Though not a storage vendor, Apple had arguably the biggest influence on consumer-grade storage products during 2011.
And just like the way the company has always been trying to control its products, this influence didn’t always turn out to be a good thing for consumers, including Apple fans. Let’s take a look at a few major examples of how Apple changed the face of computer storage in 2011.
1. The lack of support for USB 3.0
USB 3.0 was first introduced in late 2008, and by late 2010, most new and high-end Windows computers were equipped with it. Consumers who don’t already have it can easily get a add-on PCIe card to upgrade their desktop PC to the new standard. With a top speed of 5Gbps (just 1Gbps shy from the top speed of the SATA 3 standard, and about 10 times that of USB 2.0) and total backward compatibility with USB 2.0, USB 3.0 allows consumers to drastically improve their storage performance without any sacrifices.
To be fair, one of the reasons Apple decided to forgo USB 3.0 was possibly because Intel didn’t include this standard in its chipsets during most of the year. Now, though Intel has hinted that USB 3.0 might become standard in its chipsets next year, Apple still hasn’t provided any clues if it will follow suit.
This lack of support means that Mac users have been missing out on a standard that’s not just fast but also very versatile and affordable. Instead, they will have to bite the bullet and opt for another new I/O standard, which is also the real reason Apple skipped USB 3.0: Thunderbolt.
The Promise Pegasus R6 Thunderbolt drive and the 1.5TB USB 3.0 portable drive from Seagate.
(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
2. The introduction of Thunderbolt
Initially known as LightPeak, Thunderbolt is a new I/O standard that, for now, offers the top bandwidth of up to 10Gbps. Intel teamed up with Apple to announce Thunderbolt in February and made it available exclusively in Apple’s computers. This has still been the case ever since.
Thunderbolt is more than just a storage standard; it can also handle video and carry audio signal, in additional to data. The standard also allows for the ability to daisy chain up to six devices together without bandwidth reduction.
Strictly in terms of storage, however, Thunderbolt is rather overkill. This is because even the fastest internal drive offers a top bandwidth of just 6Gbps (of the SATA 3 standard). This means it doesn’t matter how fast your computer is, for now, there’s no way you can get the true speed of Thunderbolt in consumer-grade storage applications. More