USB 3.1 Demoed: Blazing 10 Gbps Transfers Beats SSDs

Many of us still don't have laptops with USB 3.0, but the USB Implementers Forum is already hard at work on USB 3.1, also  known as SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps. Though the new standard was just completed in July, the group was able to show us a working demo of  USB 3.1 at Intel Developers Forum this week.

A USB IF representative showed us a desktop computer with a specially-made PCI card that had DDR3 memory and a USB 3.1 host on it. As we watched, the rep ran the ATTO disk benchmark, using the DDR memory as a storage drive and we saw transfer rates close to 900 MBps. The organization used DDR3 memory rather than an SSD for the demo, because typical SSDs top out at 550 MBps while RAM disks can achieve much higher transfer rates. 

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Though the demo unit was only transferring data within the PCI card rather than to an external drive, it was still using the USB 3.1 standard to do reads and writes. The current USB 3.0 standard tops out at 5 Gbps, which is not enough to communicate with a speedy RAID array, control multiple high speed peripherals or stream uncompressed 4K video (DisplayLink can compress 4K video that outputs to a monitor even over USB 2).

According to USB IF President Jeff Ravencraft, USB 3.1 will require a new kind of USB cable that will be backward compatible with prior versions of USB, though it will require US B 3.1 on both ends in order to achieve the higher transfer rates. He said that is likely that USB 3.1 cables will also support USB Power Delivery, another new standard that allow for up to 100 watts of power -- enough to power a laptop -- to be delivered over USB.

The USB IF also demoed USB Power Delivery, showing a specially-modified Dell laptop that was receiving all of its power while sending out HD video over a single USB connection to a dock. This is the same sample laptop the USB IF demonstrated at CES 2013, but there it was connected to a monitor with a built-in hub and here it was connected to a modified Targus dock.

When vendors start developing cables, laptops or peripherals that support USB 3.1, they will be able to submit them to the USB  IF for certification and, if they pass, they will carry a SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps logo. 

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.