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How to Get it on Your PC or Laptop

Obviously the easiest way to get USB 3.0 on your PC or laptop is to buy a machine that has it integrated in the first place, but what if you already have a computer you're perfectly happy with? StarTech has kindly provided us with some solutions that cover the most common ways of upgrading.

With a PC you could upgrade your motherboard (most new boards support SuperSpeed USB), but frankly that's very expensive and a lot of work - it's kind of like hiring a tank to swat a fly. The cheapest and easiest solution is to buy a PCI Express USB 3.0 adapter card. This is a simple job: just open up your case and plug the card into a free PCIe x1 slot, install the driver and Bob's your uncle.

StarTech's "2 Port PCI Express SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Controller Adapter Card" (now say that five times fast) offers two of the signature blue USB 3.0 ports on a compact, low-profile card measuring 5.5 by 8cm. A half-height bracket adapter is included for when you're fitting the card into a small chassis. Available at around £23, its cost is in line with similar products from the competition, and it's a small price to pay for getting SuperSpeed USB on your computer.

For your laptop, meanwhile, the StarTech "2 Port ExpressCard SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Card Adapter" (or a similar device) should be just the ticket. This simply plugs into a 34mm or 54mm ExpressCard slot to easily provide two SuperSpeed USB ports. The only problem is that many laptops – especially budget models – don't have an ExpressCard slot, leaving you high and dry. In this case there is no alternative: USB 3.0 is simply not available to you.

For those lucky enough to own a machine that does offer the ExpressCard slot, Startech's adapter is a solid little device finished in matt black plastic. The USB 3.0 ports are slightly too close together - not an issue with cables, but 'fat' memory sticks (which will doubtless become available with USB 3.0 in the near future) might present a problem. It's a minor annoyance some rivals manage to avoid, but then at around £28 the StarTech is cheaper than most, so it remains an attractive option.

StarTech also provides a USB 3.0 hard drive dock going by the model name SATDOCKU3SP, which it bundles with the above ExpressCard adapter for around £55. This dock feels fairly solid, but its looks are nothing to boast about. Around the sides it sports a dull black finish, while the glossy finish on top looks cheap, picks up more fingerprints than a CSI team and scratches easily. The only attractive bit is a small blue-backlit power button that's rather on the stiff side.

The dock will fit both 3.5 and 2.5in SATA drives, and has a hinged, spring-supported flap that will keep the dust out when using the smaller format. There's a handy push-button on the side for 'ejecting' disks. Connectivity to outside devices is limited to 'just' USB 3.0, as the SATDOCKU3SP's punch-out for eSATA is left blank.

Basically, the long and short of this device is that it will let you connect any SSD or hard-drive to any machine with either USB 2.0 or 3.0, giving you a more flexible alternative to caddies. However, we would only recommend it as part of the bundle; on its own its £35 price is not really competitive with USB 3.0 docks from other brands (which can be found for as little as £24), and it's also worth considering even cheaper docks that connect through the equally speedy eSATA standard, which we'll compare with USB 3.0 on the next page.

Absinthia Stacy

February 27, 2014, 6:59 pm

Thank you for the useful article!

Dave Watson

March 7, 2014, 2:29 pm

Very useful, concise information. Answered my query fully.

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