive in my laptop currently, and although I haven’t run any speed tests, I can say that it’s noticeably quicker than a typical USB 2 drive – and it cost only a tenner.

There aren’t any compatibility problems between USB 2 peripherals and USB 3 ports either – there may have been one or two quirks with the earliest chipsets, but those have long since been ironed out. The only issues you’ll hear about tend to concern problems with a small range of specialist music hardware.

One argument might be that not all peripherals need the speed of USB 3: printers and scanners, for example, don’t even stretch the limits of USB 2, so it might make sense for a laptop manufacturer to put a USB 2 port on one side and a USB 3 port on the other. Except that it doesn’t: how does the manufacturer know the layout of your desk? And on which side of it you’ve placed your printer? Do you really want the ergonomics of your working environment dictated to you by a PC manufacturer?

Frankly, buying a machine with USB 2 ports right now seems silly unless you’re on a tight budget, so please take care when shopping. Seek out machines with USB 3 ports (and, if possible, plenty of them).

Download a year of Paul Ockenden's Mobile & Wireless columns by heading to our Free Downloads site

Subscribe to PC Pro magazine. We'll give you 3 issues for £1 plus a free gift - click here
User comments

It's Queen...

Sorry, Intel. They want you to buy their Thunderbolts and Lightning instead, so they aren't really interested in implementing USB3...

That said, Thunderbolt and Lighting is only just starting to appear on non-Apple kit.

By big_D on 14 Jan 2013

My new Samsung laptop (NP550P5C) has 2 USB3 ports but I don't yet have a USB3 drive to use with them!

By EddyOS_2K9 on 14 Jan 2013

You're right. It is Queen.....

Thunderbolt and Lightning very very frightening for USB....

By GoneWithTheWind on 14 Jan 2013

USB 2 (8) - USB 3 (2)

I have one machine with USB 3. It is a self build with an Asus P8H61-M LE/USB3 Revision 3. In total it has 6 USB ports on the back. 4 are USB 2 and 2 are USB 3. Internally there are 2 USB 2 headers (up to another 4-ports). so USB 2 wins 8-2 with no extra time or penalties. USB 3 is provided by a separate non-Intel chip in this instance. I haven't got any USB 3 devices yet so to me they are redundant right now anyhow.

By mr_chips on 14 Jan 2013

USB 3 runs USB 2 devices faster

I use USB external drives for backup and have a desktop cradle that can connect bare 2.5 and 3.5 sata drives for maintenance tasks. Running benchmarks an external usb 2 drive runs 20%+ faster on USB 3 and a native USB 3 to Sata controller can run a fast 3.5" drive at over 90% of SATA speed. USB 3 on the NUC would allow for smaller m-SATA SSD for boot and external USB 3 drive for data.
I have 4 USB 3 ports on my PC and have 3 USB 3 devices near-permanently connected.

By milliganp on 14 Jan 2013

USB2 - Good Enough for Most Users

Intel dragging their feet aside, I think the real reason USB3 hasn't become ubiquitous is that USB2 is good enough for most users.

And those needing USB3 are probably tech-savvy enough to install their own card anyway.

USB2 = Windows XP.
USB3 = Vista

USB4 = ?

By Penfolduk01 on 14 Jan 2013

Yes but ...

"Paul Ockenden wonders why it's taking so long for USB 3 to become ubiquitous" but completely fails to shed any light on the reasons behind this.

By Alan_Briggs on 15 Jan 2013

Disgraceful USB 2

I think it's ridiculous that there are still so many computers with USB 2 being shipped out there. As mentioned by others, this is Intel dragging its feet. Also not all computers have the room for a USB 3 card, trust me I know.

By majidalborz on 15 Jan 2013

Cost of USB 3.0 cables excessive

USB 2.0 cables les than a pound, or free as most folk have a few lying around or got them included with old kit.

USB 3.0 often £5+ as i discovered when i bought a £70 external USB 3.0 HDD (no cable included), USB 2.0 cable will work but no USB 3.0 speeds

By rcoll on 16 Jan 2013

Cost of USB 3.0 cables excessive

USB 2.0 cables les than a pound, or free as most folk have a few lying around or got them included with old kit.

USB 3.0 often £5+ as i discovered when i bought a £70 external USB 3.0 HDD (no cable included), USB 2.0 cable will work but no USB 3.0 speeds

By rcoll on 16 Jan 2013

@rcoll

I've yet to come across a USB3 peripheral that didn't come with a cable - what did you manage to find?

By PaulOckenden on 16 Jan 2013

Paul, I am eating humble pie

I bought a seagate external HDD and assumed there wasn't any cable included. I have just popped up stairs and opened the box. There was a cable included! Although there was nothing on the box indicating this and I always found the norm was not to include a cable.
You have just saved me a fiver, I might go out and buy a copy of PC Pro with the money saved. Thanks Ronan

By rcoll on 16 Jan 2013

Paul, I am eating humble pie

I bought a seagate external HDD and assumed there wasn't any cable included. I have just popped up stairs and opened the box. There was a cable included! Although there was nothing on the box indicating this and I always found the norm was not to include a cable.
You have just saved me a fiver, I might go out and buy a copy of PC Pro with the money saved. Thanks Ronan

By rcoll on 16 Jan 2013

USB standards

Like Paul I don't see why manufacturers bother fitting two types of USB it must cost more having to hold two types in stock.
As USB3 is nearly always compatible with USB2 I don't understand why they just don't fit USB3 as standard or at worst only have one USB2 and 3 USB3 if there are some units which won't work on USB.

By curiousclive on 17 Jan 2013

Why is USB 3 needed anyway?

USB 3 is only of benefit for data storage devices, and then only if you plan to store large files AND you must be able to store/access them faster than 25MB/s. Very few people will fall into this precise category, particularly laptop users, so why would they upgrade?

By halsteadk on 24 Jan 2013

Speed and monitors

You guys are missing the point of USB 3 and thunderbolt.

USB 3 is about to get a serious software upgrade giving it double it's 5gbs speed. This will make it faster than the current esata and as faster as a single channel on thunderbolt.

TB is a total dock solution so you buy an ultra book and you get a really good desktop that you just need to plug in with one cable.

USB 3 monitors are also being released right now.

VGA is old/dead. Display port is a pale shadow of TB.

LOOK TO THE FUTURE

By Starkid101 on 26 Jan 2013

@Starkid101

Thunderbolt isn't a *total* dock solution...
It doesn't charge your laptop...
So it's 'another' dock solution..

By JulesWilko on 31 Jan 2013

USB3 or not USB3 that is the question?

Whether it be nobler in the ming to have your puter covered in ports for devices few people sell or are even making devices for. Or to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and get some. Then as the previous writer said, So it's 'another' dock solution..

So far the only advantage to this massive speed increase has been that I bought a spanking new system, USB 3 and all. Installed the OS, the excitement rose, turned it on and plugged in my shiny new seagate drive after sacrificing an arm and a leg at my suppliers for one. Only to find the speed of 3GB/S specified as clear as day in big letters on the box, actually benchmarks at 512MB/S.
So like you do you phone the shop and complain and get told like broadband a specific set of circumstances need to exist to get this fantastic transfer speed.
As for the USB external drive, it went on ebay for a tenner less than I paid for it and I bought an "ICE box" twin pack and a 500GB sata3 HDD, way way way quicker. Even had enough change left to take the mrs out for a fish an chip supper, well it keeps em sweet.
The advantages to me for USB3 sadly rate in the oh good I have 2 more USB 2 ports, uninstalled the USB 3 drivers and whole machine runs as happy as larry now.
Why bother making outlandish claims on "Ive benchmarked it at......OMG its fast" and lo do the sheep follow. USB 2.0 works fine, just needs that little thing everyone these days needs, a bit of patience. Every device I have works fine on USB 2 can even charge my phone in the sockets. USB2 nope cant do that they dont want power surges blowing their super delicate chips. Why does anyone even need USB3. The speed increase only means you can be in your porche and on your way to the golf club a few seconds earlier, like that makes a huge difference.

And the food for thought here:
Why doesnt someone make a machine / motherboard that is totally compatable with everything windows 7 has to offer and works faultlessly. That way people could buy it and know for a fact it doesnt contain anythning that is likely to need update after update after update after update...... Funny thing is my old Commodre 64 still stores data on its old 1541 disk drive, just like the new machines.
Can still write letters on it just like the new machines.
Can still make databases on it like the new machines.
Can still play games on it like the new machines.

Just add a little patience to the mix and USB2 is more than adequate. need fast speeds grab yourself an ice box.

By Pcdatalincs on 31 Jan 2013

If USB 2 & 3 connections were the same and only labelled USB 3 (backwards compatible) then I'm sure USB 4 would be being announced about now.

By nicomo on 21 Feb 2013

Leave a comment

You need to Login or Register to comment.

(optional)

Paul Ockenden

Paul Ockenden

Paul is a contributing editor to PC Pro specialising in smartphones, mobile broadband and all things wireless. He's technical director of a combined IT and marketing company, which works on websites and intranets for several blue-chip clients.

Read more More by Paul Ockenden

advertisement

Most Commented Real World Articles
Latest Real World Computing
Latest Blog Posts Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest News Stories Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest ReviewsSubscribe to our RSS Feeds

advertisement

Sponsored Links
 
SEARCH
Loading
WEB ID
SIGN UP

Your email:

Your password:

remember me

advertisement


Hitwise Top 10 Website 2010
 
 

PCPro-Computing in the Real World Printed from www.pcpro.co.uk

Register to receive our regular email newsletter at http://www.pcpro.co.uk/registration.

The newsletter contains links to our latest PC news, product reviews, features and how-to guides, plus special offers and competitions.