USB 3.0 Debuts: 10 Times Faster than 2.0

The new USB protocol debuted at a major industry confab hosted by Intel.
Posted September 25, 2009

Andy Patrizio

SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel wasn't the only firm introducing new technologies here at the Intel Developer Forum. Its partners were showing off a variety of new wares as well, some of which Intel had a hand in co-developing.

Chip design firm Rambus (NASDAQ: RMBS), teamed with Kingston Technologies to develop "threaded memory module technology," which modifies how a CPU addresses conventional DDR3 SDRAM.

Rambus's argument is simple: there are more cores going into computers than memory, and often times, a core will split a piece of content between all eight of the memory chips on a DIMM (define). So when it wants data from memory, it has to poll all eight chips at once.

Rambus's solution is to put an instruction on the CPU that splits one memory channel into two. Four of the chips on a DIMM are assigned to one core, while the other four are assigned to a second core.

By doing this, letting the CPU know that the data resides entirely within a single memory chip, it claims a 20 percent reduction in power and 50 percent performance improvement. Because it's on the CPU, no modifications are needed to the memory.

The real trick: convincing Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and AMD (NYSE: AMD) to adopt it. Rambus, reps said they are working on just that.

USB 3.0 debuts

The coming out party for USB 3.0 here included a pavilion of vendors showing off the new high-speed data link. USB 3.0 is 10 times faster than 2.0, meaning it can reach up to five gigabits per second throughput. That's as fast as a top-of-the-line SATA drive used in high-end computers.

One representative with NEC, who declined to be identified, said he figured this would have an impact on the market for external hard drives that use an external SATA (eSATA) interface. It's also convenient if that happens, because that means one less interface for case makers to put on their designs.

In addition to the huge speed boost, USB 3.0 is bi-directional; USB 2.0 was not. Also, USB 2.0 had a habit of constantly polling the port when a device was attached. This was a great way to drain a laptop battery quickly because it kept the laptop from going into a low power state. Instead, USB 3.0 has low power states built in, so attached devices will go into a low power mode when not in use.

With the speed comes a trade-off: USB 3.0 cables are shorter by a few feet. USB 2.0 could run as long as five meters, but USB 3.0 dropped that limit to three meters to get the speed gains.

Motherboard OEMs should start releasing motherboards with USB 3.0 onboard either in the later part of this year or first quarter of 2010.

Laptop phone home

Absolute Software develops security software that works with Intel's vPro. The company's Geofencing technology, announced earlier this month, can monitor a computer and issue an alert if it goes outside of a certain area, which could be an area the size of a room, building or lower Manhattan.

At IDF, Absolute announced it will offer a consumer version of its Computrace LoJack for Laptops service that supports Intel's Anti-Theft technology. The service will be available next year. Anti-Theft helps secure lost PCs, so if one goes AWOL (as they often do) a signal can be sent to protect the data. The prior versions would "brick" the computer, meaning the entire contents of the hard drive would be scrambled.

The newest version will encrypt only data but leave applications and the operating system intact. It operates through the computer's BIOS (define) so it can't be circumvented. Also, data is not destroyed, just rendered unreadable. Should the proper owner find the computer, they can override the security lockdown and access their data again.

Article courtesy of

Tags: consumer, chips, Intel, AMD, USB 3.0

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