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Shielding Resolves USB 3.0 Conflict with Bluetooth

Thursday, December 6th, 2012 | Author:

We’ve spoken quite a bit about the benefits of USB 3.0 in recent months. Its high rate of data transfer, backward compatibility with previous versions, and overall low cost are still very compelling arguments for the interface. However, many Mac mini 2012 users (and, to a considerably lesser extent, other 2012 Mac users) using USB 3.0 devices have experienced random dropouts or even outright loss of the use of Bluetooth mice and keyboards.

The cause of this is somewhat technical. For those so inclined, you can peruse this white paper written by the USB Implementers Forum for the full details, but the practical upshot is that the signal from USB 3.0 devices can interfere with the 2.4GHz frequency of Bluetooth. The unfortunate result is dropped or lost signals at distances as near as five feet, compared to the normal 20-30 foot reception range of Bluetooth devices. This interference increases the further away from the computer the Bluetooth device is located. At the same time, it was noticed that the further away from the Bluetooth antenna the USB 3.0 device is, the less severe the interference.

Unfortunately, this is the direct inverse of how many Mac mini users are using their computers. Many users have their USB 3.0 devices immediately next to or stacked on top of their minis, taking advantage of the Mac mini’s small form factor. While this may be problematic enough for desktop use, those using their Mac minis in home theater setups will likely have their keyboards and/or mice across the room from the mini’s location, exacerbating the Bluetooth problem.

As the Newer Technology miniStack is designed to for use with the Mac mini, this has obviously caught our attention. We set out to find a resolution to the problem – one that fixes things not just for the miniStack, but for all USB 3.0 drives used with a Mac mini. Article Continues…

Category: Tech Tips