HP puts USB 3.0 ports in new laptops

EliteBook laptops will come with up to three USB 3.0 ports

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday said it has added USB 3.0 ports to its latest laptops that could boost data transfers between computers and devices such as storage drives and digital cameras.

HP will add up to three USB 3.0 ports in EliteBook business laptops to connect to external devices and peripherals. The laptops include EliteBook 8540p and EliteBook 8540w workstation laptops, which are expected to be shown at the International Consumer Electronics Show to be held in Las Vegas between Jan. 7 and 10.

The USB 3.0 standard is a speedier successor to the existing USB 2.0 ports that come with laptops today. When the technology matures, USB 3.0 technology will provide the bandwidth to transfer data close to 10 times quicker than USB 2.0, standards group USB Implementers Forum said on Wednesday.

The addition of USB 3.0 ports will especially help laptops communicate at a much faster rate with high-speed external devices, an HP spokesman said. Around 1GB of data could be moved from a USB 3.0 flash drive to a host device in 3.3 seconds, compared to 33 seconds for USB 2.0, USB-IF representatives said.

More HP laptops and platforms will include USB 3.0 ports later this year, the HP spokesman said.

HP is perhaps the earliest PC vendor to build USB 3.0 ports into laptops, but it'll probably be a crowded field in a couple of weeks, said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT.

"Like any next-generation technology, the value of USB 3.0 will grow as peripheral devices and vendors catch up -- a process that tends to be uneven, at best. Since HP manufactures many of its own peripherals, that presents the company an interesting opportunity," King said.

The first peripherals to support the USB 3.0 technology standard could be bandwidth-sensitive devices like large high-definition displays and high speed back-up storage devices, King said.

HP could build USB 3.0 into its own displays, external storage devices and other peripherals of interest to business users, King said.

"The resulting synergies could be highly valuable for the company and discomfiting to competing laptop and peripheral vendors," King said. The use of USB 3.0 could proliferate as devices become lighter and as the use of multimedia applications such as video rises, he said.

External devices that support USB 3.0 are already available. Hard drive company LaCie in December introduced the 2Big USB 3.0, which combines two hard drives in a single unit and can read data at up to 275MB per second using the USB 3.0 standard. Freecom also offers the Hard Drive XS 3.0 external hard drive.

The HP EliteBooks will also include USB 2.0 ports to support legacy technology, an HP spokesman said. The laptops are designed as desktop replacements and come with the latest Intel Core processors, HP said. The laptops weigh 6.4 pounds (2.89 kilograms) and are based on Intel's QM57 chipset.

Starting at US$1,299, that laptops come with either Windows 7, Vista, FreeDos or Linux operating systems and include numerous wireless communications and graphics cards options.

The USB-IF on Wednesday also said it had certified USB 3.0 for HP's Envy 15 and Fujitsu's FMV-Biblo/G70 laptops. The standards group also certified USB 3.0 for motherboards from Asus and Giga-byte Technology.

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