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USB 2.0 can burn rubber

By Frank Bajak

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- We always do end up succumbing to the digital arms race -- buying a bigger hard drive, doubling our computer's memory, upgrading from CD to CD-RW drives -- then to DVD.

Computing enthusiasts, prepare to reach again for your wallet.

USB 2.0 is why. It's for anyone who gnashes with impatience at slow data transfer speeds to external CD burners, hard drives or other storage devices.

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The new technology is an upgrade of Universal Serial Bus, or USB, a 6-year-old standard for hooking up computers and peripherals -- disk drives, mice, keyboards, modems, printers, personal digital assistants.

As technologies go, USB has been revolutionary, making computers more user-friendly, if that's possible.

Its best feature is hot-swappability. Which means you don't need to reboot every time you hook up a new Webcam or Zip drive, for example.

In time, USB and its rival FireWire (a.k.a. IEEE 1394) will render parallel and serial ports obsolete.

USB version 1.1 had a bulging Achilles heel, of course -- a maximum data transfer rate of just 12 megabits per second. The new version is 40 times faster -- up to 480 mbps, slightly faster than FireWire's 400 mbps.

So if you're grappling like me with more digital audio and video files (and the bigger drives they fill), this is a godsend. The floodgates are now open.

I got a five-port USB 2.0 card (one internal, four external) from IOgear late last year but only recently installed the $59 card in my computer.

Here's what it did for me:

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In 3 minutes and 12 seconds, it transferred a 1.06 gigabyte video file to a slim 10-gigabyte external USB 2.0 Disk-On-The-Go hard drive (about $150) by BUSlink.

Moving the same file to the Disk-On-The-Go drive via my computer's USB 1.1 port took 21 minutes -- more than enough time to make a pot of tea.

I also tried a new USB 2.0 external hard drive from Que. The 80-gigabyte drive (about $390) lapped up that 1.06 MB file in 2 minutes, 18 seconds.

Transfer speeds are, of course, only as fast as a given device can handle.

USB 2.0 is backward- and forward-compatible.

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