USB 3.0 is here. And for service organizations trying to optimize technicians' time spent in the field, the "SuperSpeed" of the new spec might be just the thing to get them in and out quickly. USB 3.0, now standard equipment on most motherboards and high-end laptops, moves data at up to 5 Gbps, making quick jobs of backups, restores, migrations, system updates, installations, formatting of drives and other on-site data movements.
Helping to keep back-room staff ahead of the curve is Tripp Lite, which earlier this month began shipping a trio of must-have devices aimed at making connections at the highest possible speed. Most immediately useful gadget to us in the CRN Test Center was the U338 USB SuperSpeed to SATA Adapter, a cable-like device that attaches any size SATA I, II or III drive to a USB 3.0 (or earlier) port.
Though Tripp Lite says it officially supports only Windows, the U339 also worked with our MacBook, which mounted an SSD drive via the adapter cable and did not require any drivers or additional connections. For USB ports that don't provide enough power, Tripp Lite includes an AC/DC power adapter. Its small cannon plug is inserted into the large end of the cable to provide power for the drive.
We tested the adapter's performance by connecting it on one end to an Intel SATA II (3 Gbps) SSD drive and on the other end to a USB 2.0 port. This also required us to install no drivers. Maximum transfer rate, measured with IOmeter for Windows, was 8.22 MBps. Then we connected the same drive to a USB 3.0 port and watched it perform more than four times faster, at 36.44 MBps. The U339 lists for $69, and sells on the street for around $35.
Next: Creating A More lasting Connection
For creating a slightly more lasting connection, there's the U357 USB SuperSpeed External 2.5" SATA Hard Drive Enclosure, a USB 3.0 external 2.5-inch drive enclosure. With the exception of 3.5-inch drive support, the U357 performs largely the same functions as the U339 but is intended more as an end-user sale for supplemental storage or file backup for laptops, netbooks and even desktops.
At 5.25 inches long by 3.25 inches wide by a half-inch high, the unit is small enough to slide into a pocket or travel unnoticed in a laptop bag along with its USB 3.0 Micro-B connector cable.
No power supply is required for most systems (and none is included), and the device runs with all versions of Windows and Mac OS X with no special drivers. In tests using the same Intel SSD drive and testbed as for the U339, the U357's transfer rates were identical. The U357 lists for $45 and can be found for around $23 on the street.
Next: When A Large File Transfer Is Required
When a large file transfer is required and time is of the essence, there's nothing worse than seeing Windows pop up with the message that "this device could run faster if..." To avoid those situations, Tripp Lite's U360 USB SuperSpeed 4-Port Hub turns one USB 3.0 host port into four, and gets its power from the host port or from the included AC/AD adapter.
Using the same Windows test fixture, we tested two Intel SSD drives with IOmeter, one connected via the U339, and other with the U357, and both connected to the host machine through the U360 hub. Maximum transfer rate for the two drives was 76 MBps, or about 38 MBps each, slightly faster than when drives were tested individually. The hub introduced no measurable latency. The U360 hub includes a USB 3.0 host cable and AC/DC power supply and is backward compatible. It works with Linux, Mac OS X and Windows, lists for $59, and sells for about $43 on the street.
Tripp Lite began shipping its three fine USB 3.0 accessories -- the U338 USB SuperSpeed to SATA Adapter, U357 USB SuperSpeed External 2.5" SATA Hard Drive Enclosure, and U360 USB SuperSpeed 4-Port Hub -- on June 1, and all are covered by a lifetime warranty. After our thorough testing, the CRN Test Center recommends them for anyone looking for a high-quality, high speed external drive solution.