Intel Hedges On USB 3, Plans To Integrate Feature in 2012

USB 3.0 has been a popular feature ever since its introduction ~12 months ago, but a recent disclosure from Intel could slow the standard's march towards ubiquity. According to information released at IDF, Intel won't introduce a USB 3-powered chipset until 2012. This doesn't bode well for anyone hoping to buy an Intel platform that supports much in the way of upgrades. We already know existing Nehalem CPUs and motherboards won't support Sandy Bridge; it's possible Intel won't introduce native USB 3.0 support until Ivy Bridge. That transition shouldn't require new motherboards/sockets—Most Core 2 motherboards that supported Conroe also supported Penryn—but Intel has a history of changing motherboard sockets/compatibility at the drop of a hat.

The lasers make it faster.

It's always been odd that Intel, who designed the reference controller for USB 3, has been so slow to incorporate it. The current theory is that Intel has pushed back USB 3 integration in favor of its own Light Peak standard. Light Peak could potentially serve as the long-awaited universal connection standard that's capable of handling everything from Internet to HD audio/video to driving additional monitors simultaneously, but it'll take time to get device support rolling. If Intel backs USB 3 simultaneously, there's always a chance that Light Peak would be shoved out of the market before ever having a chance to prove itself.

Whatever Intel's reasoning, enthusiasts should be little affected. NEC's dual-port USB 3 chip has become a staple on a full range of Core 2 Duo/LGA1156/LGA1366 motherboards, while Asrock has already released an X58 motherboard with four USB 3.0 ports. By this time next year, it'll be hard to find a midrange Intel or AMD board that doesn't offer at least two USB 3 ports. Intel's decision not to ship USB 3 support in 2011 will slow adoption, but the fact that motherboard OEMs have already pushed the feature into sub-$100 boards means they view it as an important technology consumers want to buy.