You'd be hard pressed to spot USB 3.0 port just by looking at one: after all, they're backward compatible, so look exactly like any USB port on any USB gadget over the last decade. But 3.0 is the latest specification, and it's a whole lot faster than anything that's come before it. What does that mean for you, and why do you need it in your next laptop? Read on and find out here in our guide.
So what exactly is USB 3.0?
The chances are, the USB ports on your computer are of the USB 2.0 specification, which is capable of slinging data through a cable at 480Mbps. For those who don’t speak technobabble, that's fast, but if you've ever tried to transfer all your high res photos from your camera in one go, you'll know it isn't fast enough for modern gadgets.
USB 3.0 on the other hand is quick enough to keep pace, with a maximum bandwidth of 4.8Gbps: up to 10x times the performance of its predecessor, thanks to the addition of a another physical bus. Think of it as another lane on the USB superhighway. That extra space for data to travel along means faster transfer times, but also opens up a wealth of opportunities for gadgets which couldn’t function at slower transfer rates: things like high-resolution USB monitors and HD displays. As the technology progresses, expect these to get sharper, faster and ever more responsive.
Will older USB gadgets work?
You bet. While SuperSpeed USB 3.0 peripherals will work at a blinding speed on Toshiba supported laptops, you'll still get the speeds you're used to out of all your UBS 2.0 accessories too.
For some types of gadget, you won't need to consider upgrading for extra performance, since USB 2.0 can already put through the amount of data required: keyboards and gamepads for instance already work in realtime. But for others, like portable hard drives, you'll really appreciate the extra speed if you back up tons of data regularly - which you should! For more on backing up, check out our easy to follow backup tutorial [LINK TO Five ways to keep your data safe].
Which laptops offer USB 3,0?
We're glad you asked: Toshiba's rolling USB 3.0 across the board in its new laptops for 2011, so you're spoilt for choice.
If you're after a general purpose machine that can act as a desktop replacement as well as a portable powerhouse, you'll want to pick up one of the Toshiba Satellite A660 or Satellite A665 models. Both come stuffed with Nvidia's dedicated graphics and Intel's latest, top of the line Core i7 second generation processor. There’s even Bluetooth 3.0 inside for fast data transfer over the air too.
But if you're after the best gaming experience on planet Earth, you'll want to pick up the Toshiba Qosmio X500 instead. This behemoth of a portable PC packs in the same powerful CPU as well as a beastly 8GB of RAM and hybrid hard drive setup for maximum performance. The thing uniting them all of course, is USB 3.0, letting you move files between your laptop and external gizmos at flying speeds.