ad info
   personal technology

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards




PC World

USB breaks speed barriers

October 19, 1999
Web posted at: 11:18 a.m. EDT (1518 GMT)

by David Essex usb graphic

(IDG) -- By this time next year, Universal Serial Bus ports and peripherals could be 40 times faster than current hardware -- if a standard proposed this week lives up to its billing.

USB 2.0's "target speed" of 480 megabits per second will make the fast-emerging Plug-and-Play standard a viable connection for video cameras and other high-speed devices that currently must use 1394 (or 'FireWire') ports, analysts and USB supporters say.

Ports supporting the current USB 1.1 have become commonplace on new PCs, and dozens of USB peripherals -- mostly scanners and printers that run fine at the slower 12-mbps speed -- have come out in the past year.

  PC World home page
  No-hassle hookups
  Will USB 2.0 douse FireWire?
  How to add USB ports to your old PC
 Reviews & in-depth info at
 *'s desktop PC page's portable PC page's Windows software page's personal news page
  Year 2000 World
  Questions about computers? Let's editors help you
  Subscribe to's free daily newsletter for computer geniuses (& newbies)
  Search in 12 languages
 News Radio
 * Fusion audio primers
 * Computerworld Minute

But the road has been rocky. Adequate operating system support did not arrive until the 1998 release of Windows 98, and Windows NT still does not come with USB drivers. Quirky PC circuitry and a lack of standards compliance (and thus interoperability) among products have also made USB harder to use.

But promoters of the new standard -- including such heavyweights as Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Microsoft -- hope to remedy that with stricter enforcement, says Anne Bui, a research analyst at IDC. "They recognize the mistakes they made with the 1.1 version," Bui says.

Feel the speed

USB 2.0 will give birth in the second half of next year to a new generation of high-speed peripherals with broadband Internet links, higher resolutions, and faster performance, the USB 2.0 Promoter Group claims.

That means consumers will be able to download a "roll" of film into a digital camera in seconds rather than minutes, and the time required for backups to USB hard drives will drop from a half hour to a minute. You'll be able to connect USB 2.0 hardware to 1.1 devices, but both devices will need USB 2.0 to get the higher speeds.

USB 2.0 will be about 10 percent faster than the competing Firewire until the next 1394 standard arrives early next year, says Rob Enderle, an analyst at GIGA Information Group. Still, it's cheaper for hardware makers to support one standard, and 1394's main champions, Apple and Sony, lack the clout of USB's backers.

Enderle predicts most vendors will pick USB 2.0. "It expands the capacity of USB so that you can use broadband devices, which was the whole reason for 1394 to exist."

In a statement posted at its Web site, however, the USB organization says the two technologies are complementary, with 1394 likely to continue as the dominant connector for audio-visual consumer equipment.

Get in the (video) game with GameCam
October 6, 1999
Survey: The future of PCs
August 20, 1999

Will USB 2.0 douse FireWire?
FireWire rekindles on Windows PCs
(PC World Online)
Fast chips need fast USB, RAM
(PC World Online)
USB: 111 peripherals on one PC!
(PC World Online)
How to add USB ports to your old PC
(PC World Online)
No-hassle hookups
(PC World Online)
Year 2000 World
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Intel Corp. USB information page
1394 Trade Association
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.