External hard drives have become truly massive; Western Digital, Seagate and others now sell 3TB drives, and Drobo allows up to 16TB of storage to be used in some models.
However, while many of these external storage devices support Firewire or eSATA, many are limited to relatively slow USB2 connections. Some Macs are also limited to USB2, such as the Macbook Air, leaving users stuck with a connection that can only push 30MB/s in an ideal situation. Mac users frequently report even lower speeds while running Mac OS X compared to the same machine running Windows.
While many users can get by with the slower USB2 connection, the bottleneck becomes apparent when large files need to be moved on or off the external drive, or when the user wishes to move all of their files from one drive to another; moving 3TB over a USB2 connection can take almost 2 days. Painful.
Relief is due to arrive at some point with USB3, which has a theoretical maximum transfer rate of 572MB/s, and a real world transfer rate of 250MB/s or higher, faster than just about all spinning disks and even many SSDs.
Unfortunately, Mac users will have to wait a bit longer for USB3 support to appear in Macs. A 9to5mac reader emailed Steve Jobs, wanting to know why it wasn’t possible to order a new Mac with a USB3 port, and got this reply:
We don’t see USB 3 taking off at this time. No support from Intel, for example.
Short, and to the point as usual.
So will Macs ever get USB3 support? Probably, however Apple and Intel are known to be working on a next generation connection system called Light Peak, in fact Engadget has previously reported that Apple is the one who brought the Light Peak idea to Intel in the first place.
Could Apple actually skip USB3 entirely in favor of Light Peak? The next 12 months could get very interesting, stay tuned!