To USB or Not to USB


State of USB – Spring 2013 – Part 1 – Wireless Drives

As your thoughts turn to spring, and the great outdoors (except for in Minnesota where I’m from, where you watched fishing on TV this past weekend), you naturally ask yourself, “What is going on with that whole USB 3.0 thing?”

Well, it’s been 1 year since the Ivy Bridge chipset started shipping with USB 3.0 fully integrated.  This chipset has shipped in about 100 million PCs, notebooks, and ultrabooks.  How do I know this?

1) It’s my best guess

2) Paul Otellini said that they’ve shipped 100 million chips in their 22nm process. 

I’m guessing this is Ivy Bridge.  This Blog from 1 year ago explains why chipset integration is important.

Wireless Drives with USB 3.0

So it turns out the big thing now in drives is Wireless Drives with USB 3.0.  Yes, Wireless.   Why does Wireless Drive need USB 3.0?

First, if you have multiple PCs in your home, you want to be able to access all your data wirelessly, the same data as fast as possible.  You can just move around a USB 3.0 hard drive, but wireless is better.  So you can buy WiFi Routers with a USB 3.0 Host port, and just plug your USB 3.0 Hard Drive into that host port and everyone can share one drive with all your pictures, videos, and legally obtained hollywood or bollywood movies.  And every song written by Psy. 

Yes, a personal in-home cloud can be made with a router and a USB 3.0 Hard Drive (or flash drive) because you read my blog Wireless requires Wired USB 3.0.

Enter Tablets

As a species, anthropologists tell use we are moving toward using tablets and smart phones.  Since we, in the semiconductor industry follow the advice of anthropologists, we started something like 100 tablet designs since 2010.  Which happens to be the launch year of the iPad. 

Of course, you want to access everything wirelessly.  At home you have the personal cloud.

But when you are on the road, your iPad or tablet or smart phone has limited memory.   And you have all those movies you want to carry with you.

Enter the personal, portable cloud powered by the Wireless Storage drive, in this case 4 of them.

For about $200, you can buy a Seagate, Corsair, Patriot, and SkyDrive.  They all have integrated batteries so you can stream video continuously for 5 hours.

Why do they need USB 3.0?  Because the data rates for WiFi-N are still limited to less than about 0.3 Gbps. If you actually want to transfer data on and off the drives quickly, you need to plug the drive into a computer and transfer your content at something like 1.8 Gbps to 3 Gbps.

(Remember, drive speeds, or any read/write speeds are dependent on a range of latencies.  For the many sources of latency, check out this blog entry on latency and how it drags down USB 3.0 and WiFi performance.  )

The point is, no matter how fast wireless gets, wired always coexists with wireless.


One final note, if you swapped out the spinning media from these drives, and put in a SATA based SSD you’d drop the power about 67%.  This should extend the battery life well beyond 5 hours, but the WiFi itself still consumers power, so we can assume it will extend the battery life somewhere between 1-3 hours.  Patriot sells an enclosure so you could do this with your own SSD of any size with a Patriot enclosure for 50 dollars.


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Tip of the Day

Check back here daily for more insightful, useful, info on USB.

Check out USB University to learn about USB 3.0 from the ground up.  Really, for anyone managing a USB 3.0 project or starting one or considering one. It’s great stuff.

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” – Albert Einstein

“The most aggravating thing about the younger generation is that I no longer belong to it.” – Albert Einstein

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