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USB 3.0-sporting devices start to appear... sort of

New-style portage spotted

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USB 3.0 hasn't yet been fully completed but it's implementation could come more quickly than its predecessor's did. Vendors are already starting to prepare their computer hardware for the new bus standard. Today, for example, we saw an upcoming Asus notebook with a pair of USB 3.0 ports.

Well, sort of. The ports are actually rated as USB 2.0 devices and didn't appear to have the extra pins required by the new version of the bus. However, the spaces where those pins will go were clearly present.

The standard USB 3 connectorThe standard USB 3 receptacle

USB 3 socket design

USB 3.0 ports look superficially like USB 1.1 and 2.0 sockets. The latter comprises a metal sleeve and plastic tongue on which are embossed four metal connections. With USB 3.0, however, the tongue has five tiny grooves cut into to to hold the extra contacts that will provide the bus' higher, 4.7Gb/s data transfer rate.

You can see the position of the extra pins in the diagram above. The two ports in Asus' M50 15in laptop showed the same 'crenellated' tongue, albeit without the connections.

The standard USB 3 connector

The USB 3.0 connector

Register Hardware has more USB 3.0 jack and socket pictures here.

What's interesting is that manufacturers like Asus are clearly building USB 3.0 infrastructure into their products already. This was easy with USB 2.0 since it used exactly the same connectors as USB 1.1. That's not the case with USB 3.0, with its retooled ports.

Interestingly, the M50 we looked at had three USB ports, but only two were of the USB 3.0 type. That suggests USB 3.0 won't immediately replace its predecessor, and vendors will offer products with a mixture of the two, presumably to keep costs down.

The Asus team demoing the M50 were unaware of the presence of the USB 3.0-ready ports on the machine. As yet, there's no release data for laptop, which will feature not only Intel's 45nm Core 2 Duo T9300 processor but also an Nvidia GeForce 9500M mobile GPU.

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