Slow Road To Mac USB 3.0 Accessories and Peripherals | MacGizmoGuy Blog

Slow Road To Mac USB 3.0 Accessories and Peripherals

The debut of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports on Apple’s Mid-2012 MacBook models has been a long time in coming. It seems likely that before year’s end, we’ll see USB 3.0 iMac and Mac mini updates before the Holiday shopping season. The somewhat neglected Macintosh Pro is slated to get both ThunderBolt and USB 3.0 ports in early 2013. That’s the good news. USB 3.0 for Mac is well on it’s way to replace the decade-old USB 2.0 standard, while still maintaining backward compatibility with slower, legacy USB 2.0 gadgets.

USB 3.0 MacBook Air

$999 11.6" Display

USB 3.0 MacBook Pro 13"

Dual USB3-USB2 Ports

USB 3.0 Retina Display MacBook

New Ultra-Thin NoteBook

The bad news is the transition to a Mac SuperSpeed future is going to have a slow ramp-up phase, with some nasty glitches and got-cha’s along the way. For example, the Digital Music creation market is finding some of their legacy USB 2.0 audio hardware is not playing nice on either PC or Mac USB 3.0 ports even though they’re supposed to be fully backward compatible.

At least the external hard drive market embraced USB 3.0 whole-heartedly last year. As a result, most new backup drives now incorporate USB 3.0 as the defacto standard interface - usable on older and current systems - and ready to plug into the SuperSpeed future. That’s a good thing and anyone pondering a Mac backup drive solution ought to make sure it has USB 3.0 to ‘future-proof’ their purchase. The downside - as the Windows market already learned - is that in spite of USB 3.0’s Ten-Fold theoretical bandwidth increase over USB2, the real-world performance doesn’t come anywhere close to the specs on paper. Part of that is simply the limitations of mechanical hard drives which can’t fully leverage USB 3.0’s bandwidth potential. So realistically expect backing up your Mac to cut your data transfers and backup times in half, but no where near ‘a 10th of the time’ we were all hoping for. Solid-State SSD backup drives do leverage USB 3.0 bandwidth a lot better - but unless you can fit your Mac data onto a 120GB or 240GB SSD, you might find the more impressive performance of flash memory drives over USB 3.0 to be a bit too pricey.

There are USB 3.0 card readers that work well on a new Mac, however you’ll find most SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards don’t have data Read/Write speeds that can keep up with a USB3 port anyways. Other devices like USB keyboards, mice and graphics tablets simply don’t have the ability - nor the need - to max out USB 2.0 speeds, let alone USB 3.0.

Things get more interesting in the Audio-Video market, where USB 3.0 accessories for A/V enviroments can and will take advantage of USB 3.0 for high-bandwidth, low-latency needs like multi-channel audio and high-definition HD video streams.