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back to article Revealed: USB 3.0 jacks and sockets

USB 3.0, the upcoming version of the universal add-on standard re-engineered for the HD era, made a small appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It wasn't demonstrated in operation, but we did get to see what the new connectors look like. Not, alas, the optical one, we have to report, but the electrical connectors. …

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Happy

ah well?

I've gone for an eSATA Seagate based unit so I am glad that USB 3.0 has not been fully realised (yet).

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Has CES Jumped The Shark?

Seriously, when the top of the Register story is pictures of the ends of a new USB cable I'd say that the Consumer Electronics Show ain't what it used to be....

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Black Helicopters

Hmmm coaxial.

About time really, cable is going to be expensive tho.

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Silver badge

Looks the same as USB 1.0 and 2.0 ports

Why should the cables look any different if the new spec is meant to maintain backwards compatibility which I assume it does?

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HDMI?

The mini-connector looks just like a current HDMI connector, hmmm.

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but...

will it still be a load of crap?

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Boffin

Better support for power over USB

Considering the number of bus powered USB devices, the fact that PC power supplies are much more efficcent than those ugly wall warts, and that there would be many more bus powered USB devices if more power was avalable that way, I think they should enhance the spec to provide more power.

How about a seccond power connector, and when a device connects it would be able to request any voltage up to 12V on each of the two connectors, up to a maximum of say 3A. That way most periferals could be powered by the Host PC, including most printers, smaller LCD screens network hubs modems, access points etc, and we could banish most wall warts, and save loads of electricity in the process because the power would come from 80% efficent PSUs in PCs or large monitors, and would go off automaticaly when the PC is switched off.

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Bronze badge

This should have died LONG ago

Unfortunately, it didn't, so we have junk like USB. Way back when, before USB, there was ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) which, while limited worked quite well for its intended purpose (keyboards and mice). Intel and Microsoft (among others) wanted similar stuff, and USB was born. Then the "growing featureism" crept in, and ALL sorts of things were connected to USB all wanting bandwidth to the host and power to boot (hook your scanner up right here!). Now the speeds are ever increasing and the battle ensues between FireWire (looks like high speed serial SCSI) and USB. They should have let FireWire have it all. Oh, well.

If the standards people had any foresight, they would have used power with 10Base-T (and the nice easy to get RJ45 connector) and done it that way. The ethernet guys had it all working, all they needed to add was the power. It would have solved BUNCHES of problems, and every nice device could have its own 'hub'. You could have two ethernet interfaces on our your computer (one powered) using one for local stuff and the other one for TCP/IP networking. So the keyboard/mice protocols wouldn't be routeable, but it isn't necessary for a desktop only network.

Next we will all wait for USB version 4. Due out in a year or two if the pattern holds.

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@David

Having a standard voltage is a good thing.

Allowing 12V @ 3A x 2 sockets would be ridiculous power-wise.

Most USB bus-powered devices are already flouting the 500mA specs, so it should just need a slight bit more power

I'd say stick with 5V, but allow 1A like some of the third-party notebook docking stations. Allowing a higher amperage is backwards compatible as well. Devices will only pull their required amps up to the supplied amount, whereas supplying more voltage will blow the device.

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Unhappy

a wasted chance

...to do away with the stupid rectangular port. There is always a 50% chance you'll have it upside-down and end up having to turn it around. If they did it like Apple's Firewire, which has a non-symmetrical side, you could plug cables in without looking. It's almost as bad as RJ-45 cables with those stupid nibs that get caught on anything like a fishhook, so you can never pull a cable through a nest of other cables without having to untangle it. Sure, it might not sound important to you until you consider that all the time spent messing around with cables, added up over a lifetime, probably amounts to about 3 weeks. That's time you could be hanging out in Jamaica, man.

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@Looks the same

No, it doesn't look the same at all... There are 5 more contacts/connections per plug, added at the end of the jack, such that a 3.0 jack should fit into a [12].0 port and a [12].0 jack should fit into a 3.0 port.

But the number of connections has doubled, which has obvious benefits for bandwidth and whatnot.

I agree with Herby though, USB wasn't designed for this sort of thing. I do like the idea of getting rid of all of those parallel cables and whatnot, but USB really isn't the way. It was designed for low bandwidth/low power stuff, then had the higher speed jazz added on later.

Firewire is (Was?) a much better idea, but Apple charges people for each port they ship, and it doesn't work with keyboards, so nobody ended up with more than 1 or 2 ports. It was designed for high speed, low cpu useage, hubs, and peer to peer connections, and is probably one of the few things that Apple has really gotten right, from a technical aspect. And now even Apple is supposed to be phasing it out in favor of USB.

I just got firewire networking up in Linux for my laptop, and it spanks the hell out of the 100mbit ethernet port that I have in there. And it was easy. Uses nearly no CPU and gets pretty mich percentages of the rated 400mbit. Lets see any speed of usb do that.

@Jumped The Shark:

Some of us rather like to look and ports. Or jacks - depends on one's orientation. It is nice to see the future of what I'll be swearing about at work in 18 months, though.

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ummm...Why?

Why would you willing subject the public to a standard that NEVER reaches even expected speeds, let alone ones that should be attainable in theory? Firewire is a MUCH better standard, since it doesn't deal with the host based crap. I mean, I could possibly understand if they changed it to the peer-to-peer architecture that firewire has. But really? Do we really need this kind of ugly #@% * in our devices?

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Anonymous Coward

dingle dongle?

why cables, i thought we where all wireless these days?

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Pirate

Older USB Intro Dates

"Next we will all wait for USB version 4. Due out in a year or two if the pattern holds."

What pattern? USB 1.1 came out in 1998 and USB 2.0 arrived in 2000.

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E

Good for small LANs though

I'm not a USB guru so if what follows is silly or ill informed then please be kind.

I am assuming that Windows & Linux will be able to run IP over this transport, and if so then 4.7 Gb/s seems quite nice for point to point links.

Imagine if some smart company sells a wire speed "USB switch": it's a poor-man's cluster interconnect!

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@Herby

Because an RJ45 connector would be so convenient for my super slimline mp3 player, or my phone? Sure, the data rates would've been much higher than initial versions of USB, however now they're SIGNIFICANTLY faster than anything your twisted pair cable can provide..

Mini USB is the way to go, personally I'd like things to go that way. As devices get smaller, big connectors are just holding us back.

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Flame

USB - resounding success

I dispute that USB is "a load of crap". I say it's a resounding success. My reasoning is easy to follow:

1. Every computer I've used this century has had USB

2. Every USB device I've used has worked

People don't want the maximum possible sustainable transfer rate. They just want it to work everywhere with everything, every time. That's what we've got, and I'm happy. If FireWire is more suitable for a task then my device should support it. As it stands, none of my devices have FW and none of my computers do either - and some of this kit is pretty new.

I'm pretty sure that my £4 card reader from Ebuyer reads and writes at or above the realistic speeds of my harddisks and that's all that matters. My RAID 1 array might beat it, but as I said I don't really care. The connectors are sturdy, it's everywhere and it's fast enough. That's all that really matters. USB++.

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USB is limited

I also wish that USB was a peer to peer network without any of the "host" nonsense.

Also, why doesn't one of these standards incorporate the future-proof design of using arbitrary data bandwidths. This way a manufacturer can use faster and faster speeds without requiring a new standard every generation like "USB1 lo=?, hi=12mbps, USB2=480mbps, USB3=...".

Both peers should detect each other and negotiate a max speed and then just work.

"Hi, I am a webcam, I can talk at 500mbps"

"Really, I'd like to see your pic, but I talk at 300mbps"

"No problem, lets use 300mbps"

The old serial ports were more flexible in this regards (only they lacked a standard protocol for establishing the channels).

Of course like so many others, the USB consortium has no incentive in developing a future proof technology.

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Re: USB Resounding success

I'd have to agree with Rob here. USB is primarily a convenience thing. Hence "Universal Serial Bus". The whole idea was a connection that could do it all, and it's worked pretty well. Having actually designed and built a couple of USB devices (mainly for my own amusement), I can say that it's a pretty good standard.

When you actually *need* fast, sustained transfers you're certainly better off with FireWire, which is why professional equipment such as video and audio editing/recording gear uses it.

I also like E's idea. A simple and highly available 4.7 Gb/s interconnect between hosts would make for some pretty slick clusters...

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A

Microsoft will not support USB 3.0

I am not sure...but I think Microsoft will not support USB 3.0 Without their software support, it is a mystery how successful this technology will be popular...

bookmarked @ http://www.livbit.com

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@ Herby

Are you nuts???? I mean seriously, Apple's Desktop Bus was for Apples and get this. . . ONLY WORKED WITH APPLES!! Anyway point is this, how much does a webcam really need for bandwidth when it transmitts a &#@% picture at 640x480 anyway? Or how about your printer/scanner setup? Your limited by the hardway there my friend. The scanner and printer cartridge can only move so fast. Not to mention, an RJ45 connector??? Those are easily 2.5 times the size of a USB connector. So your telling us that our Motorola phones with the mini USB connectors could do better with an ethernet connector? Get real. Plus whats ethernet good for now anyway? 1Gb a sec? USB 3.0 4.7Gb a sec? Seems ovbious to me.

Not to mention that most computers come with TWO (2) Ethernet connectors. I dont care what system your running. I have a BEAUTIFUL gaming rig with the option for 3 ethernet cables but ya know what. I run one and why? The drivers for my NIC card DISABLE the built in ports. So you want us all to go out and get 3-5 PCI/PCIx cards to be able to run something on ethernet? Get lost because I want my 8800GTX and my X-Fi card and my Killer NIC.

@ Nexox Enigma

If your agreeing with Herby you dont deserve to be here. If firewire was so much better why is there only one ONE (count that 1) port for it on my laptop? And two (yes 2) on my desktop? Ill give you that two on the desktop are Firewire 800s but what uses that? NOTHING!! I have yet to see an external HDD use a firewire 800 port and im sure you do too. Ill ive you that you stated that firewire is limited to 1-2 ports. But common if your using CPU on your network with ethernet your doing something wrong. My CPU is currently running at 0-1% (yes thats right AT MOST 1%) usage. and im watching a video from my laptop as I type this.

Firewire hasnt been adopted, is hardly supported, and Heck even Apple wants to get rid of it. I could plug my G15 Keyboard into an Apple and it would work. I say go go USB 3.0 power. If I can get speeds that in theory could top eSATA then I would buy it.

Ok enough of a rant. Ills gets me's coat.

<\exit stage left>

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@Erik

I agree, although they've also missed a chance to make a rectangular plug that can plug in both ways up (i.e., by using a number of semi-redundant contacts arranged symmetrically within the plug - for example: VBUS,D+,D-,GND,D-,D+,VBUS).

And there we have it, millions of "person-hours" of effort saved across the world, just by designing a plug that fits both ways round.

Amazing that people who can design a cable/interfact to carry n megabits per second can't design a plug that fits easily, both ways around.

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Silver badge
Heart

@Many

"It's almost as bad as RJ-45 cables with those stupid nibs that get caught on anything like a fishhook"

That is to stop dumb ass people pulling out cablesm when pulling on there own to find out where it goes. IT support people would spend there entire day finding the cable some prat has pulled out.

"If the standards people had any foresight, they would have used power with 10Base-T (and the nice easy to get RJ45 connector) and done it that way. The ethernet guys had it all working, all they needed to add was the power"

That would be PoE then would it? Only been around several years now Power is sent over the unused pairs at 48v, so that it can power phones, webcams etc. No need for "extra" ports as it perfectly safe to send PoE to non PoE devices, in fact my laptops port connects to my phone that then connects to a PoE that then connect to a switch.

For those that think that more power should be sent down the cable, you need to learn a bit more about power and signalling. The more power you send down you need thicker cables and you also introduce moreinterferance so you either a) increase the shielding, making the cable thicker and stiffer, or b) reduce the speed of the connection.

I think USB is fine (not sure why people struggle to plug it in, it only goes in one direction and the logo is on the top!). It does excatly what is was designed for, if people try to use it for things it shouldn't do, then thats the manufacturers fault.

At the end of the day, it was designed to replace, serial, parrallel and PS/2 ports, with one interface, which it does rather well.

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Hmm

I have a firewire 800 External HDD!! not that uncommon!

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Thumb Down

looks vulnerable to ESD

the new contacts are pretty visible from the outside, unlike the old contacts which are recessed. this means an ESD spark can reach them - all eqpt has to be tested to 8kV, CE regulation -

i don't know how to protect against a direct hit with today's parts (e.g. Zeners, Varistors, polymer supressors) - the parasitic capacitance shorts-out the data signal. it was bad enough with USB 2.0, you can only afford 1 or 2 pF, and in testing you seldom if ever got a direct hit.

hide those sensitive terminals guys...

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Yup - firewire is and was better

Symmetrical cables, symmetrical protocol, substantial power budget (no more wallwarts), substantial speed, christmas tree (plug anything anywhwere there's a socket) topology, years before USB. But the Wintel monopolists wanted it their way so we were foisted with "the PC is centre of universe" USB. Despite smothering Apple's Firewire, Wintel had to use Apple to kick start a USB device market when punters still ignored the USB ports on their PC's for years.

I'm so pleased the bigger picture is finally going Apple's way. But we all suffer with wallwarts, AA and AB cables and bandwidth destroying slow devices.

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Gold badge

Bus power!

I agree with the other posters. It's time USB provided a decent amount of power.

BUS power is the next big thing and it avoids having so many power adapters.

Firewire provides something like 30 volts, not sure about the amp output, but it's certainly better than USB's 5V.

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Coat

Useless Serial Blunderbuss?

So great, we have another under performing release of an out dated and non-innovative solution.

Here's an idea, take an existing multi gig copper Ethernet port, then run power over it. Without mucking the whole thing up with that crap overcomplicated POE spec for once. Use cat6 spec wire and a new plug end that won't be mistaken for a phone plug, get caught on the rug or blow up existing Ethernet devices.

This means we will have to invent... a new plug. A daunting task I know, but for any brave and brilliant engineers that undertake that challenge, they can turn off the shelf technology into something that is both faster and can go hundreds of feet...

And Routed...

How much money got wasted making this?

How many people were wasted when they were making this?

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Heart

Oh my...

I've just seen something that I never knew existed - a cable fanboy!

Seriously, where's the WTF?! icon?

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Anonymous Coward

New port...

Seems a half arsed attemped at backwards compatibility, they might as well just put a new totally seperate port. We are going to need new cables and the like anyway if they insist on this.

I assume because of the new port they need to wire the cables differently to get the higher bandwidths? If not, idiots. If so, lazy gits.

As for the firewire argument, I agree it is better, from sitting here using my firewire mouse, and firewire keyboard, firewire card reader, firewire mobile connection, firewire external hdd, firewire hub on my monitor, firewire penkey, firewire webcam, firewire audio headset.

Oh wait... sorry I meant USB! and I meant to say I *DONT* agree with the firewire argment. Why argue that you never need that much bandwidth for usb when that was previously the only argument for firewire, which now it isnt considering USB is just as fast. As for the "firewire is more likely to get the stated speeds", rubbish, thats just like saying USB2 will get 480mps :p

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If it works...

...most people (non-technical, you know - the ones that ask us geeks for help) are not bothered about one standard being faster than another standard - they are primarily concerned with it just... working. As long as it works, then that will do them - hence the popularity of bluetooth, even though the data rates absolutely stink - but imagine standing in a pub trying to align IR ports to get the latest "hilarious" pic / video...

Unfortunately, a lot of the choice over which standard is used / unused is governed by the lowest common denominator - which means cheaper prices for us all, but also tends to mean that the hardware has to be simple enough for your gran to use.

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Jay
Thumb Up

USB

God I'm beginning to hate these Apple gimps..every bloody new release of a technology is greeted with "this is crap--Apple's way is much better" etc etc.

At this stage I wish they would crawl into a dark hole and die as painful a death as possible. And when they do die Hell is where they have to use linux/windows for all eternity :)

Anyway roll on USB3. 10 times faster than usb2...it's then we'll see flash drives steaming ahead of HD's and becoming the norm in laptops/desktops etc.

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Flame

Bah, crappola drivers!

The only real issue with USB is CRAP DRIVERS! I've lost count over the years the number of USB devices that fail to work because the drivers either: a) need to be installed before attaching the device-but don't work, b) need to be installed after connecting the device-but don't work, c) the drivers are unsigned-and almost guaranteed not to work, and d) no installation "undo" in the XP regisrty to clear away all the useless USB install dross that stops any further attempts at shoehorning some (obviously not all) crappola USB devices onto a computer, dead it it's tracks!

I like USB, but I don't like the hit'n'miss installation. If anyone knows of any util that "sanitises" the XP registry to make it look like you've just reinstalled the OS and removed *every* *single* *remnant* of all USB installations (to be totally sure), please please pretty please with cream and cherries on top, leave a URL here!!!

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Paris Hilton

Port sizes

"Use cat6 spec wire and a new plug end that won't be mistaken for a phone plug"

You have reminded me of one of my annoyances with USB. The pillock that decided USB-A sockets should be identical in size to an rj45 clearly never tried to plug something in without being able to see it.

I can't count the number of times I've been trying to plug a USB device in around the back of a computer blind, then after fumbling for ages feeling it slide in smoothly *without that little click* and realise I've found an ethernet port. Back to square one...

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@People who want more power

A standard does actually exist for delivering more power over the USB cable - see www.poweredusb.org. I've never seen it anywhere but in point-of-sale systems, though.

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Erik

"If they did it like Apple's Firewire, which has a non-symmetrical side, you could plug cables in without looking."

I agree with you about the Firewire 400 6-pin connector - excellent design. Unfortunately, it was superseded by the FW800 connector, which is quite tricky to insert EVEN WHEN IT'S THE RIGHT WAY ROUND. Honestly, would it take a genius to design a nice, triangular connector, flat bottom down, pointy up? And if you think USB A is tricky to insert, try an eSATA for size, they're bloody awful.

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@James O'Brien

My Western Digital MyBook Pro has got a Firewire 800 socket, but when the PCI cards cost the best part of £50 its not surprising they didn't become mass market.

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2 things have revonlised my job

usb cables and usb mass storage devices

1 simple and self powered port and

1 simple file transfer methord

no more serial/parrlell devices no more switching cables over 1 standard port and a expandable arcturcture

no more fdds/etc and things just plug copy unplug

my only complante is it only dose 5v power if it did the same power as a d connector form the computer we could hyave easy self powered external hdds

all you firewire fan boys out there just look at the results my lap top 4 usb no firewire there is not a firewire port in my office but every computer has 3 usb

and as for backwords compatibly most users do not even know threre is a usb2 so compatible it is so now we have the slightlry anoying plugs we have to keep them

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Ooo-but check the shielding!

See the braid visible round the shell? I guess that's needed to maintain the shielding for the high-speed data. Horrible to assemble, and we know that the cheapo leads won't do this, and thus be dodgy.

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Connectors

I too am disappointed they didn't go for a more obviously polarised connector - or one that could be safely reversed. Backward compatibility could be provided by a tiny electrical adaptor costing pence. Yes, a bit cumbersome, but worth the effort for dumping a connector design that never should have been.

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I don't believe it!

They're still using rectangular sockets! Backwards compatibility is sooooooooooo overrated...

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Anonymous Coward

Firewire and USB have their uses

Firewire (IEEE 1394) has always been designed for high-speed, high-bandwidth applications, primarily video/audio data on external devices (like harddrives). Firewire devices can be chained together (63 devices in one chain, and one connection for the host for a total of 64 devices), so you can have a stack of Firewire harddrives chained together for one massive storage array.

Just because device manufacturers are cheap and go for the path of least resistance and most don't provide the chaining capabilities ("give consumers one Firewire port, and they'll never want to plug this into a FW chain either so they'll be happy as it is") so you can chain devices together, does not mean that you can only ever run two devices at a time.

The palaver about FW cards being expensive, I say BOLLOCKS! I picked up a 3-port FW 400 card (when FW 400 was the standard du jour) for £25. And guess what, a simple search online finds you a FW 400 hub for exactly the same price... for SIX ports. The FW 800 hubs are slightly more expensive though, yes.

The only BAD thing about IEEE 1394 is that the devices will never be powered through the FW bus. They need separate power, which, as someone else pointed out, leads to wall-wart syndrome. It would be nice to have a single FW-power device that allows several devices to share one power brick.

Apple would never drop support for FW - Too many AV companies still use FW800 and they are working on the next version anyway.

The USB 3 plug is not bad... looks to me like they are trying to keep the pain of having USB 2 devices compatible with USB 3 ports as minimal as possible. I just wonder whether they are engineering the architecture future-proof enough to allow for more speed boosts along USB 3 ports for a possible extension to USB 4 (if there will be something like that).

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Bronze badge

Parellel lines

Spot on about the USB plug - man it's so annoying never being quite sure which way 'round to insert it! >:(

Given all the above discussion, can anyone please explain to me why 75% of the PCs on the market still come with PS2, serial, and (fwer gads sake!) PARALLEL printer ports??!

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Go

@Jason Aspinall

http://www.robvanderwoude.com/devcon.html

Seek and ye shall find. I discovered this gem after getting put through the USB driver mangle a while back where a device simply failed to work due to all the dull USB refs somewhere in the OS.

One of Rob's scripts on the website seems to be exactly what you want, where you can remove all USB devices. You can even get the devcon exe reboot your PC.

On the subject of knowing which way to insert a USB device correctly and the right way up - I simply make sure the seam where the metal plug casing meets up is on the underside when I plug it in - et voila !

Regards

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Anonymous Coward

I really hope you're joking...

... all the people complaining about the plug being rectangular - Oh now, I wasted half a second in turning the plug around, go out, get laid, get a life. It only bloody inserts properly one way anyway, unless you want to use a hammer.

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Anonymous Coward

"Universal" Serial Bus

@James O'Brien:

" If firewire was so much better why is there only one ONE port for it on my laptop? "

Betamax was better than VHS. So why is it a VHS video recorder that sits under my telly (the amount I use it, I see no point in buying a PVR)? Market forces.

I'll let you into a secret: no-one really wants to sell you the best tech possible, because then it's harder to sell you the next next big thing.

USB, despite it's name, was designed from the ground up to be anything but "universal", despite its name. A true universal system would be peer-to-peer, but the slave/master architecture ties USB tightly to PCs.

Do you have a digital camera? The easiest, most "universal" way to print is via PC. Other solutions include PictBridge, EasyShare, printer with built-in memory card reader... only a minority of printers have a master USB socket to allow print-from-camera.

Had FireWire taken off as the standard consumer format, rather than USB, PictBridge and EasyShare might not exist, or at best they would be data protocols over a FireWire connection, because who wants the extra hassle of more cables.

The people who sell cables: the USB consortium.

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Anonymous Coward

One way Firewire is better than USB

@James

"If firewire was so much better why is there only one ONE (count that 1) port for it on my laptop?"

Perhaps that's because you can daisy-chain firewire so you don't NEED a multitude of ports.

That's the worst thing about USB. It's great for everything it does (except sustained high datarate throughputs like shifting 1Tb uncompressed video to/from tape - that's still the domain of FW), but it's always lacked one of the most fundamentally obvious features in the history of desktop/serial bus systems - daisychaining. ADB could daisychain devices, SCSI could, Firewire can... so why not USB? Seems to me like it's the ONLY reason that you find so many USB ports on computers these days, or have to resort to carrying hubs with you!

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2.0/3.0 jack looks problematic

It looks like making sure your cable is plugged ALL the way in and doesn’t get bumped while it is active is going to be a real issue for USB 2.0/3.0 jack. I hope they test this puppy vigorously before they doom USB 3.0 before it even gets out of the starting gate.

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Replies

@frankgobbo:

By 'Twisted Pair' you probably meant ethernet over copper, even though twisted pairs are used nearly everywhere you want to get a decent signal quality through potential interference sources. Hell even some SCSI cables have twists in them. In any case, ethernet over copper will actually do 10gbit over short distances. And it'll actually do speeds like that.

And you don't do networking over USB unless you've got a USB network adaptor. And those are useless unless you're desperate and lack a pci slot.

@People bitching about FW800:

FW800 is fully backwards compatible with FW400, you just need a cable with the right ends on it. And those cost almost nothing online. Seems to me that the FW people allowed themselves room to innovate and improve upon FW400 by changing the plug, as opposed to the stuff that the USB people are doing to maintain plug compatibility.

And I agree with Herby as far as USB not being even close to an optimal design. I don't really think that the rj45 stuff is a terribly good idea.

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