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USB 3.0 Makes a Big Difference

When I bought two Lenovo notebooks last year — a T520 and an X220 Tablet — one of my regrets was that I had to buy immediately and couldn’t wait for the USB 3.0 versions of those models to become available. Last week I learned that my regrets were well-founded. Thanks to the Mushkin Ventura Pro 64 GB USB stick I picked up in May, and an el cheapo ($28) StarTech PCI Express USB 3.0 adapter I grabbed from Newegg in early June, I was finally able to try out the speed difference between built-in USB 2.0 ports and a budget add-in USB 3.0 device.

UFD on left, USB 3.0 adapter on the right.

Using USB 2.0, the Mushkin UFD (USB Flash Disk) runs at ~30 MB/sec: not bad for a USB 2.0 flash device. I observed a 6-fold boost on the X220 Tablet using PCI express for USB 3.0. Where I’d been seeing rates of around 30.1 – 30.3 MB/sec for USB 2.0, it jumped to180 MB/sec using USB 3.0.

I routinely take my sizable Outlook Archive.pst file with me when I go on the road. This morning it’s about 9.19 GB in size on my D: drive. It used to take 8-9 minutes to copy that file from the hard drive to the UFD; now it takes just over a minute for the file transfer to complete. This may not sound like much of a difference to some readers, but for me this is huge, simply because I usually wait until the morning I travel to grab my PST files to take with me on the road, along with my traveling laptop for that trip.

Even more impressive are the speed gains when it comes to backing up my machines. A RecImg image snapshot for my Windows 8 machines usually takes half an hour or so to complete, and a full backup might run 10 minutes longer. Using the USB 3.0 interface, those times go down to under 7 minutes and under 9 minutes, respectively. Since I often have to wait for a backup to complete to use a machine for something else, these time savings are pretty worthwhile — to me, at least. Whether or not you can justify a $55 flash drive and a $28 interface card to your boss, if you’re in this pretty typical situation, is up to you to find out. But if you can swing it, I believe you’ll find the time savings that result to be worthwhile as well.

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