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Native support for USB 3.0 coming
Intel support coming next year, AMD support much sooner

There are a number of notebooks on the market today that have USB 3.0 ports onboard. HP unveiled several new notebooks this week that that have USB 3.0 for example. However, all of the notebooks and desktops on the market today have to use a third-party USB 3.0 controller because AMD and Intel don’t support the standard natively. That is all about to change though.

AMD has announced that it has new chipsets that will be the first to integrated USB 3.0 support. AMD's Phil Hughes told CNET News, "With [today's] announcement AMD is...disclosing our support for SuperSpeed USB 3.0 in upcoming AMD A75 and A70M Fusion [chipsets]. Both chipsets are shipping today."

It has taken long enough for major chipmakers to support USB 3.0 and with this announcement perhaps more companies will start to offer peripherals and gear that takes advantage of the port. There are some products on the market already that support USB 3.0, but nowhere near the vast and varied product types that use USB 2.0.

Analyst Brian O'Rourke from In-Stat said, "In order for the rippling effect to happen with USB 3.0 it has to hit in PCs and for it to hit in PCs it has to be integrated into the chipset. AMD is not Intel, but it's probably the next best thing in chipsets."  He continued saying, "The only peripheral devices with USB 3.0 out there right now are external hard drives and a few flash drives. Why? There aren't any peripheral controllers for USB 3.0 in general release yet. Not any out there on the market yet."

While AMD has its chipsets shipping already with support for USB 3.0, support from AMD rival Intel is still a ways off. Intel has been pushing support for Thunderbolt along with Apple and a few other companies. Thunderbolt is positioned by Intel as a complement to USB 3.0; not a replacement.

Intel has now announced that support for both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt will come in the same chipsets sometime in 2012. Native support for Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 will land in the Intel Ivy Bridge chipset.

Intel currently offers support for USB 3.0 in some of its desktop mainboards, but that support comes by way of the NEC USB 3.0 chips.



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I'm confused at this point.
By quiksilvr on 4/14/11, Rating: 0
RE: I'm confused at this point.
By kingmotley on 4/14/2011 12:48:09 PM , Rating: 5
Because you can't plug your mouse and keyboard into an eSATA port. eSATA is a very specific port designed for block-type mass storage devices. USB on the other hand is a very generic interface, however it doesn't typically have the same speed as SATA/eSATA at any given time.

Thunderbolt is, and will likely be for the foreseeable future an apple thing. Much like firewire was. Now someone will say, but look, it's on (some) high end video equipment, my cable box had it (without drivers, but worked with this and this hack, etc), and claim it was very popular, however, it really wasn't except for in a few circles. Thunderbolt is apple's next firewire. It likely won't take off, but it's definitely very interesting.


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By quiksilvr on 4/14/2011 4:28:47 PM , Rating: 2
Other companies are already on board for Thunderbolt and are going to get it. What do you need USB 3.0 for in a keyboard and mouse? The only real application is data speed which eSATA/USB ports do fine (yes, they combined the two connections into one port, so you can just have a row of eSATA/USB ports).


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By DanNeely on 4/14/2011 5:11:14 PM , Rating: 2
The limiting factor for eSata/USB ports is that you need a sata controller port for each one. Even with the much higher number of sata ports intel's going to be putting on their LGA 2011 controllers making all ports esata/usb isn't going to be practical while also having the obligatorily excessive number of on board connectors. The other half of the story is that although the combined port has been out for a while it's gotten little or no support from external HD makers, which is a pity since combined cables would allow for eSata drives to be used without a powerbrick.


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By vol7ron on 4/15/2011 1:26:06 AM , Rating: 2
There were several reasons why USB prevailed, but they both have a lot of differences. Initially, I don't think eSATAp was there, so eSATA devices needed to be powered externally. Now they can be powered by the PC, which is a big factor. There are also differences in the power draw, cord length specifications, and the sheer universalism of the devices.

I also think that eSATA took some performance away from the PCIe channels. I know that the early USB3.0 boards that vendors released did that - they hooked into the PCI bus to achieve the USB3 speeds.

One thing is certain. Manufacturers are not going to make/sell a product that consumers can't use. Why make a USB3.0 device, that cant take advantage of the 3.0? The ports have to be in place before the vendors make something available.

High speed ports have a lot of usage, NAS/Backup Storage, Video Transfer (webcam/point-and-shoot camers/handycams), flash drives, printers, phone/pda-docs.


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By DanNeely on 4/15/2011 1:59:19 PM , Rating: 2
eSata only consumed PCIe resources if it was on a high end enthusiast board where it was connected to a 2nd SATA controller the mobo maker added to increase the total port count. Lower end boards that only used the ports in the southbridge would have zero impact on the availability of PCIe for anything else.


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By vol7ron on 4/18/2011 12:14:51 AM , Rating: 2
That might be true, but that would mean they were only operating at a fraction of the theoretical throughput.


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By older geek on 4/18/2011 1:55:16 PM , Rating: 2
TB will only except 6 devices and so will not be a canadate as the one universal bus. It can't be one port for keybord, mouse, monitor, printer, speaker, external hard drive, thumb drive, card reader and broadband internet port ect..


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By DanNeely on 4/14/2011 3:25:28 PM , Rating: 3
USB is a cheap bus for devices where cost is more important than average and peak latency levels. To keep costs down USB devices and mobo controllers are as dumb as bags of hammers, instead the CPU is require to do everything. Because the CPU has lots of other duties it can't respond as quickly or at as consistant a rate as a dedicated contoller.

Firewire, eSata, and Thunderbolt all provide much lower and more consistent latency levels to attached devices. To do this they all rely on dedicated controllers with things like DMA support so that they can transfer data without bothering the CPU. Firewire added ~$10 to the retail cost of a PC/device for the controller. eSata is essentially free since in most cases it simply provided a direct bridge between the already existent sata controllers on the HD and mobo chipset. Thunderbolt is an external PCIe bus, bundled with a display port video link. As long as it's tapping into PCIe lanes/video outs from the chipset it's essentially free to implement on the PC side. How much of a premium it will end up adding to devices is TBD; but it's very unlikely its controller will ever be as cheap as USB, so it will probably remain a niche interface for high end devices.


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By bigboxes on 4/14/2011 9:15:46 PM , Rating: 2
Wah! eSATA is dead. Poor eSATA. Thunderbolt? Not a chance. USB is the "universal" port that everyone wants. So, Intel doesn't have control of it. Boo hoo. Everyone wants one connector and not a bunch of proprietary connections. USB3 (SuperSpeed) will give the bandwidth necessary along with connecting ever peripheral you ever had.


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By B3an on 4/15/2011 6:23:56 AM , Rating: 1
Thunderbolt will certainly take off at one point, even if its years away. It certainly has it uses and i doubt Intel spent years developing it if they dont have big plans for it. It also has many advantages apart from the speed, like supporting PCI Express and DisplayPort protocols, aswell as support for optical cables (not yet used) which will be needed for when people need more speed than USB3. Which will happen at some point. Theres too many "512KB is enough for anybody!" people around here.


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By bigboxes on 4/15/2011 8:42:06 AM , Rating: 3
By then there will USB4.


RE: I'm confused at this point.
By Byte on 4/18/2011 3:53:25 AM , Rating: 2
Spend years developing it, then maybe dump it. Just like Mio.


By Amiga500 on 4/14/2011 11:35:26 AM , Rating: 4
No.

Therefore it does not complement it - it is in competition for the same real-estate on my case or laptop.

No doubt it comes with a substantial "Intel tax".




By semo on 4/14/2011 12:39:36 PM , Rating: 3
It is just a traffic aggregator. Without a USB 3.0 chip on either end there wouldn't be any way of encoding/decoding and tx/rx USB data over thunderbolt. It can be seen as competition on the mechanical interface side but I doubt that there will be many devices that support USB 3.0 but do not provide a USB 3.0 slot.


By DanNeely on 4/14/2011 1:31:34 PM , Rating: 3
It compliments USB3 in the same way that FireWire400 complimented USB2. It was a marginally faster connection with much higher QoS levels. Prior to eSATA it had a fair of consumer use in external HDs, after that it mostly fell back to pro stuff like pro audio gear where USB's latency and variable bandwidth levels rendered it unacceptable.

Thunderbolt will probably displace firewire from its remaining applications, and add a few nitch ones of its own. Possibly video editing. Possibly better external GPUs. USB3's bandwidth is high enough to make a monitor dongle feasible, but TB will be 2-3x faster (which will matter for anyone gaming on it, with GTX2xx generation hardware a 1x connection averaged a 30% FPS penalty). Also, since it looks just like a 1 lane PCIe bus it will be cheaper for the hardware makers to make external video adapters using it.


By FaaR on 4/14/2011 3:32:39 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't compete with USB ports for real-estate on a portable's case, TB uses the same connector as mini displayport (and includes displayport functionality in the same plug), so not only do you NOT lose any real-estate to an additional connector, you GAIN additional functionality and bandwidth.

Win-win!

Oh, and as for intel tax, I believe TB is royalty-free to use as well (like displayport in of itself is).


By B3an on 4/15/2011 6:29:22 AM , Rating: 1
You're exactly correct, and it's surprising how little others know about Thunderbolt on here. USB should be the one to die, not TB. With TB you'll only need one connector that does it all and has support for electrical + optical cables so it's speed can scale far beyond USB ever could.


AMD got help from Renesas (NEC)
By Gungel on 4/14/2011 11:53:33 AM , Rating: 3
Renesas (NEC) is providing the technology inside AMD's chipset. I think it's basically a µPD720400 with two PCIe lanes and 4 USB 3.0 ports.
Probably the reason AMD was able to get it out this quick.




RE: AMD got help from Renesas (NEC)
By semo on 4/14/2011 12:42:15 PM , Rating: 2
Well at least AMD will be able to promote a much needed header standard so that we can get more USB 3.0 cases on the market.


By Einy0 on 4/14/2011 8:42:30 PM , Rating: 3
I see that as a good thing. NEC basically makes the besy USB 3.0 controller on the market and one of the most popular. Having the functionality built in will go a long way. A mature and stable design with proven drivers sounds like a win to me.


Too little too late
By Mr Joshua on 4/15/2011 5:58:26 PM , Rating: 2
Intel stalled as long as they could with USB 3 to perfect lightspeed (or thunderbolt as its now called).
So why, with lightspeed here at last, do we even need USB 3.





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