Testing with the same hard drive, we're AMAZED at how much faster USB 3.0 is compared to USB 2.0 in real throughput.
When USB 2.0 was announced it sported a then speedy data transfer speed of up to 480 Mbit/s in one direction at a time (60 MB/s). That was almost 10 years ago and the use of USB 2.0 to transfer data to and from today's large external hard drives means it takes a long time to fill these drives with data -- although only the fastest external hard drives saturate the link speed of USB 2.0.
In early 2010, new USB 3.0 devices such as the Western Digital My Book 3.0 1TB external hard drive are starting to be released and available to buy from retailers promising "Super speed" file transfers up to ten times faster than USB 2.0.
At first look the My Book 3.0 looks dead boring, with a bland black case. Unlike other WD external hard drives this one only has a small white indicator light, rather than an external gauge to indicate how much storage space is left or an E-Ink label.
USB 3.0 achieves its faster two-way full-duplex speeds (USB 1.1 and 2.0 were half-duplex) partly through the use of a new thicker cable. You can still plug it into a standard USB 2.0 port as the plug is the same size and shape as before, but it won't work at top speed.
The version we tested was a complete solution with 1TB drive and a two-port PCI Express USB 3.0
adaptor. Western Digital also sells the drive standalone for buyers who
already have their own USB3 adaptor card.
Intel is unlikely to include onboard USB 3.0 in standard motherboard chipsets until next year -- though there are already motherboards out with a variety of third-party chipsets that handle USB 3.0.
When it comes to drivers, Linux has had USB 3.0 support since late 2009 but all versions of Windows including (surprisingly) the newly released Windows 7 need additional third party drivers. Mac owners will have to stick with Firewire 800 for now as OS X doesn't have any USB 3.0 support yet. Given Apple's penchant for dumping old ports for new, it can't be far behind with releasing a USB 3.0-compatible Mac.