USB 2.0 peripherals begin shipping

SEPTEMBER 5--Maxtor (Milpitas, CA; www.maxtor.com) became one of the first vendors to release a peripheral with the new Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0, when it shipped an external hard-drive interface--the Personal Storage 3000LE--which has a capacity of 40 Gbytes.

SEPTEMBER 5--Maxtor (Milpitas, CA; www.maxtor.com) became one of the first vendors to release a peripheral with the new Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0, when it shipped an external hard-drive interface--the Personal Storage 3000LE--which has a capacity of 40 Gbytes. USB 2.0 is an update to the widely used PC peripheral standard, but the new version boosts the data transfer rate to 480 Mbit/s--40 times faster than the original.

Maxtor has released the Personal Storage 3000LE drive despite the fact that no current PC has USB 2.0 interface ports built-in as standard. Intel, one of the major members of the USB Implementers Forum, expects to have USB 2.0 support in motherboard chipsets for the Pentium 4 early next year. Until then, any buyers interested in USB 2.0 peripherals will have to pay extra for USB 2.0 adapter cards or use the drive with existing USB 1.1 ports, which would cap the drive's speed at 12 Mbit/s--about 1 Mbyte/s. Maxtor is offering its own USB 2.0 PCI adapter for £45. The Personal Storage 3000LE is priced at £176.

USB 2.0 faces competition from the already established IEEE 1394 FireWire standard. Until now, FireWire's ability to transfer data at up to 400 Mbit/s far outclassed USB devices. Storage-peripheral vendors have been fitting both USB and FireWire interfaces to give users a choice, but FireWire also requires an adapter for most PCs. Industry observers have speculated that FireWire support may die away once Intel makes USB 2.0 available on PC motherboards.

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