For performance PC enthusiasts, now’s the time to get excited about the next generation of processors from Intel. We'll be publishing our first Intel Sandy Bridge PC reviews next week. For everyone else, we’re still waiting for something beyond processor upgrades – something that will genuinely speed up our computing lives.
Blisteringly quick PCs have their places, but that place ain’t really in most people’s homes. We regularly benchmark and review Windows PCs that can already shave whole fractions of a second from the time it takes to render a Photoshop action... but so what?
You see, the days of hanging around waiting for Microsoft Word to fire up, or to search for an expression through a long document, are now over. For most users, the only time you’ll see a 3GHz quad-core PC daily ramp to 100 percent CPU usage is when it’s rifling your files to track down Windows malware.
No, the one real chore that can leave us drum-drumming our fingers for minutes at a time – if not hours, days – is when transferring data. It could be when sending data from the PC for backup. Or shovelling decades of music and video from one side of the house network to the other. Compared to launching apps and getting on with daily computing tasks, the moving of data from A to B might as well be in slo-mo.
And store we must. We create and consume data at a breakneck rate. You could put it all in the notional cloud, but then you’re talking geological time frames for those big uploads. So local storage to a USB flash stick or a nearby NAS drive is what we’re talking. And it all. Still. Happens. So. Slowly.
There has finally been some developments that mean the time we spend waiting around to move our data will get shorter. We’ve reviewed a flash drive that uses USB 3.0. The Kingston Ultimate is quick by stick standards, yet still short of its true potential. You could be left waiting almost an hour to fill this 64GB drive.
Affordable NAS drives are a blessing to the digital household, especially for storing all your music and films – but they’re not noted for their speed. The Western Digital My Book Live promises something more, though.
And if you want to protect data from falling into the wrong hands, you can do better than simply encrypt it with AES-256 and a password. Following our reviews of number-keypad drives, the Digisafe DiskCrypt adds Chip-and-PIN security. It’s also potentially the fastest FireWire drive we’ve ever tested.
But these are using 20th-century pipes to send around 21st-century-sized data. What we need are conduits to zip the bits around at the speeds our appetite for bytes deserves. USB 3.0 is going some way to help. But it could be the next generation of data interface, Light Peak, that can deliver us from frustration.
Intel’s Light Peak is ready to go in its copper- rather than optical-based form. With circa 10 gigabits per second speed initially, and maybe 10 times that by the end of this decade, the finger drumming can finally stop.