USB 3 Stories March 27, 2016

Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter

In addition to Apple’s newly released USB-C to Lightning Cable, which allows for faster iPad Pro charging, Apple also released a new Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter. This new $39.00 adapter is geared towards allowing users to easily transfer photos and videos from digital cameras to the iPad Pro.

But it’s no secret that this adapter has other talents, such as being able to power USB microphones for applications like podcasting, song recording, and voiceovers. Apple says that you can also connect USB accessories like hubs, Ethernet adapters, MIDI interfaces, flash readers, and more.

12.9″ iPad Pro owners received an added bonus as well, that being able to take advantage of the iPad Pro’s USB 3 transfer speeds. All of this considered, is the Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter a worthwhile investment? expand full story

USB 3 Stories December 8, 2015

iPad Pro Lightning to SD Card Reader

A bumpy battery case isn’t the only new product from Apple this month. The iPad-specific Lightning to SD Card Reader has been replaced with a newer version with the same name, appearance, and price, but one important electronic difference. It now takes advantage of the faster USB 3 transfer speeds supported by new iPad Pros and works with iPhones…

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USB 3 Stories December 3, 2015

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Mechanical hard drives will continue to be available — though decreasingly important — into the foreseeable future. New drives are cheaper and higher-capacity than increasingly popular solid state drives, and old drives pulled from computers are hard to throw away, even if they’re past their prime. Most people would seek out an external hard drive enclosure, which is ideal if you want to commit to repurposing one internal drive for an extended period of time. But what if you want to swap multiple internal hard drives in and out on an as-needed basis?

Sporting a substantially metal chassis with Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0 ports, OWC’s new Drive Dock ($245) is a premium solution for people who want high-speed, on-demand access to internal hard drives. The top has two SATA-compatible drive bays, each capable of holding 2.5″ laptop drives or 3.5″ desktop drives, while the bottom holds a power supply capable of safely powering both drives as plug-and-play volumes…

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USB 3 Stories October 29, 2015

owcthunderbolt2dock-1

Other World Computing doesn’t just dabble in Mac accessories — it’s one of the most popular third-party Apple RAM and SSD vendors, and sells some of the only Blu-Ray drives marketed at Mac users. So it wasn’t a surprise to learn that OWC had developed its own Thunderbolt 2 Dock ($228), entering an accessory category that was simultaneously worthwhile and fairly stagnant. Almost all of the best Thunderbolt 2 docks have the same core features and design elements, mixing silver aluminum, black plastic, an external power supply and a bunch of ports together to make one-point connectivity hubs for Macs. OWC’s design is similar, but it’s functionally unique.

Measuring 9″ wide by 3.5″ deep by 1.1″ tall, OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock is the largest such accessory I’ve seen, looking like an elongated Mac mini with a glossy black top. The right side has two always-powered USB ports, while the back includes a collection of 10 additional audio, video, and data ports, plus wall power. That means OWC’s design is both the biggest and most capable Thunderbolt 2 dock out there, but does that also make it the best? From my perspective, that depends on your Mac’s needs…

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USB 3 Stories October 28, 2015

Satechi’s new compact USB-C hub adds 3 USB ports + SD card slots to single-port MacBooks

Update: Reviewed here.

We’ve already seen several crowdfunding campaigns for USB-C hubs to expand the capability of Apple’s 12-inch Retina MacBook, which features a single USB-C port for connecting accessories, and Satechi is joining the scene with its own USB-C hub available now.

Available in three color-matching aluminum finishes that fit Apple’s gold, silver, and space gray MacBooks, Satechi’s Type-C hub adds three USB 3.0 ports plus two SD card slots, both standard and Micro, to the USB-C-only Retina MacBook. This allows you to use standard USB cables and accessories like flash drives simultaneously with a single adapter. Satechi highlights its hub’s portable size, which appears to minimally extend the edge of the laptop with similar dimensions to an extra column of keys. 

USB 3 Stories October 27, 2015

owcthunderbolt2dockcompare

Apple and Intel’s Thunderbolt 2 standard has given Mac users — particularly professional Mac users — a premium, high-speed connector option for situations where bandwidth and speed are necessary: hooking up big, fast hard drives, high-resolution monitors, or even external graphics cards. The latest iMacs, Mac Pros, MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs all feature at least one Thunderbolt 2 port, a boon for expandability.

This year, Thunderbolt 2 docks have really taken off. Long-time Mac accessory makers have come up with a few different riffs on the same basic idea, leveraging a single cable to connect a bunch of Thunderbolt, USB, and audio/video accessories all at once to a Mac. This enables MacBook users to return home and make one connection to everything from an external monitor and speakers to external hard drives and card readers; it can also allow iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac mini users to connect devices built with connectors not found on their machines.

Here are the best Thunderbolt 2 dock options out there — and my suggestions as to which of them are best-suited to various usage scenarios…

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USB 3 Stories April 7, 2015

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LaCie announced its new 4TB Thunderbolt/USB 3 Rugged RAID portable hard drive ($420 list, $399 Amazon) today, and I’ve had some time to take it for a little ‘spin.’ There are two speedy 7200RPM 2TB portable hard drives RAID-ed together inside to give the device very impressive, almost SSD-like speeds but with the cost savings and huge storage of portable hard drives. At the same time, the package isn’t much bigger than a regular portable hard drive and better yet, it can take a serious beating…

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USB 3 Stories March 27, 2015

It’s been a while since we heard rumors that a new iPad model would sport dual connectors for hooking it up to a computer or accessories, but a set of photos circulating online is bringing that idea back to the forefront.

The photos claim to depict the back of Apple’s upcoming “iPad Pro,” a larger 12.9-inch model of its existing tablet. Not a whole lot of new details are visible in the photos, but a spare Lightning port can be spied on the side of the device. Typically the Lightning port is located on the bottom edge.

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USB 3 Stories March 26, 2015

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As I noted in Part 1 of How-To: Decode Apple’s Tech Specs pages before buying a new Mac, Apple has designed the Mac purchasing process to be easy: pick a model, pick the good, better, or best configuration, hand over your cash, and enjoy your computer. Since most people get confused by tech specs — bullet points filled with numbers and acronyms — Apple downplays them in its marketing materials, leaving customers to sort through the details and figure out what most of them mean.

But these specs are really important when you’re shopping for the right Mac for your current and future needs. So I’ve created this How-To guide to walk you through each of Apple’s Tech Specs pages using clear explanations, hopefully enabling you to properly understand what you’re about to buy. Part 1 focused on the “big 5″ Mac specs you really need to know about, and this Part 2 looks at the rest — generally things that remain the same in a given model, regardless of the configuration you choose…

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USB 3 Stories March 4, 2015

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Following up on today’s report that the 12.9-inch iPad has been pushed back to September, the Wall Street Journal claims tonight that the hardware features for the device are still in flux. According to this latest rumor, Apple is considering adding USB 3.0 ports to the tablet to allow users to connect external devices.

We’ve already heard that the company may be planning to build its first external input device for the “iPad Pro,” but this is the first time we’ve heard that there may be plans in the works to support the connection of additional peripherals.

As unbelievable as it seems, the report even suggests that Apple will allow the connection of mice and keyboards.

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USB 3 Stories January 22, 2015

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Despite USB 3.0’s growing popularity with consumers, Thunderbolt remains a viable alternative for professional users, particularly video makers willing to pay a premium for guaranteed high speeds. Over the past year, several Thunderbolt 2 hubs have come to market — boxes with one Thunderbolt 2 connection to a computer, one for a Thunderbolt accessory, and multiple ports to connect USB, audio, video, and Ethernet accessories. The idea: keep all of your gear hooked up to the hub, then use a single cable to connect it all to your Mac.

Known for large, heavy, professional-grade Mac accessories, CalDigit has just released Thunderbolt Station 2 ($199), which squeezes the same functionality offered by Belkin’s $300 Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock HD and Elgato’s $230 Thunderbolt 2 Dock (review) into a smaller, denser-feeling enclosure, at a lower MSRP — sort of. In reality, Thunderbolt Station 2 has some very specific benefits and one limitation that place it on par with its competitors, making the choice between them a more personal decision…

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USB 3 Stories December 2, 2014

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Improving on the last generation Elgato Thunderbolt dock (review), today the company is announcing a refreshed model that includes Thunderbolt 2 technology and more at the same $229 price point of the last-gen model. expand full story

USB 3 Stories September 30, 2013

thunderbolt

I’m a huge fan of Thunderbolt. A single wire carrying both DisplayPort and high-speed PCIe data is an incredibly elegant approach to minimising cable clutter even if you don’t need the blistering speed, especially when you can use an Apple Thunderbolt Display as a hub for your USB devices.

I also admire clever tech. The reason you can daisy-chain up to six separate devices is because Thunderbolt automatically multiplexes and de-multiplexes the signals as needed. Thunderbolt 2 takes this approach one step further, combining two 10Gbit/s channels into a single 20Gbit/s connection, with the the Thunderbolt controller again doing all the work. It’s impressive stuff.

A fast, clever technology developed by Intel and enthusiastically marketed by Apple ought to stand a fighting chance at mass-market adoption. Sadly, there’s so far not much sign of this happening. It’s all looking rather reminiscent of Firewire …  expand full story

USB 3 Stories August 1, 2013

Photo: notebookcheck.com

Photo: notebookcheck.com

Our concern that widespread adoption of USB 3 might leave Thunderbolt out in the cold now looks even more likely as the USB 3.1 – aka Superspeed USB – specification has been announced. This allows USB transfers of up to 10Gbps, the same speed as the original Thunderbolt standard.

Thunderbolt is technically superior to USB 3 – combining PCIe, DisplayPort and power signals into a single cable – and the recently announced Thunderbolt 2 version (which will debut in the new Mac Pro) doubles throughput to a blistering 20Gbps. And Thunderbolt can deliver that bandwidth to more than one device at a time. But technical superiority alone is no guarantee of success, as the history of Betamax or Firewire demonstrates …  expand full story

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