Freecom to Sell Early USB 3.0 Portable Drive

Freecom on Thursday introduced one of the earliest devices based on the USB 3.0 standard: a portable hard drive that provides faster data-transfer rates compared to drives based on the older USB 2.0 standard.

The Hard Drive XS 3.0 is one of the earliest devices to be released based on the USB 3.0 standard, which transfers data between devices nearly 10 times quicker than its predecessor. USB ports are commonly used to connect host devices, such as PCs, to other devices such as printers and storage drives.

Freecom's portable hard drive can transfer data at approximately 130MB per second. That compares to the existing USB 2.0 standard, which transfers data at a rate of up to 480Mbits per second. The drive can move a 5GB file to a host device in just 38 seconds, the company said in a press release.

However, the transfer rate falls far short of the 500MB-per-second rate promised for USB 3.0 by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the developer of the standard. Freecom didn't provide a reason for the slower speed, though transfer rates could increase as the standard is developed and further tested.

Freecom is one of the first to implement the USB 3.0 standard in a device since the specification was finalized last year. The USB-IF last year said USB 3.0 devices would appear in early 2010, the first of which could be portable hard drives. The standard could ultimately reach devices like digital cameras and flash drives.

The hard drive will be available in capacities of 1TB, 1.5TB and 2TB. Prices start at €119 (US$175) for the 1TB drive. The drives will be available in Europe starting in mid-November and Freecom did not say if they would be sold in other regions.

The transfer rates of USB 2.0 are enough for most devices today, but USB 3.0 will become useful as people increasingly transfer multimedia content such as high-definition video.

But USB 3.0 offers more than faster speed. The specification adds better power-management features for charging devices and saving power. Connected USB 3.0 devices will go into virtual sleep mode if not being used.

The new standard is also backwards-compatible, so USB 3.0 devices will work with USB 2.0 connections. However, users must have a USB 3.0 controller card on their PC to get the fast speed offered by devices like Freecom's new hard drive. Freecom is selling USB 3.0 controller cards for desktops for €25.95 and cards for notebooks at €29.95.

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