Universal Serial Bus, or USB, is a standard for connecting peripheral devices to computers and is gradually replacing the older and clumsier parallel, serial and PS/2 ports. Its advantages are high speed (12Mbps), ease of use, and hot plugging capability - you can connect and disconnect devices without turning off the computer. The current version, USB 1.1, has become very popular, but it's still not fast enough for some applications such as digital video, so its backers have produced a new specification, USB 2.0.
This new specification, capable of a peak transfer rate of 480Mbps, is 40 times faster than the first version of USB. It's backwards compatible with USB 1.1, so existing devices and compliant cables should be able to work with computers equipped with the new version. Its behaviour should look the same from a user's point of view, with the only difference being faster data transfer from peripherals that conform to USB 2.0.
In its ambition to become a new high-speed transfer standard, USB 2.0 is competing with FireWire (IEEE 1394), which has roughly similar capabilities with its transfer speed of 400Mbps. FireWire has a head start, though, because compatible peripherals have been available for some time. Such is not yet the case for USB 2.0.
Adaptec is the first to market with an adapter card which enables standard PCs to connect to devices using the new USB standard. It seems to be a little ahead of its time with this product, but we should remember that the first version of USB was available for almost two years before a significant number of compatible products were available. Now USB 1.1 is a generally accepted standard for everything from webcams to printers.
At the time of writing, there were no USB 2.0 devices on the market to which we could connect the adapter, so we were unable to give it a proper test. However, we will return to look at USB 2.0 again, when some more products are available.