USB 3.0 is supposed to be 10 times faster than USB 2.0. We'll see about that. We're not going to believe it until we run some real-world benchmarks. We hooked up the new Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 external drive to our desktop PC, comparing its USB 3.0 performance to the same drive plugged into a USB 2.0 port. Let's see how they compare.
At first glance, the BlackArmor PS 110 looks much like any other ordinary 2.5-inch external drive. Its performance kit consists of the drive, a USB 3.0 PC Card adapter, and the necessary USB 3.0 cables, all selling for $180. If you don't have a laptop with a PC Card slot, you can use any USB 3.0 host card (around $35), plugging it into a Generation 2 PCIe slot inside a desktop PC. That's what we did for our testing, using the Buffalo USB 3.0 interface card.
Even without its USB 3.0 interface, the Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 USB external drive is no slouch, spinning at 7200 RPM. The 500GB external enclosure is nice and thin — just 12.5mm thick — and slightly larger than a deck of cards.
Let's strap on the USB 3.0 gear and see how fast this baby can go. The initial hype claims USB 3.0 zooms along at 48Gb per second, 10 times faster than USB 2.0. That's in the theoretical world, though. Seagate is more realistic, claiming this drive is 3x faster than the same USB 2.0 drive.
Truth? Take a look at our results below, and you'll see that using the readily available CrystalDiskMark, sequential reads and writes weren't 10 times faster, but they were three times faster. Strangely enough, random reads and writes of the smaller 4K blocks were about the same on USB 3.0 and 2.0.
In our real-world test of transferring a folder with one gigabyte's worth of files inside, USB 3.0 performed admirably, taking just 14 seconds to transfer the same files that it took the exact same drive 41 seconds to transfer using USB 2.0 (USB 3.0 is backward compatible with 2.0). That's 192% faster, just shy of a 3x improvement. Impressive. Seagate was telling the truth.
Because this is one of the first USB 3.0 drives out of the gate, its $180 price is understandably steep (USB 2.0 drives with the same capacity can be found for less than half that price). We're a little disappointed that USB 3.0 isn't really 10 times faster than its predecessor. But this 192% speedup we saw in our real-world testing is a true spec quoted by Seagate — and it's a significant and welcome improvement.