Native USB3 Support From Intel Could Be 18 Months Away

Native USB3 Support From Intel Could Be 18 Months Away

USB 3 is one of the best standard updates the computer industry has come up with, but reports indicate Intel may not support the standard natively until 2012. That's particularly surprising since Intel designed much of the USB 3 standard—by all rights, Santa Clara should have been one of the first companies out the door, not one of the last.

While it's still only found on a relative handful of motherboards, it's impossible to the performance difference between it and USB 2, even under modest test conditions. One of the most useful features of USB 3, though it's not something we've seen vendors taking advantage of yet, is the fact that it allows external HDDs to run just as fast as they would if they were sitting inside the case.

Intel hasn't confirmed or denied rumors that its USB 3-enabled chipsets won't see the light of day until 2012. Motherboard vendors will continue to offer both USB 3 and SATA 6G via third-party controllers, though Intel's native SATA 6G chipsets are expected to arrive relatively soon. Our best guess for why Intel is delaying USB 3 is that it wants to prioritize its Light Peak interface, which it may launch as early as this year.


Intel demonstrating Light Peak's throughput potential

If you haven't heard of Light Peak, it's an optical interface Intel will debut at 10Gb/s (double USB3's 4.8Gb/s) and plans to scale as high as 100GB/s. Even the initial 10Gb/s is far more bandwidth than any single system can saturate, but Intel designed the standard hoping it will be "the last cable that you ever need."

Unlike USB 3, it'll be possibly to daisy-chain Light Peak devices and it'll be compatible with DisplayPort. Intel doesnt' see Light Peak as a direct USB 3 competitor but as a long-term, more broadly supported replacement. Given the momentum behind USB 3, Intel could have a spot of trouble building OEM support for Light Peak.
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I don't get it, why do Intel boards always have 2 SATA 6GB/s ports and barely any USB3 ports when the AMD boards have a lot more SATA ports then the Intels? While I do think Light Peak is cool, it cannot compete directly with an established standard that's almost compatible with every device in the whole wide world, I don't get why Intel doesn't include native USB 3 and SATA 6GB/s support into their chipsets?

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Wait, I don't get it. Weren't the first USB 3-capable motherboards ones with Intel's X58 chipset? When they say natively, do they mean literally built into the chipset as opposed to having a controller by Via or something? And if so, what's the big deal? Because from the way I see it, if Intel builds a Light Peak interface into its chipsets and keeps using external controllers for plain vanilla USB 3, everyone wins! The motherboards have USB 3 support, and Intel can continue to push its doomed Light Peak. It's like the HDDVD/Blu-Ray war. When you have two virtually identical products competing (or if not identical, serving the same market niche and purpose) one of them is bound to be wiped out of existence in the end.

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USB 3.0 isn't built into the chipset. It's added by 3rd party vendors later.

If it was built into the chipset, then every intel based board that uses that particular chipset will also support USB 3.0.

Currently vendors add a seperate USB 3.0 controller onto the board.

At least, that's my theory :-)

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That's obviously what they're doing, why is it that there are only 2 SATA 6 ports and only 2 USB 3 ports on Intel motherboards?

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Taylor,

I'm reprinting this from an earlier post:

There are only two SATA 6G ports because the Marvell controller only supports two ports (see the page I wrote detailing the controller). You wouldn't *actually* want four ports off that one controller. Since it's hanging off a single PCIe x1 link, it only offers 400MB/s of bandwidth. That's plenty for two devices, although two high-end SSD's could still theoretically hit the limit.

Four hard drives could easily hit the wall at 100MB/s. Two ports is fine, given that:

1) The ICH10 is still a bit faster than the Marvell

2) Two high-end (and extremely expensive) SSDs will saturate a PCIe Gen 2 x1 link.

3) Four high-end HDDs (and quite expensive) HDDs will saturate a PCIe Gen 2 x1 link.

4) Since no HDD can actually sustain transfer rates high enough to benefit from SATA 6G, you're better off just plugging these into the Intel controller.

Double the ports means double the controller chips, which increases board complexity and 'business' in that area by quite a lot. In order to create a RAID link between devices, the two chips would have to communicate by some sort of bridge (or else all RAID communication would have to be handled in software.)

TLDR:

The reason you only see boards with two SATA 6G and two USB 3.0 ports is because that's all that's currently available. Microcontrollers that support 4 USB 3 / SATA 6G ports are still a little ways off.

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I beg to differ Joel H.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131644&cm_re=Crosshair_IV_Formula-_-13-131-644-_-Product

This motherboard contains 6 SATA 6GBs slots, all provided by the AMD controller. I'm just asking why Intel hasn't done the same thing since AMD has done it a long time ago.

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Taylor... that is an AMD chipset... the topic of discussion is Intel chipsets. And Joel was referring to 3rd party controllers producing more than 2 ports.

These controllers have to work in conjunction with the chipset that is already in place which makes it more complicated.

AMD's chipset supports it natively so it is not necessary to run a seperate controller... however I suspect that board is using the AMD chipset and an other in conjuction.

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