Sometimes it’s not the blockbuster changes but the small stuff that makes the biggest difference for the most users. Though the vast majority of photographers and people in general aren’t that enamored of the technical minutia that actually makes our mobile/digital/virtual experience possible, most still usually view having things work faster as a plus. Like downloading image files from memory card to computer, for example. Wouldn’t it be nice if one could plug in a card reader that would accomplish the task more quickly that the ubiquitous USB 2.0 connection we’ve been using for years? Well, stars are aligning, and that may become practical reality before too long.
In a world that thrives on competition (so many would have us believe), the end user is often caught in the middle. What works for one manufacturer in terms of cornering a process (and maximizing profit) often restricts consumer choices and requires a buy-in that may or may not have long-term benefits. USB has been a connection protocol that has worked eminently well across multiple platforms and multiple devices for a long time, even though there was strong resistance from some sectors early on. And though it has worked so well, it’s kind of stagnated in terms of capability until a couple of years ago, but even then, major players threw up obstacles for their own proprietary reasons and while more and more external devices are offered with USB 3.0 connections, it has not yet been incorporated fundamentally at the chip level. That’s about to change.
According to this article, Intel plans to build USB 3.0 capability into its next iteration of CPUs code named Ivy Bridge (and there’s even more tech data on IVB here). You may recall too that these new processors will for the first time employ Intel’s tri-gate transistor technology which promises even lower power draw (think longer battery life in portables), and will also include PCI Express 3.0, DirectX 11 support, and significantly accelerated integrated graphics. All these factors suggest a pretty large capability increase come sometime next year, so if new computer hardware is in your sights keep that in mind.
And if you’d like to improve card reader download speed right now that may be possible too. Lexar has had their Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader available for some time, SanDisk recently announced their ImageMate® All-in-One USB 3.0 Reader, and Delkin has one available too. If you don’t have a USB 3.0 port to plug one of these devices into, both are backward compatible with USB 2.0. While only very recent computers have built-in USB 3.0, if you have a laptop with an ExpressCard slot (either 34mm or 54mm), adapters are available from Sonnet and other companies, as are PCIe host bus adapters (like CalDigit’s model here). [Regarding PCIe slots on your desktop’s motherboard, realize there are different generations (1.0 in computers that are a few years old, Gen. 2.0 in recent models, and Gen. 3.0 coming soon.] If you’re one who places a high value on your time or just doesn’t like to wait, there are options.