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Apple may add USB 3.0 to Macs before Intel

updated 09:00 pm EDT, Thu September 1, 2011

Apple could embrace USB 3 sooner than expected

Apple might not only be still open to USB 3.0 but willing to add it before Intel does on its own, sources divulged Thursday. The company has reportedly been investigating third party USB 3.0 host controller chips now that the prices of these are negligible, at below $3. Its timing wasn't certain to VR-Zone informants but would preempt Intel's Panther Point chipset, which will officially add USB 3.0 sometime in the spring.

Despite many making assumptions that Apple would want to pick Thunderbolt over USB 3.0 because of its involvement in the former, the faster USB port would be welcome as a complement to Thunderbolt, not a threat or a replacement. A Thunderbolt controller is more expensive at $10 to $15 per chip, but it also needs a corresponding chip on the device and raises the cost even as it limits the types of devices available. USB 3.0 would, as a result, still be useful as a catch-all for faster devices that don't need Thunderbolt in addition to the USB 2.0 devices it would inherently recognize.

Apple may be aware of Thunderbolt's current obstacles, the sources added. Apple is supposedly talking directly with some of its hardware partners, most likely early Thunderbolt supporters, to have them develop external drives more suited to the home or to small companies. What few Thunderbolt devices are on the market are usually high-end, multi-drive RAID storage arrays, such as the Promise Pegasus array and LaCie's Thunderbolt version of the Little Big Disk. Home users wouldn't necessarily need Thunderbolt, but it could help with external single-drive SSDs or multi-drive boxes with rotating hard disks working in a RAID stripe.

The rumor, while not yet corroborated, would reflect a possible sense at Apple that it's being left behind. Many Windows PC builders already include one or more USB 3.0 ports, especially newer AMD-based systems where the chipset has native support. USB 3.0 hasn't been completely embraced because, in part, of Intel's hesitance to support the technology itself. Without Panther Point, PC builders have to buy controller chips and are often limited in how many USB ports they can or are willing to support, in many cases leaving just a few or even one port running at the spec's full 5Gbps.

by MacNN Staff



  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969


    time machine

    if anyone has ever tried to deal with a backup restore or other crisis management losing a day to the limits of usb2 when $3 more would allow usb3 seems a bit daft.

    now about the sata3 issues with macbook pros - wtf? we pay $2~$3k and are stuck on sata2

    ...has apple has dropped the ball on pro hardware??? one can't say Apple doesn't have the financial resources nor arguably the best talent in the sector - personally I haven't had a pro system fully functional since 10.4.11...

  1. simon42

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple may add USB 3.0 to Macs after every other ha

    better late than never. Even Intel-branded motherboards have it.

  1. imNat-imadouche

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Stuff that

    I'm either buying USB2 or USB3 devices over thunderbolt anyday. no telling when Apple will s**** us over like the FW400 fiasco

  1. revco

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Cook's influence?

    Maybe this is Cook wanting to add USB3. Maybe he'll add Blu-ray support as well. Maybe the bag of hurt left with steve?

  1. Zanziboy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Thunderbolt still required

    USB 3.0 is a nice addition to the Mac architecture as it is a logical successor to USB 2.0. However, Thunderbolt, which is a logical replacement for Firewire, is still necessary. Thunderbolt provides SAN-level throughput without a heavy CPU penalty. Recent drive benchmarks support this approach compared to USB 3.0 alone. So, I do not see USB 3.0 support as a strategy shift, rather a realization that USB devices (such as cheap external drives) will soon default to USB 3.0. Video and audio professionals will still need Thunderbolt.

  1. viktorob

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I Hope so.

    Thunderbolt is perfect, the problem is that thunderbolt devices are extremely expensive for a regular user.
    I was waiting to buy a new iMac with thunderbolt, but the less expensive thunderbolt drive I found cost $999.99 (promise Raid).
    I can get that speed from a $300 SSD or other USB 3 drive.
    Since thunderbolt is a external PCI way more faster than USB 3.0, I think Apple will came out with an external adapter, and I really hope they do.

  1. wrenchy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: I Hope so.

    >>>I was waiting to buy a new iMac with thunderbolt, but the less expensive thunderbolt drive I found cost $999.99 (promise Raid).

    Just wait. I heard Cupertino was "Outing" a thunderbolt storage device with a WD or Seagate drive. They were charging something like $1998.95. But because it's a brushed aluminum clad TB drive with an Apple logo on the top, I'm sure you think it's a real bargain.

    Great for Apple for keeping those record profits up!

    Because even they know, there's one born every minute.

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Good rumor

    I like this rumor. Other rumors have suggested that Apple was avoiding USB 3..0 to push Thunderbolt. That makes no sense. It's like an automaker in the 1950s not installing radios in its cars in the hope that'd make air conditioning more popular. The two have different purposes and, unlike Firewire, Thunderbolt is useful and versatile enough to stand on its own. I plan to upgrade both my desktop and laptop next year, and when I do, I want them to have both interfaces.

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