The word ‘USB’ has become so common in our daily lives that sometimes it makes sense to revisit history to realize its importance. USB or Universal Serial Bus acts as an interface for computer peripherals to interact with the personal computers. Developed by a consortium of companies in the mid-1990s, it has now become omnipresent in the world of computers through keyboard, mouse, joysticks and various other devices.
For the completely uninitiated, the simplest example is of a USB flash drive or a pendrive (as it is commonly known as). This flash drive contains data and this data can be accessed or transferred onto another device (like a laptop) by connecting it via the USB port on the laptop. Over time, the data transfer speeds have increased and the recent debate over usb 2 versus usb 3 will be rendered moot if one looks at the speed offered by the latter.
Let us take a look at some of the advantages of the USB interface.
- Super Convenient – There are many reasons why the USB interface has lasted over two decades since its inception. Firstly, it does away with multiple interfaces for different devices that need to be connected to the host device (being the laptop or personal computer). Secondly, the benefit of auto-configuration makes it super convenient. Once a USB driver is installed on the computer, you do not need to install it every time you connect the device.
Further, the USB interface is easily expandable in the sense that if two USB ports in a laptop are proving insufficient, an extender can be used. Lastly, its small size adds to the ease of use factor.
- Economical – In view of the enormous benefits arising out of the use of the USB interface, its popularity and demand has only been increasing day by day. Due to this, manufacturers have been able to utilize the benefits of economies of scale and reduce the cost of production.
This is applicable to not just the components of the USB interface but also the accessories like the cable and the connector too. As a result, the USB interface is economical as compared to the other options.
- Fast – Before we declare that this is fast, let us see what are the other options. They are RS232 and parallel ports. Both offer speeds much lesser than USB. In USB, there are actually multiple speed modes which ensures that the data transfer process is quick and without any glitches.
Earlier, the speed used to range from 1.5MBit/s to 5GBit/s. However, with the development of USB 3.0, the maximum speed of data transfer is now 10GBit/s. Some might say that this speed is the need of the hour in the age of instant gratification.
Like every coin has two sides, so there are certain disadvantages of the USB interface.
- Does Not Facilitate P2P Communication – The USB interface is all about communication between the host and the peripheral. For instance, it helps the mouse communicate with the computer. But what if two peripherals need to communicate with each other without the host? It is here that the USB interface lacks.
- Needs To Be In Close Proximity To Host – Even as we speak, the longest USB cable is 5 meters long. This means the two devices need to be in close proximity to each other. Yes, a USB extender or connector can be used but that means you need to compromise on the speed.
- Speed Can Be Better – Sure, in comparison to RS232 and older technology, the USB interface fares wonderfully but if you take a look at the FireWire 800 which offers a higher speed, then you might be left wanting. Even Gigabit Ethernet offers a higher speed.
In the USB interface, the transfer speed is different for different file formats. The speed offered by USB 3.0 ranges from 0.01 seconds for a 4MB image or MP3 file to 70 seconds for a 16GB HD movie. The actual speeds that you get while transferring files might vary depending on the USB port and the peripheral and host devices.
All in all, the pros outweigh the cons simply because the better technology that offers better speed and additional features is not yet economical like the USB interface. Maybe a couple of years down the line, these technologies might replace the existing system due to huge demand. Till then, USB 3.0 is your best bet.