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Digital Cowboy DCT-FUTA1

Kuroutoshikou EXCARD-LPCIE, Image Courtesy of PC Watch
Because we care

PCI Express x1 cards have been quite scarce since its release a couple years ago. Two Japanese companies have released new PCI Express x1 adapters for desktop PCs that convert PCI to PCI Express x1 and ExpressCard to PCI Express x1.

The Digital Cowboy DCT-FUTA1 utilizes a PLX Technology PEX 8111 PCI to PCI Express bridge chip and accommodates low profile PCI cards. PLX Technology also supplies the PEX 8532 bridge for ATI Gemini graphics cards too. As this is a generic PCI to PCI Express adapter it should theoretically be able to work with any PCI card.

Kuroutoshikou has released a PCI Express x1 to ExpressCard adapter too. ExpressCard is the PCI Express based PCMCIA replacement standard for notebooks. The EXCARD-LPCIE is a regular expansion card that has an ExpressCard slot in the back plate. It also adds one extra USB 2.0 port. ExpressCard peripherals include various networking devices such as the Verizon V640, Dell Wireless 5700 Mobile Broadband ExpressCard, Novatel XU870 ExpressCard and Linksys EC1000 Gigabit adapter.

There’s no mention if these adapters will make it across the pond, though there’s always the option of importing.

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More x1
By mendocinosummit on 8/14/2006 3:26:31 PM , Rating: 3
I just want to see x1 dial-up modems, sound cards, tuners (more of them), and if the price drops PPU's.

RE: More x1
By FITCamaro on 8/14/2006 3:58:18 PM , Rating: 2
Something like this would also be great for circumstances when you want a PCI-E version of a card but don't have a PCI-E slot. This way you can get the newer card that is future safe but not have to change motherboards just yet. Say like a RAID controller card that is available in PCI and PCI-E. Now you can get the PCI-E version instead of the PCI. My file server is old and doesn't have PCI-E slots. With this I can get a PCI-E controller and transition it to my next file server eventually instead of having to throw it out if it was PCI.

RE: More x1
By FITCamaro on 8/14/2006 4:01:58 PM , Rating: 2
Whoops. Just realized its to allow PCI cards to work in a PCI-E slot. Well then it still applies. Lets you use your PCI RAID controller in your new PCI-E motherboard. For people who use SLI and Crossfire with dual slot cards, having 2 available PCI slots is an issue on a lot of motherboards today. Letting you use a PCI-E x1 slot for a PCI card would go a long way to helping.

RE: More x1
By johnsonx on 8/14/2006 4:09:55 PM , Rating: 2
Not too many low profile PCI RAID cards that are worth the bother. I'm not saying there aren't any, just that the one 'you' happen to have probably isn't (by you of course I mean the generic you, not the OP specificically).

However that doesn't take away from your general point that this is a useful adapter.

RE: More x1
By kamel5547 on 8/14/2006 4:04:36 PM , Rating: 2
Nope... it only goes from the new standard to the old standard; not from the old to the new.

RE: More x1
By Rike on 8/14/2006 4:13:22 PM , Rating: 2
Read again. These take a PCIe x1 slot and let you use a PCI card in it.

RE: More x1
By Rike on 8/14/2006 4:15:01 PM , Rating: 2
Well it looks like I'm just repeating what everyone else already said. That's what I get for not refreshing before I post. :(

RE: More x1
By mendocinosummit on 8/14/2006 4:16:18 PM , Rating: 2
I just want more x1 cards. It has been a long time now, for the computer market, and still there is hardly any. You would think that it would be cheaper to make.

RE: More x1
By plewis00 on 8/14/2006 5:02:45 PM , Rating: 2
I'm still yet to see a decent PCIe sound card, in fact, I don't think I've seen one at all. This is a big deal for many users, particularly, say, Shuttle XPC users where they only have a 16x and 1x PCIe slot and nothing else. I'm glad I went from SFF to microATX because I can still use my Audigy 2 ZS. Onboard HD Audio is fair enough but it's still not a patch on decent discrete sound cards.

Here's Why PCI Express x1 Sound Cards
By qdemn7 on 8/15/2006 12:09:57 AM , Rating: 2
Now granted this is a year old, but the fact that we have as of yet seen no Sound Cards means the problem may have / has not been solved. Doing a Google search reveals only pro-level cards retailing for $1K and above.

As far as PCI Express (PCIe) is concerned, which is the next bus, what we found is that the performance of PCIe is truly bad for audio. We are seeing four times degradation on the bus for audio.

PCIe is designed for graphics and high data transfer, but audio sends very small packets and the overhead can be very big! Moving the data across PCIe is much, much higher than PCI. So what we have to do is go back to the drawing board and work on the transport part of the chip and re-design it to add more silicon to overcome some of the problems we had with PCIe. So for us to come up with a PCIe solution is going to take a while because we have to overcome the problems we're facing with that bus.

RE: Here's Why PCI Express x1 Sound Cards
By TomZ on 8/15/2006 2:24:49 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, that quote from Creative is a load of crap. There is no inherent long latency in PCIe. If anything, the latency is probably less since PCIe is a dedicated, point-to-point (not shared), bidirectional link, meaning that no bus arbitration is required. As long as the link is idle, a message can be sent to the device immediately without any delays.

Also, even if you ignore these facts, why wouldn't video have the same supposed issue as audio?

I think that quote was put out by Creative's marketing side in order to explain their delay in supporting PCIe which clearly is due to another reason besides PCIe latency. It's pretty sad, IMO.

By lemonadesoda on 8/15/2006 7:41:28 PM , Rating: 2
Have to agree with you there. In fact, the story is worse. Probably as follows:

Public: Hey, Creative! your PCI audio cards have high latency. That's a very poor show for expensive sound cards!

Creative: Oh no they don't, its the PCI bus that is the problem. Our engineers, software and hardware are the best

Public: Ho-hum, if you say so

Creative: Hey, we now have a PCIe card. Pay double to upgrade. All you ever wanted features

Public: OK, I'll buy a few

Public: Wait, this latency thing is still here! Creative what gives? You've no excuse this time!

Creative's engineers secret meeting: oh crap, what are we going to say this time? They found out we BS'd the public about PCI latency. Now they know it was our cards and their drivers that was the problem. Any one got any ideas?

Creative's marketing department: Don't worry, dummy Joe Public fell for that BS last time. Let's feed them the same story. After all 99% of our target market don't really understand what PCI or PCIe is, let alone latency. As it is pro audio users don't go near our products anyway!

RE: More x1
By PrinceGaz on 8/15/2006 7:38:48 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. My mobo has two PCIe x16, one PCIe x4, one PCIe x1, and two legacy PCI slots. The only PCIe card I have is my graphics card. The other three PCIe slots are empty because there's nothing I want that will fit in them (I don't need SLI or CrossFire).

On the other hand, my two legacy PCI slots are taken up by a soundcard and TV-tuner card, and if I had a third I'd install an analogue modem for use when my broadband connection goes down. It's about time soundcards and TV-tuner cards were readily available in PCIe x1 form. As for the PhysX card, I don't know what Aegia were thinking when they chose to release it as a legacy PCI device.

RE: More x1
By The Boston Dangler on 8/15/2006 9:00:05 AM , Rating: 2
Most of the non-video PCIe cards I've seen are converters like PCIe-to-USB/Firewire/serial/etc. or RAID controllers. None of these things are particularly useful, as any decent mobo has plenty of these.

Plenty of people would buy the following PCIe stuff:
Soundcard (c'mon Auzentech)
HD CableCard tuner
HD OTA tuner (maybe with AM/FM/RDS/HD radio?)
DOCSIS modem
PPU? That's a tough one.

YAH, whay he said
By drewsup on 8/14/06, Rating: 0
RE: YAH, whay he said
By beepandbop on 8/14/2006 3:31:57 PM , Rating: 2
Last I checked, I had two PCI-e x16s, 2 PCIs and one PCIex1 and one PCIex4
Thats on an M2N32 SLI Deluxe, which just came out.
Regardless, I think more devices should utilize the faster speeds of PCIex1/4

RE: YAH, whay he said
By GoatMonkey on 8/14/2006 3:43:48 PM , Rating: 3
The manufacturers of many devices have realized that their devices do not have a need to utilize all of the bandwidth available in PCI-express, so they have not put in the development effort for the new connector. Just because you think they should utilize it doesn't mean there is a reason to try to.

RE: YAH, whay he said
By TomZ on 8/14/2006 3:50:01 PM , Rating: 1
I have to disagree - PCI is going the way of the dinosaur. Therefore, all devices will need to be updated to PCIe if the vendors wish to have market share in the future. This is really no different than the previous ISA -> PCI transition a few years back.

RE: YAH, whay he said
By retrospooty on 8/14/2006 5:53:25 PM , Rating: 2
ISA to PCI was a big deal, ISA was way bandwidth limited, and there were alot of devices that could really use the extra bandwidth...

PCI to PCI-Ex - the diff being only that there arent many PCI cards that need the extra bandwidth. Graphics are obvious, but what PCI cards out there today (that are widely in use) need the additional bandwidth? Sound - not even close. I/O most motherboards have PATA, and SATA raid built in. SCSI - maybe, but its not widely used unless your a server. Thus, no great hurry to develop a PCI-Ex card.

RE: YAH, whay he said
By TomZ on 8/15/2006 9:13:10 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree - more bandwidth is needed, now. PCI's maximum theoretical bandwidth is 1.056Gb/s. which does not compare well with SATA's 1.5Gb/s and 3.0Gb/s if you are using a SATA adapter. The PCI bottleneck will limit the transfer rate on SATA drives back to ATA133 limits. Also, a gigabit Ethernet card will consume 95% of the PCI bandwidth transferring data at its full rate. Now when you consider that PCI devices have to share the available PCI bandwidth, the problem with PCI becomes very clear if you have multiple devices on the same PCI bus (always the case in a typical system).

RE: YAH, whay he said
By lemonadesoda on 8/14/2006 5:59:56 PM , Rating: 2
You can still buy "industrial" mainboards that have ISA slots in addition to PCI and/or PCI-e. There is a need for these devices... albeit not a mainstream one.

(As previously pointed out, there are occasions when specialist hardware is not obsolete but is incompatible with new mainboards... this device for a few $ means you don't have to buy replacement specialist hardware).

RE: YAH, whay he said
By johnsonx on 8/14/2006 4:29:08 PM , Rating: 2
I know its not possible

Actually it probably is possible. I can't think of any really good reason you couldn't bridge PCI to 1x PCIe. The only question is whether there's enough market demand to do so. I'd say the answer is mostly "No.". Today there simply aren't enough PCIe devices to warrant such an adapter, and by the time there enough PCIe devices (and no equivalent PCI devices remaining), only very old PC's would have any use for such an adapter. The market for upgrading very old PC's is fairly small.

Now the bridge chip to enable a 1x PCIe device to interface with a PCI slot may already exist, or may exist before long. Such a bridge chip would allow a company to implement native PCIe on a new design for tomorrow's market, yet know they can just mate it with a bridge chip on a PCI board for today's market. The same thing's been done with graphics chips - all the new ATI chips are native PCIe, but X1300's and X1600's have been mated with an AGP bridge to install in legacy mainboards.

Once the bridge chip itself exists, making a generic adapter with it is a simple matter.

RE: YAH, whay he said
By latrosicarius on 8/14/2006 4:51:50 PM , Rating: 2
It might be possible, but you wouldn't be able to run on the PCIe bus. You'd be stuck transmitting a PCIe protocol over a standard PCI bus, which would limit the bandwidth drastically, since the PCIe device is serial in nature (two-way traffic), and normal PCI is not.

That would require the PCIe device to have to make a transmission resend whenever there is a traffic collision, and I highly doubt they are built with this ability (although, I haven’t read the spec)

RE: YAH, whay he said
By latrosicarius on 8/14/2006 4:55:39 PM , Rating: 2
EDIT: I should clarify... the PCIe "bus" isn't even a real bus. PCIe is point-to-point (device to I/O switch), not a looped bus like PCI.

I'm just pointing out that an adapter between the two slots would have to take care of all the translations between the communication protocols, and it would at BEST, be as fast as the slowest protocol (PCI).

Besides, the Internet is a series of tubes.

RE: YAH, whay he said
By johnsonx on 8/14/2006 7:54:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, the bridge chip takes care of all those concerns, the same way that PCIe to AGP bridge chips do. The bandwidth issue would be minor, given that PCIe 1x has (I think) roughly the same bandwidth as standard PCI.

RE: YAH, whay he said
By TomZ on 8/14/2006 9:06:42 PM , Rating: 2
It might be possible, but you wouldn't be able to run on the PCIe bus. You'd be stuck transmitting a PCIe protocol over a standard PCI bus, which would limit the bandwidth drastically, since the PCIe device is serial in nature (two-way traffic), and normal PCI is not.

I'm not exactly sure what you're saying, but the OP is correct - it is very feasible to make a PCI-to-PCIe (or vice versa) adapter. PCIe is serial, but has a much higher clock rate than PCI, so that would not be a limiting concern. Obviously the adapter would only go at the rate of the slowest side, but that is the nature of all such types of adapters. Finally, the PCI bus and PCIe use the same packet protocol, so they are exactly compatibile from that perspective, which makes such an adapter easier.

As the OP pointed out, this is probably not a good idea from a business/market standpoint, but from a technical standpoint, I don't see any reason it couldn't be done.

RE: YAH, whay he said
By Missing Ghost on 8/14/2006 11:10:42 PM , Rating: 2
There are no collisions in PCI. PCI acts more like a token ring network. PCIe is the same as PCI except for the physical layer and thus they are 100% compatible once you put in the hardware adapter chip.

RE: YAH, whay he said
By TomZ on 8/15/2006 9:02:15 AM , Rating: 2
There are no collisions in PCI. PCI acts more like a token ring network.

I agree there are no collisions in PCI, however, this is due to it having a bus arbiter. Token ring implies that the right to access the bus is controlled by a token that is passed from neighbor to neighbor, which doesn't happen in PCI. Intead, a PCI card requests to access the bus, and the arbiter decides when/which PCI cards get access. The arbiter is part of the PCI chipset.

Whats the point?
By L33tMasta on 8/14/06, Rating: 0
RE: Whats the point?
By ksherman on 8/14/2006 3:16:29 PM , Rating: 4
speak for yourself

RE: Whats the point?
By OrSin on 8/14/2006 3:18:10 PM , Rating: 2
You must not have a new system. Most new systems have no pci slots any more. Just 16x and 1x PCI-E.

RE: Whats the point?
By Kuroyama on 8/14/2006 3:48:11 PM , Rating: 2
Most new systems have no pci slots any more. Just 16x and 1x PCI-E.

I just got a MicroATX board last week and all of the AM2 boards on sale at Newegg had 1 PCIx16, 1 PCIx1, and 2 PCI slots.

RE: Whats the point?
By lemonadesoda on 8/15/2006 7:42:37 PM , Rating: 2
Try getting a new MAC and count the number of PCI slots! LOL

RE: Whats the point?
By PandaBear on 8/14/2006 3:19:39 PM , Rating: 2
Industrial application that has $1000 card for PCI but they want to move to new system in the future with no PCI slot.

They don't care if you buy it, as long as some old PC needs upgrade but cannot dump the old cards, they will have a market.

RE: Whats the point?
By Lord 666 on 8/14/2006 3:44:39 PM , Rating: 2
Even worse is having to buy two $3000 EICON cards in two seperate servers to work with new corporate mandated Dell servers that only have PCI Express.

If only these cards were more readily available.

RE: Whats the point?
By AkaiRo on 8/14/2006 5:45:16 PM , Rating: 2
Almost sounds like my company, but luckily our division's datacenter runs better than the others so we get to buy what we want (ProLiant DL3x0 G4/G5).

What Dell servers offer PCI-E only? The newest ones (1950 and 2950) offer optional cages/risers that will accomodate PCI-X. The Dells do suck though if a mixed config is desired (that's why the ProLiants are better).

RE: Whats the point?
By bigboxes on 8/14/2006 3:29:24 PM , Rating: 2
Whats the point of this? We already have enough PCI slots without needing to convert a PCIE 1x slot to PCI.

Did you actually think before posting?

One of the biggest complaints of the new PCI Express x1 standard is that we now have these little slots taking away PCI slots on the motherboard, but PCI Express x1 expansion cards are scarce. The majority of add-in cards still being produced with a PCI standard. Combine that with the ever shrinking availability of PCI slots on newer mobos (and if you have a video card with a two-slot cooling solution that eliminates yet another expansion slot) you can see how such an adapter might be useful to PC modders... which is pretty much anyone who frequents AT.

I think you've got it wrong...
By DeepBlue1975 on 8/14/2006 5:41:30 PM , Rating: 2
The article says "PCIe 1x to PCI"...

But the picture shows that you connect a PCI card on top, and the interface to your motherboard is a PCIe connector.

So, I think these are the possibilities:
1- I'm getting the article's semantics all wrong
2- the article is wrong
3- the picture is wrong
4- everything is wrong and it's just somethig that enables you to make RAID 5 with coffee machines :D

RE: I think you've got it wrong...
By ilkhan on 8/14/2006 5:56:28 PM , Rating: 2
takes a PCI card, and lets you plug it into a PCI-E x1 slot. Simple.

RE: I think you've got it wrong...
By KristopherKubicki on 8/14/2006 6:39:36 PM , Rating: 2
I cleaned up the grammar a little bit. You plug a low-profile PCI card into it and you get a PCIe x1 card. Sorry if this was not originally clear.

By psychobriggsy on 8/15/2006 6:28:01 AM , Rating: 2
It's still inconsistent:

"that convert PCI to PCI Express x1 and PCI Express x1 to ExpressCard. "

The first plugs a PCI device into a PCIe slot via an adaptor, the latter plugs a PCIe device into an ExpressCard slot via an adaptor? Nope.

Not that it matters, we can see the pictures to see what's going on.

Shame the PCI adapter for PCIe is limited to low profile PCI cards, but I guess there's not much else you can do for such a device. The ExpressCard adaptor for PCIe looks less useful, there's hardly any EC devices out now, and those that are out might add value to a laptop but not to a full PC. However if SFF systems came with EC ports it would be neat, they've got spare PCIe and USB2 controllers that can be used to create the EC port.

If Mobo makers could BUY a clue...
By cornfedone on 8/14/2006 4:52:15 PM , Rating: 1
...then these adapters would not be necessary for 99% of the world. But since the Asian mobo companies in particular, are mostly brain dead and only interested in rushing the latest POS out the door to naive, gullible sheep, most new mobos end up at least one and in many cases two USABLE PCI slots short. Then the Asian mobo makers wonder why people don't buy the POS-of-the-week they are peddling. The clueless leading the blind no doubt.

RE: If Mobo makers could BUY a clue...
By ss284 on 8/14/2006 5:02:38 PM , Rating: 2
What Major motherboard makers, if any at all, arent asian? Asus, Gigabyte, Foxconn, ECS, DFI, Abit...

Its not the motherboard manufacturer's fault, its the fact that PCI is fast enough for most consumer applications and that its been around for more than a decade. People love the PCI slot. It wont die for at least another 5 years.

By DigitalFreak on 8/14/2006 5:15:54 PM , Rating: 2
It's the age old "chicken or the egg" syndrome.

RE: If Mobo makers could BUY a clue...
By TomZ on 8/14/2006 9:12:48 PM , Rating: 1
Its not the motherboard manufacturer's fault, its the fact that PCI is fast enough for most consumer applications and that its been around for more than a decade. People love the PCI slot. It wont die for at least another 5 years.

Old doesn't mean good. PCI is a technology that should go the way of the dinosaur, mostly because PCIe is a much simpler, more elegant solution. PCIe totally eliminates the hardware complexity of the PCI bus which makes add-on cards for PCI much more complicated than, say, ISA. PCI also has the whole resource mapping thing which is eliminated with PCIe (memory space, IO space, IRQs). Finally, PCIe has scalable bandwidth with plenty of room for growth in the future, unlike PCI which would be very difficult to push past its current performance level.

I always wait for 2.0
By EODetroit on 8/14/2006 4:16:33 PM , Rating: 2
This is all well and good, but I'm holding out for the EISA > PCIe adaptor.

RE: I always wait for 2.0
By johnsonx on 8/14/2006 4:28:52 PM , Rating: 2
oh yeah? well I'M waiting for the MicroChannel to PCIe x16 adapter. I want to run SLI in my old IBM PS/2.

(ok, so I don't really have a PS/2. so shoot me).

By FXi on 8/14/2006 9:26:05 PM , Rating: 2
I can now transform my Xifi card to pci-express and no longer do I have to wait until Creative gets off their lazy xxxxx and makes a pci-e x1 version.

Prolly save some money too :)

Price and availability
By peternelson on 8/14/2006 11:04:24 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like the price is 4980 in Japan (Yen)

That is not very expensive at all.

If it was available in UK or USA I'd buy one or several.

They need people to export them out of Japan, or at least post the product info and ordering details in some English language.

By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 8/15/2006 10:22:10 AM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't an adapter such as this eliminate the latency problems that the X-fi cards have?

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