USB3.0 worthy upgrade?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by RaymondC, Apr 20, 2018.

  1. I have been using a older computer with USB2.0 for the past 9.5yrs. This new computer does have USB3.1 at the back of the computer, as I am using my old case my USB ports on the machine and on my Dell Ultrasharp screen is only USB2.0.

    Even many computers sold last year might had only USB3.0 rather than 3.1. Even now, many computer cases the front USB ports on the case are only 3.0.

    USB3.0 worthy of an upgrade? Camera memory cards will need to be the faster ones right .. Eg ..Sandisk Ultra SD prob not require USB3.0 right?

    Also, what do you guys use as a memory card reader and is that USB3.0, or 3.1?

  2. USB 3.0 seems "nice to have" but not absolutely essential to me.
    Clarifying: The machine at work has only USB 2.0 at the front panel. - That is quite fine, as long as I am dealing with just half a shift of moderate resolution product shots. It is still incredibly faster than transferring the JPEGs from a 1.5 or 3MP via com-port.
    My domestic sky isn't falling down when I have to use USB 2 laptops either.
    I think the main advantage of USB 3 is the ability to integrate external drives.
    I have a USB 3 card reader somewhere. To me it would be more important to get a neon pink one, supposed to jump into my eye, than the very fastest according to tests.
    I wouldn't bother about upgrading cards. Yes, have plenty of them but: What worked will continue to work. Buy write speed according to your camera for fast paced work. I think I neither need it for walking around as a tourist nor for any studio stuff, where flash recharge time is the bottle neck.
    You have to produce a whole lot of data to reach a range where you'll feel benefiting from fast cards while downloading them. When you return from an epic machine gunning vacation what will happen? - I'd love mine written on 2 PCs so I can format my cards. The 2nd will be most likely an elderly machine with USB 2. Having multiple cards and readers I'll most likely hog down my bus by accessing an SD here and a CF there at once and swap readers between machines when both are finished.
    The use case where I really like speed is when I am culling RAW files in something like Faststone. If that process benefits from having more RAM and workdisc SSDs, I'll buy those. The old school alternative would be blindfolded bulk conversion to JPEG just to be able to spot the RAWs that are worth working on. To me culling mid sized RAWs on a slow spinning laptop HDD feels already painfully slow.
  3. In theory, USB 3 is much faster than USB 2, but seems to make little difference downloading data from SD memory cards. In my case, the very fastest UHSII cards, in a Kingston USB 3/UHSII reader, run at 80 Mb/s, compared to 30 Mb/s under USB 2. Where USB 3 shines is with external drives, where the read/write speeds often exceed 300 Mb/s. Thunderbolt 1 drives are about twice that speed. I think the future is with USB C interface (thanks to MacBookPro). I use an external Samsung SSD with mine, at nearly 700 Mb/s. USB C connectors are small, symmetrical, and so far only in one configuration.

    Not every computer with USB 3 performs as well, particularly older computers with an upgraded card. I/O subsystems have been improved greatly over the years. One difference between CF and SD cards is that the "disc controller" resides on the CF card, whereas in the computer for SD cards. My newest PC is an HP 8-core workstation, dating to 2010, running Windows 7.

    Card speed can make a proportional difference in cameras, especially when clearing the buffer. I found this true even with a Nikon D3. A Sony A7Rii fills the buffer quickly (about 7 frames) with 42 MP images, and takes up to 30 seconds to clear. A Sony A9, with UHS II cards at 300 Mb/s is about 6 times as fast. Once the designated primary card is updated, normal operation resumes while the images are copied to the second, slower card. Using short, 10-20 frame bursts, I have never had to wait before proceeding. Only the menu is locked while the buffer clears.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2018
  4. "Where USB 3 shines is with external drives, where the read/write speeds often exceed 300 Mb/s."

    - Indeed! Using an external HD with USB 2.0 is painfully slow, especially if devices are sharing a USB hub.

    I did notice an improvement in transfer speeds from my SD and CF cards after buying a USB 3.0 card-reader. It's a Transcend branded one, and didn't cost a lot. However any speed increase depends on the card more than the reader.

    Don't know about the difference between USB 3.0 and 3.1. It's probably about as noticeable as the 'upgrade' from USB 1.0 to 1.1 and as interesting as watching a snail race.
  5. The USB port on my camera is USB-2, so I am speed capped. That is why I use a USB-3 card reader.
    I download from the card using a card reader, that way I can use the USB-3 port, and get it onto the computer FASTER.
    Speed becomes more of an issue the more files you have on the card to copy.

    I use a Sandisk card reader
    ImageMate All-in-One USB 3.0 Reader | SanDisk

    The other reason for USB-3 is periodic backup to an external hard drive. The more data you have, the longer it will take to backup the files. The FASTER you can get the data from the computer to the drive the better. Even with USB-3, you are limited to the max sustained transfer speed of the drive.
  6. I have an older computer to which I added USB 3.0 Since the only ports were off the add-in card and at the back of the computer, I purchased an extension cord:

    and have it on my desk. I plug my SanDisk Extreme PRO card reader in it. I also use it to write to USB 3.0 flash drives. It works well.

    If I read your post correctly, you put a new motherboard in your old case. If the new mother board has the 20-pin connectors for front USB 3.0 ports, your could purchase this hub:


    and put it in your case in place of the floppy drive to have USB 3 ports on the front of your computer.

    Or do both.
  7. USB 2.0 has a theoretical limit of 480mbit/s, and in practice overhead losses in the system make it substantially slower(this is one reason why I considered/consider FW to be much better for many purposes than USB 2.0 even at FW400 speeds-in the real world FW400 can actually sustain something close to its 400mbit/s speed).

    USB 3.0 ups that to a max of 5gbit/s. Even though the real world speed(between media that can actually read and write that fast) is somewhat slower it's still easily the fastest common and actually usable interface available(Thunderbolt is much faster, but it is also significantly more expensive to implement and the cables are expensive).

    In any case, I have both a standalone Lexar USB 3.0 CF and SD card reader and my D800 has USB 3.0 built in. Even the best CF and SD cards can't saturate a USB 3.0 bus, but they CAN saturate a USB 2.0 bus. From real world testing, I can get files on to my computer a whole lot faster than I can with USB 2.0 when coming from a decent CF card.

    The difference was enough that I put a USB 3.0 card in my Mac Pro-fortunately you can actually do that on those computers.

    BTW, USB 3.1 gen 1 is the same speed as 3.0. 3.1 Gen 2 maxes at 10gbit/s(the same as TB 1.0), real world sustained about 7gbit/s(TB can actually maintain close to 10gbit).
  8. The same Drobo 5Dt drive that got 80 Mb/s on my PC now gets 300 Mb/s on TB1, or 280 Mb/s on USB3. Thunderbolt gives better system integration than USB, in addition to slightly more speed. The Drobo is formatted in NTFS. Read/Write is facilitated using Paragon NTFS software, which may be the limiting factor.

    FireWire has excellent speed and much less overhead than USB, but is very poorly implements on a PC. You must use so-called "legacy" drivers instead of the default. Windows would use FW for peer-to-peer communications, and use with devices never returns the expected handshake.

    More than the input card matters. I use a FW800 adapter with my MacBookPro (USB C only) with excellent results. It never fails to recognize outboard audio interface devices, while the PC requires a specific start-up sequence. I can record 18 channels of 48/24 sound without a glitch. The VST load indicator barely peeks above the baseline. A mother I/O device, a Midas M32C mixer, gives me 32/16 input/output channels on USB2 on a MacBookPro. My PC would sometimes choke on 8 channels using FW400. (Hardly anyone records at 96/24, much less 192. When they do, I will follow. However it takes 2x to 4x the disk space and time to upload/download the results. After recording, I work in 48/32 space.)
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2018
  9. Ed - you mean MB right? Megabyes with the big B. Little b is megabits. 40Mb = 5MB.

    Cards like Sandisk Extreme would be quicker on USB 3.0?

    I am debating. I am quite happy to let it download as I walk away. Some USB sticks like the Sandisk Extreme Pro 3.1 does up to 300MB read and write speeds.

    For now and before. I used my in my drawer backup spinning hard drives cos they are way more affordable for larger sizes. Then I used a HD Dock. Mine was a USB2.0 and eSATA. So I used the eSATA port. Now still. I guess I could had upgraded to USB3.0. With my portable HDD definitely it only has USB so now I can use USB3.0, before I had to use USB2.0. Portable HDD is in my safe deposit box offsite, so it's not often, so I could just crawl under my desk and plug it to the motherboard.
  10. There are many links to the chain, and you will only be as fast as the slowest link.

    First USB-2 or 3, or ?
    USB2 = 480Mb/sec = 60MB/sec - overhead.
    USB3 = 5Gb/sec = 625MB/sec - overhead

    If it is going or coming from the buffer on the drive, you are at full interface speed, probably SATA-2 or 3 (for the current computers).
    SATA2 = 300MB/sec,
    SATA3 = 600MB/sec

    But the data going to/from the disk platter, it is at a much slower speed. This is sometimes labeled the "maximum SUSTAINED transfer speed".
    The WD drives specs that I Iooked at did not list this number (marketing, to hide a low number) :-(
    For the Seagate Baracuda 3.5" drive it is 185MB/sec
    Note that the Seagate Baracuda drive max sustained transfer speed is significantly lower than the USB3 max speed, or even the SATA2 speed, but faster than a Gigabit network.
    There is sneaky marketing going on with external drives. They are advertised as USB3 external drives, but nothing about the spec of the drive inside the case. If it is a cheap 5,200 rpm drive, you are not going to get the same data xfer rates as a 7k or 10k drive.

    Actual max transfer speed in the real world is affected by several variables; disk RPM (faster is better), recording density (higher is better), location on the disk, file size (many small files transfer much slower than a few big files), file fragmentation, etc. So your actual real world number will be lower than the max number.

    Network speed
    Gigabit = 1,000 MBits/sec = 100MBytes/sec
    BUT, you don't get the labeled speed. As I remember (from the old days of 10bT) there is about a 20% ethernet network overhead, so instead of 100MB/sec, you get 20% less or 80MB/sec, on a Gigabit network. The more traffic the higher the overhead from "collisions."
    Note that even at max theoretical speed, the Gigabit network is slower than the Segate Baracuda
  11. Yes I found with a old system before sata 1 the seagate barracuda was the same speed as my old system sata 2 with a newer sata 3 barracuda drive.

    Also found sata 2 and 3 no diff under our network at home. With network cable.

    Guess for you guys though with cards like SanDisk extreme do you care whether USB 2 or 3? I have a Toshiba fast card forget the name. Going forward I would prob go these over my SanDisk ultras. Helps the camera buffer.
  12. Raymond,
    For me, it depends on how MANY pix files and how large the files are that I have to copy from the card to the computer.
    If it is many hundreds, then I want the xfer as fast as possible, so that I can work on the files sooner.
    Otherwise it would be a overnight copy, or start the copy then go have dinner and maybe it will be done after dinner is over.
    I was really glad when I was forced to upgrade my card reader, my old one was USB-2, and was my transfer bottleneck.

    If you shoot a 40MP camera, you have a bigger problem than me with a 16MP camera. Your individual files will be 2.5x larger, so you have 2.5x more data to transfer, for the same number of shots. So you really want a FAST interface.
  13. I spent some with CrystalDiskMark.

    a) I think my USB reader on my Dell screen is kinda slow.

    Toshiba Exceria 75MB/sec on my laptop builtin reader probably SATA3 or PCI Expres. It only has USB2 but 75MB/sec exceeds USB2.
    My Desktop PC with the Dell screen reader 22MB/sec.

    9yr old Seagate Barracuda 53MB/sec - laptop with the USB Dock reader
    9yr old Seagate Barracuda 55MB/sec - Desktop PC with the USB Dock reader to my motherboard (not Dell screen).

    (b) I also found that newer hard drives are quicker. Using eSATA. Quicker than USB2.
    My 9yr old Seagate 55MB/sec.
    My maybe 3yr old Western Digital Blue 130MB/sec.

    Yeah I have a SSD on SATA3 and it hits over 500MB/sec.

    (c) 2004 I bought my first dSLR. The Lexar Pro card only gets 0.5MB/sec. A newer non pro Sandisk does 1MB/sec ....
  14. Maybe my old dSLR is limited by the reader / camera. with the included CF reader I got 0.5MB/sec. With my D70 hooked up I got 1MB/sec also the same as the newer non pro cards. Perhaps it would be quicker with a better reader.
  15. I did mean MB (Byte) not Mb (bit). I have two 300/299 MB/s (R/W) SD cards, and just measured better than about 180 MB/s in a R/W test using a Kingston USB3/UHSII card reader on an iMac (2017). When I download 24 MP files, the computer reads four files at once. It still takes a while to download 128 GB (~2500 images)

    The latest Kingston USB3 card reader is only $17 from B&H.
  16. Makes more sense now. My 9yr old Dell screen was replaced under warranty, so a 7yr old screen probably doesn't support the newer UHS card standards. Prob that is why the slower speeds of 20MB/sec.
  17. USB3.0 is definitely worth a add-on pci card or new card reader or new casing. Memorycards work just fine in older USB2 readers, difference is in transfer speed. I have many memory card readers, best one is black Transcend USB3.0 reader, the funny thing is I usually use it on 2008 computer and front panel USB2 connection, only when there is more images I plug it on backpanel USB3.0 add-on card.
  18. I got the Kingston reader, much cheaper than the Sandisk. I went from 22MB/sec to 95MB/sec with a UHS-1 card. The Dell screen I have the reader might not even support UHS standards. My 2004 CF went from 0.5MB/sec with the included free reader to 6MB/sec. These 10yrs I actually put up with those speeds.

    That 2004 card was the pro card $250US at the time ....
  19. FWIW, I cleared out my cards last night in preparation for going on vacation.

    I'd bought a new external in anticipation, and of course it was USB 3.0. It's a 4TB WD Green spinner, which is a slow drive. Even so, I was surprised at how fast I could dump the cards onto the drive.

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