back to article USB 3.1 demo shows new spec well on its way towards 1.2GB/sec goal

At CES this January, Jeff Ravencraft, the president and chief operating officer of the USB Implementers Forum USB-IF), told The Reg that the unfortunately named "SuperSpeed" USB 3.0 would double its throughput from 5Gb/sec to 10Gb/sec in its 3.1 incarnation. We recently sat down with him again and saw it in action. The demo …

COMMENTS

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  1. Cliffodemus

    if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One, it was SCSI.

    And that's after you've sorted out all the bent pins and termination problems. I still have an unused UW SCSI card in my junk box, fortunately SATA, SAS and the lack of PCI slots in modern hardware have made it obsolete.

    1. Cliff

      Re: if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One, it was SCSI.

      Pronounced 'scuzzy' it was never going to be a beauty, was it?

      1. Rik Myslewski
        Headmaster

        Re: if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One, it was SCSI.

        If I remember correctly – and it's entirely possible that I don't – IBM preferred that it be pronounced "sexy".

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Cliff Re: if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One...

        "....it was never going to be a beauty...." I have to downvote as I was never interested in the prettiness of a solution, just the reliability and performance, and SCSI more than did it's job back in the day. We still have ten-year-old DAS SCSI units cheerfully grinding away 24x7 attached to old RAID cards. Indeed, SAS is just modernised SCSI (admittedly with better connectors).

        1. bag o' spanners
          Happy

          Re: Cliff if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One...

          I still have an Adaptec SCSI 3 68pin twin channel card running on a Supermicro P3 era mobo. It refuses to die. The ancient 10k 36gig Barracudas attached to it occasionally wheeze and splutter, but they have yet to give up the ghost, unlike the Quantums which lasted about a year on average. In its day (98-2002) it was the only sensible option for reliable hard disk recording on PCs, and standalone boxes from the likes of Akai and Roland. In terms of robustness and transfer speeds, it wiped the floor with IDE right up to the introduction of SATA. The price premium was worth paying if you were multitracking digital audio or rendering anything larger than a smiley gif. Admittedly, the first couple of iterations were evil, especially the 50pin version, but once it reached SCSI3, it was simplicity itself to set up and run an external array in a silenced coolbox.. Noisy, but nice.

          1. RobHib
            Pint

            @bag o' spanners -- Re: Cliff if there were ever etc. etc ...was the work of the Evil One.

            Except essentially for the mobo, I could have written this myself. I've an ancient machine still running the same Adaptec SCSI. But all original drives have died including 20GB Quantums and WD Raptors. However, it outshone IDE by miles.

            SCSI was of its time and it was reliable. The reason SCSI wasn't truly popular at the consumer level was that it was made expensive (and overly complicated) by the likes of Adaptec and Atto et al--no decent cheap mobo silicon etc.

            Well, these greedy buggers have paid the price, SATA's trounced 'em through marketability (and I'll drink to that).

            P.S.: In all my SCSI experience, I've never really experienced any significant problems (noise etc.) from terminations, even when unterminated, even back in the days of ancient SCSI 1.0 when in-line strips of terminating resistors plugged into the drive PWAs.

            1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

              Re: SATA

              "SATA's trounced 'em through marketability (and I'll drink to that)."

              I'll raise one to affordability, but technical side...needs a big bottle for quenching despair.

        2. FrankAlphaXII

          Re: Cliff if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One...

          >>I have to downvote as I was never interested in the prettiness of a solution, just the reliability and performance, and SCSI more than did it's job back in the day

          Have to agree with you there Matt. SCSI worked, and your old SCSI drives probably even still work if you can find a way to power and interface them.

          I have several Hard Drives from a 512K(!) Mac* that are about four years younger than I am. The last time I tested them, they still worked just fine. Better and more reliable than the crappy Seagate drives behind my modern Windows, BSD, and Linux installs, but I guess they don't make em like they used to, at least not reliability wise, they're just a hell of a lot larger in capacity by some orders of magnitude. Then again, ATA in either variety has never been the most reliable. Good enough, certainly, but not the best.

          *- It was also my first "real" computer. Probably the first truly useful Mac as well, and I believe the first production model Mac with a color display. Some Apple historian would have to tell you for sure. I was 10 years old and I can't say I really cared much about the technical specifics when a family friend gave it to me, a computer was a computer (they still cost as much as a used car back then) and it sure as hell beat the 486 that my neighbors had, even if it was a good deal slower.

        3. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

          Re: Cliff if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One...

          Only the original SCSI cables which looked like an overgrow Centronics connector were the work of the devil. Once they went to next generation you had to be a little careful not to bend pins, but it never seemed like rocket science and once in the plugs stayed in (unlike the overgrown Centronics ones), especially if you had the screw in versions, but I never lost even one of the clip ones. The later higher density ones never gave me any trouble, unless you count PCI cards with two SCSI connectors sitting side by side so you needed to special super narrow on 1 side plugs to fit in.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes but the cable socket will be 6" wide.

    3. EddieD

      Re: if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One, it was SCSI.

      "SCSI is *not* magic. There are *fundamental* *technical* *reasons* why you have to sacrifice a young goat to your SCSI chain every now and then."

      John F. Woods (jfw@funhouse.com)

      1. Slartybardfast

        Re: if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One, it was SCSI.

        It was a bit of a pain but given the alternatives it was wonderful at the time. I'm taking about the original parallel version here not the the much later serial/fibre reboots.

        I helped design an image store running on a DEC 11/73 and I had six 850mb 8in Winchester drives sitting in an adjacent cabinet to the CPU. SCSI was our saviour, one cable to connect them all together and back to the main unit. It worked very well and considering the alternative interfaces available it was very neat. It was also easy to diagnose any problems using a logic analyser.

      2. Ted Treen
        Coat

        Re: if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One, it was SCSI.

        @EddieD

        "to sacrifice a young goat"

        (Gasp!) Surely you can't mean one of the kids..?

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

          Re: if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One, it was SCSI.

          Gives a whole new meaning to "Think of the children".

    4. Captain Save-a-ho
      Coat

      Re: if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One, it was SCSI.

      Meh. Anyone who's anyone knows that one cable standard could ever be the Devil's handy work: Tip and Ring. Think about that closely.

      Ahem, about that coat...

    5. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Apples and Oranges

      I'm sorry, but the idea behind SCSI and USB are totally different. SCSI was meant to connect data-processing equipment like harddisks, printers, scanners and so on via high speed connections. That's why it's fairly well designed and has termination and all those nice things you want to have. It's only problem was that it was parallel which makes it have the typical problems of wiring.

      USB on the other hand is mostly used for low speed connections and charging the battery of your phone. There is a data aspect of USB, but that is just as hard as SCSI to get reliable.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Apples and Oranges

        > SCSI was meant to connect data-processing equipment like harddisks, printers, scanners and so on via high speed connections

        The catch there is that "high speed" in this case is from the perspective of someone in the 1970s.

        My USB devices run circles around any of the SCSI2 devices I ever had to deal with.

        > There is a data aspect of USB, but that is just as hard as SCSI to get reliable.

        You're on crack.

    6. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: if there were ever a cabling construct that was the work of the Evil One, it was SCSI.

      Lucas, Prince of Darkness can not be surpassed so easily. Especially by some fuzzy-wuzzy.

      There are more demons of the ancient world. Vampires of Thickernet. S/370 channel extenders. And a lot of creatures whose names have long been forgotten - or they have not had names of their own, instead being identified solely as servants of their evil masters.

    7. Daniel B.
      Boffin

      SCSI bad?

      Really, it is the lack of SCSI that made me start suffering from stuff I wasn't used to. I mostly used SCSI due to our heavy Mac usage back in the late 80's and early 90's, and it was far better than IDE/PATA. We could have 6 HDDs on a SCSI-toting Mac vs. 2 HDDs on a PC, especially in the "no secondary IDE" dark ages. No weird fumbling with jumpers, just set the SCSI ID on the HDDs and you're done.

      Also, as others have mentioned, it was much more reliable, there's a reason high end stuff stayed on SCSI until SAS came out. Hell, the entire SAN concept was based on SCSI because it was robust enough to do that and iSCSI is the underlying protocol for most, if not all SANs.

      1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

        Re: SCSI bad?

        and iSCSI is the underlying protocol for most, if not all SANs.

        Errrrrrrrrrr is it?

        News to me.

        or did you mean "SCSI" rather than "iSCSI"

        all the real SANs I've worked on have used FC and there's no need for the IP layer there.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: SCSI bad?

          Agreed. SCSI protocol over various physical transports (FC, SCSI, SAS, even SSA) made SANs what they are today. Or in case of iSCSI, SCSI commands run over TCP/IP protocol running on Ethernet.

  2. Cliff

    Thundercats

    I wonder if our fapple friends will keep pushing the technically interesting but massively expensive and inconvenient thunderbolt technology? After all it's in their interest to keep people away from cheap and easy well adopted standards...at least until they can invent it themselves.

    Remember how long they clung to the admittedly reasonable FireWire standard even though it was clear the whole world was walking the other way towards USB?

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Thundercats

      USB 2 is a crude extension of a protocol made for mice, keyboards, and cheap thumb drives that were meant to replace floppy disks. There's a lot that it can't do by design. It can't transfer at high speeds efficiently and it must operate in a master/slave configuration. It could not join multiple high speed components that need to talk to each other, and that is where FireWire became the standard.

      I haven't read all of the USB 3 spec but it claims to solve a lot USB 2's issues. The only downside is the fat cable and fat connector caused by USB 2 and USB 3 wiring needing to exist side-by-side. It's still only 5V so power sourcing remains a problem. Light Peak was supposed to free us from fat cables but Intel dropped the ball. It's a shame because two 18V power wires and a little bundle of fiber optics would have made for very small and powerful cables.

      1. p3ngwin1

        Re: Thundercats

        "It's still only 5V so power sourcing remains a problem."

        not sure what you mean, as Thunderbolt is 10 Watts and USB3 already is 4.5 Watts (5V @ 900ma) with forthcoming USB3 spec providing 100Watts

        http://www.pcauthority.com.au/News/296801,new-usb-standard-offers-up-to-100-watts-of-power.aspx

    2. Len Silver badge

      Re: Thundercats

      You don't seem to remember well.

      Apple dumped all legacy serial and parallel ports in 1998 in favour of USB, long before many others dumped those old ports. Remember that awful Apple puck mouse? That atrocity existed for the sole reason that no manufacturer made USB mice yet when Apple moved exclusively to USB.

      In other words, Apple has always provided USB alongside Firewire. USB for the cheap and cheerful slow connections like mice, printers, scanners etc. and Firewire for high-bandwidth, low latency and low overhead usage. And even today millions of professional users use FIrewire for their video and audio editing purposes because even USB 3.0 doesn't deliver a low-latency, low-overhead connection. Furthermore, USB doesn't show any serious ambitions to ever cater to that crowd, it's a cheap consumer standard that is just 'good enough' for many purposes. Thunderbolt is a professional standard that just like Firewire will work just fine alongside USB. Nobody gives a f*ck about $30 cables to connect a $4K audio device, the cost of cables is negligible.

      The next decade will be USB3 for consumers, USB3 + Thunderbolt for power users.

      1. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Re: Thundercats

        "You don't seem to remember well."

        Apple didn't use parallel, printers like the imagewriter were RS422.

        Keyboards and Mice were Apple Desktop Bus.

        So Apple didn't dump legacy ports that PC kept, they dumped stupid proprietary ports for industry standard ports.

        1. handle

          "fat connector"

          The USB3 A-type connector is exactly the same size as the USB2 A-type connector, and forwards compatible.

          The micro USB3 connector is an abomination though, I'll grant you.

        2. JEDIDIAH

          Re: Thundercats

          What Apple did was screw over it's loyal users by forcing a switch that didn't really need to happen.

          They also dumped SCSI? Was that a "proprietary" port too?

          That's kind of like the problem with Thunderbolt. If you are lucky enough to have kit new enough to have a TB port, you can't use any of that new gear to connect to anything else. That includes Macs as well as PCs. Having a PCIe slot doesn't matter either as you can't get a TB interface on one of those.

          Apple is great at forcing ugly, expensive, and unecessary transitions.

      2. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Thundercats

        > And even today millions of professional users use FIrewire

        I rather doubt you are in any position to talk for those people. You're just another fanboy repeating someone else's marketing propaganda. You also seem really butthurt that Apple's annointed standard was completely displaced by USB as far as any normal person can tell.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Thundercats

      >Remember how long they clung to the admittedly reasonable FireWire standard even though it was clear the whole world was walking the other way towards USB?

      And do you remember how long FireWire was around before before the mass adoption of USB 2.0? And FireWire stuck around for a long time afterwards, because people had invested money in scanners, digital camcorders and high quality sound cards.

      Anyway, USB 3.1 isn't a rival to ThunderBolt - it isn't much use for expanding the capabilities of a laptop, tablet, or indeed a small desktop (new Mac Pro) - OCuLink is.

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/13/pci_sig_discusses_m_pcie_oculink_and_fourth_gen_pcie/

    4. Volker Hett

      Re: Thundercats

      Do you mean the company who was first with USB instead of legacy connectors on that funky translucent 15" all in one computer? The one which has Thunderbolt and USB 3 in all but one of its current Computers?

  3. Tom 35 Silver badge

    So what will they call USB 3.1?

    How about ludicrous speed? SuperSpeed+ is kind of dull sounding.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: So what will they call USB 3.1?

      How about Ultra Speed Bonkers? Then it would be USB 3.1 USB.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: So what will they call USB 3.1?

        After impossible speed ?

        You have to go to plaid

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So what will they call USB 3.1?

      'Fu*k me this b*tch is hot'

      Maybe?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So what will they call USB 3.1?

      How about "A Bit Faster Than Last Time"

      One should always leave room for improvement!

  4. channel extended

    I call it.............

    The new super duper USB 3.1

    Next comes the pooper scooper speed!

  5. Lusty Silver badge

    We're gonna need a bigger boat...

    USB 3.1 may be able to transfer uncompressed 4k video but BluRay is currently (based on a very quick look at Novatech) limited to 15x drives, or 67.5MB/s (540Mb/s). I take this to mean that SSD (no, not SD) will be the normal media for ultra high def movies so I may as well stop buying these obsolete disks now...

  6. John Tserkezis

    Er, if it actually works as advertised, it should be called USB v10. But it won't, or at least, I'm not holding my breath.

    USB 3.0, with a core backbone speed ten times faster than USB 2, can barely come up to three times faster in real life tests - not bullshit theoretical numbers plucked from the air.

    In theory, you can say anything you like, just don't expect me to believe you.

    In practice, I expect that USB 3.1 will approach speeds that USB 3.0 could only approach in theory.

  7. Arctic fox
    Coat

    ".that all users of that vile technology are actually worshipers of Satan."

    My apologies for an off topic digression but I was reminded of an old joke about a dyslexic devil worshipper who was utterly crushed when he realised he had sold his soul to Santa. I know, see icon.

  8. Suricou Raven

    Niches

    Firewire lives on as the interface of choice for AV peripherals, as it can offer reliably low latency and guaranted delivery.

    Thunderbolt may just be the new firewire: A bit pricy, but still used for things like external tape drives, video capture, high-speed cameras and scientific equipment where it's important that every frame of data makes it intact without something else on the bus pre-empting.

  9. Adam Jarvis

    Lightning without Thunderbolt, it could never happen could it?

    Apple might stuggle to dump Thunderbolt, given they have named their new connector Lightning. 'USB 3.1 and Lightning, is very, very frightning' doesn't have the same ring to it, somehow.

  10. Sureo

    Sigh...

    I just got USB 3.0 on my computer and now its obsolete.

  11. Slap

    Thunderbolt is dead?

    Ok maybe not, but if USB 3.1 can produce the speeds it's claiming then the reasons to buy thunderbolt devices have just reduced quite considerably. True, that specialist task which depends on minimal latency may be better served with thunderbolt, but for the rest of us there's no point in paying extra for thunderbolt devices,. Hell, even with USB 3 there's no point coughing up 3 times as much for a thunderbolt enabled HD.

    I'm sorry, but thunderbolt was a good idea screwed up by licensing costs.

  12. JeevesMkII
    Terminator

    The tridents mean that USB is in league with Satan...

    But all the terminators show SCSI was in league with Skynet. QED.

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: The tridents mean that USB is in league with Satan...

      Poseidon claims prior art on that.

  13. P. Lee Silver badge

    The question is...

    Why is thunderbolt so expensive and USB cheap if Intel is doing them both?

    My guess would be that anyone who needs those high-speeds will probably want a reasonable amount of reliability, not just speed. Will a cheap cable be good enough? For current usage, I've never found my mouse or keyboard or webcam to be too slow. I've plugged my mouse into an apple keyboard USB 1 port and not noticed any speed difference. Most of my TV is SD and that's actually fine too. HD is slightly better but I'm not that bothered.

    TB is full duplex, so you can read and write 10Gb/s at the same time, so that's already twice as fast as the next version of USB. Perhaps not too much of an issue if you're just unloading your film collection, but not useful for an external disk array, that's for sure.

    I doubt the problem is the tech or the real cost. I suspect the problem is companies trying to profit from clueless Mac owners.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: The question is...

      If USB 3 is anything like USB 2, you won't get anywhere near the nominal speed.

      I have some FireWire hard drives. They run about 5 times faster on FireWire than on a nominally faster USB 2 connection.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: The question is...@jonathanb

        Please provide details of you setup and how you managed 5x faster runs on FW, thank you.

        My experience is that USB2 gives 30+ MB/s and FW800 cannot even triple that number.

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: The question is...@jonathanb

          Setup is a Macbook with a 2.5" external hard drive with Firewire and USB 2 ports. I have a few drives from different manufacturers. Time measured is the total time to move a large video in either direction between internal and external drive.

    2. johnnymotel

      expensive thunderbolt?

      My guess is not so much gullible Mac users, it's the various companies knowing where their market is. For a post production house, buying into TB is simply another cost to pass on to the client. Same goes for professional photographers, videographers etc. I would love to have all my drives on TB, but my work is for non-profit, so I cannot justify the cost. FW or USB3 is fine by me.

      So my guess is that a company like LaCie etc, simply take a FW/USB drive box, modify it and tag on an extra 100-200 just because they know that the customer for TB is a business and a few extra bucks mean nothing.

      My brother ran his own joinery shop, he always bought the top gear, because the client paid in the end.

    3. Suricou Raven

      Re: The question is...

      There are a few reasons.

      1. USB3 is already incorporated into some of the standard chipsets that mainboards are built around.

      2. Thunderbolt takes one PCIe lane per port. USB3 takes one for the lot.

      3. Thunderbolt is very, very electrically delicate - that's why it needs active cables and a lot of screening. It takes great care in board layout and extensive testing to make sure it is reliable.

      4. USB3 is established, which means economy of scale in manufacture.

    4. Annihilator

      Re: The question is...

      USB3.x remains a discrete device at the end of a PCI express lane. Thunderbolt is entwined with the motherboard and is forced to carry the video signal of the motherboard to be deemed compliant.

      Ever wondered why you can't get Thunderbolt add-on cards but USB ones are ubiquitous?

  14. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Users

    For ANY standard to become adopted generally it has to be cheap enough for ordinary users, not high level pro users. If it isn't adopted generally there will never be enough devices that require it.

    And for USB 3.1 that means lots of devices that require those speeds for general uses- which may never happen.

    How many ordinary small office/home users even need to use USB 3.0?

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: Users

      > How many ordinary small office/home users even need to use USB 3.0?

      Perhaps those who want to write a lot of data files to a USB 2.0 device?

      Those who actually back up their data and who had to let it run overnight...

      1. Lusty Silver badge

        Re: Users

        "Perhaps those who want to write a lot of data files to a USB 2.0 device?

        Those who actually back up their data and who had to let it run overnight..."

        True, but unless they are backing up to SSD then USB 3.1 will not give even these people any benefit as standard drives can't keep up with USB 3.0

  15. handle

    4K is a temperature

    4k video is the correct term.

    1. Lusty Silver badge

      Re: 4K is a temperature

      Who are you trying to correct? Every instance of 4k on the article and the comments says 4k Video. Unless you have a problem with the caps, in which case the whole computing industry must be maddening for you to the point you should probably leave it since Kb and KB are the way we roll :)

      1. Daniel B.
        Trollface

        Re: 4K is a temperature

        ssssh .... pedantry with K and k means he'll soon come out with the kirbybytes and argue that 1 kB = 1000 and not 1024... that path leads to the daaark side!

  16. Graham Marsden
    Black Helicopters

    I'm surprised...

    ... the US hasn't demanded that this be banned because it lets whistle-blowers illicitly download files even quicker....

  17. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    Thunderbolt isn't competing with USB.

    The two are apples and oranges: Thunderbolt 2 (which is the version in the announced, but not yet launched, new Mac Pro) is already at 20 Gbits/sec and is part video port, part data port.

    However, the crucial difference is in the way they connect with devices at each end: Thunderbolt is, to all intents and purposes, a PCI bus on a rope. That's why each port requires a PCI lane. It interfaces with the computer (or peripheral) at a lower level than USB.

    Thunderbolt, like Firewire, also does all the heavy lifting itself; your computer's CPU is therefore not bothered with running the protocol at all. USB, on the other hand, requires the CPU does some of the work. For consumers, the difference is academic, but for many professionals, anything that reduces valuable CPU capacity for their own projects is a big no-no. Why spend eye-wateing sums of cash on a high-end Xeon CPU and waste even a fraction of that power on USB processing overheads?

    With USB, the CPU has to not only handle video data compression for my video editor application, but it also has to set aside some of its time to handle some of USB's duties during file transfers. This lengthens the time required for that video work, which is the work that actually *pays my bills*.

    With Firewire or Thunderbolt, the CPU is *entirely* free to work on *my* stuff, not the connector's. My computer is therefore helping to make me more money per second. If I have to pay a one-off €29.99 for a cable to ensure that, I won't even blink at the cost as I know I'll make it back within a day or two.

    So, no, Thunderbolt won't be a big consumer connection standard. Neither was Firewire. But the latter had its place in the high end prosumer and professional markets, and so will the former.

    Last time I checked, Apple were rather fond of targeting both those markets. That's where the profits are.

  18. Daniel B.

    External RAID

    I've been fiddling with the idea of setting up an external RAID for my VM labs. USB would just not cut it, I already tried it and it is slower than simply using a big HDD, and there the advantage is lost. TB can handle the data rates for a decent ZFS pool and give me enough storage for it to be worth carrying an external box. Yes, they cost $700 so it's going to be a while before I buy one but at least I do see why I would choose a TB port, even if I don't do external SSDs.

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