Lost amid the recent fanfare surrounding Apple's introduction of Retina display-powered MacBook Pros and updated MacBook Airs is the fact these laptops now boast USB 3.0, or SuperSpeed, ports. The USB 3.0 standard boasts many immediately available benefits for business users.
USB 3.0 advantages
The most obvious advantage of the USB 3.0 standard, versus its popular USB 2.0 predecessor, is faster performance. USB 3.0 enables data transfer rates of up to 5 Gigabits per second. That's exponentially (10 times) faster than USB 2.0 data transmission rates, which top out at 480 Megabits per second.
Much of the improvement is due to a new architecture that leverages two unidirectional paths. One path is utilized for data transmission. The second path empowers data reception. Thanks to the new USB 3.0 compatibility, users of new Apple laptops will be able to complete backups; transfer photos, video and audio files; and finish other data transfers and migrations much more quickly than in the past.
USB 3.0 power efficiency is improved, too. A low power management state results when peripherals are idle, and continuous device polling is eliminated in the new standard. Thus, less energy is typically required to power USB 3.0 peripherals and laptop battery life can be extended.
And, thanks to backward compatibility, business users need not worry about having to replace older USB 2.0 devices. Deploying a new USB 3.0-powered Apple laptop does not mean business users must replace their existing USB 2.0 peripherals. Only those business users specifically seeking to obtain the performance improvements need to purchase faster USB 3.0 devices, unless they possess USB 3.0 devices already and have been artificially limiting their performance by connecting these peripherals to slower USB 2.0-powered systems unable to take full advantage of the USB 3.0 standard.
USB 3.0 peripherals
Numerous USB 3.0 storage devices are now available and prove more common than even a year ago. Within Apple's online store alone there are multiple varieties of flash drives and external hard disks available for sale. A quick sampling shows a LaCie 16GB USB 3.0 key for $39 and a LaCie 1TB external hard disk for $149.
Not all Macs possess USB 3.0 connectivity, yet
Mac Mini models and iMacs, however, haven't yet received the upgrade. The desktops still possess four USB 2.0 ports. Surprisingly Mac Pros, while boasting seven USB 2.0 ports, run only at USB 2.0 speeds, too. But expect that to change soon. The handwriting is on the wall. The next iterations of these USB 2.0 systems are likely to feature USB 3.0 ports, instead.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.