USB 2.0 and Your MacBook - dummies

By Mark L. Chambers

Today’s MacBooks has an ubiquitous USB 2.0, which is short for Universal Serial Bus. (By the way, ubiquitous means ever-present or universal.) USB has taken the world by storm. It’s used for everything from mice to keyboards, speakers, digital cameras, and even external drives and DVD recorders.

(A friend never misses the chance to point out that USB — which was originally developed by Intel, the makers of the Core 2 Duo, i3, i5, and i7 processors — was given its first widespread implementation on the original iMac. You’re welcome, Intel.)

USB 2.0 delivers performance comparable to the original FireWire standard: USB 2.0 can transfer 480 Mbps, although far less efficiently than FireWire, so the FireWire connection is still faster overall.

These ports are backwards-compatible — meaning that they work with the original USB 1.1 ports as well. (Don’t call Apple a snob . . . at the time of this writing, all the Mac models in Apple’s current stable have USB 2.0 ports.)

As is FireWire, USB connections are hot-swappable and may provide power over the connection. (Some USB ports don’t supply all the power that devices need.) A USB port offers a more limited version of Control over Connection as well, making it a good choice for virtually all digital cameras.

The latest USB 3.0 connections offer speeds of 5 Gbps, but that’s half the performance of a Thunderbolt port. At the time of this writing, Apple has not released a computer with a USB 3.0 port, so be wary of jumping on the USB 3.0 bandwagon — at least until it’s clear whether Apple will ever support USB 3.0.