SAN JOSE, Calif. Silicon is arriving for the new USB 3.0 specification and the first target to ride the fast interconnect is a new class of consumer mass storage devices.
LucidPort Technology and Fujitsu have announced bridge chips linking USB 3.0 to the serial ATA interconnect used in hard disk and flash drives. The companies see the so-called SuperSpeed USB spec as a good fit for a generation of external drives and consumer mass storage systems, some of which could start shipping early next year.
The LucidPort and Fujitsu bridge chips generally support both the 1.5 and 3.0 Gbit/s serial ATA interfaces to link to various kinds of drives as well as an AES block for data encryption. At least two other competitors--Faraday Electronics and PLX Technology—are expected to release similar bridge chips.
The chips are part of the first wave of silicon now emerging from the fab for USB 3.0. So far this year at least three companies have announced silicon blocks supporting USB 3.0 physical layer controllers.
Starting early next year, PCs are expected to support the new USB spec which supports data rates theoretically up to 5 Gbits/second. That's nearly an order of magnitude faster than today's USB 2.0 which tops out at 480 Mbits/s.
Fujitsu has demonstrated at various conferences a version of its design implemented in an FPGA running at 200 Mbytes/second when connected to a host controller from Fresco Logic. The chip could ultimately support the spec's maximum rated throughput of 300 Mbytes/s at the applications layer.
LucidPort said its USB300 chip, announced July 23, will support throughput up to 210 Mbytes/s using the standard Windows Mass Storage driver. It supports higher data rates using the new USB Attached SCSI driver.
The 65nm MB86C30A device from Fujitsu uses separate silicon blocks for USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, in part for time-to-market reasons, said Davy Yoshida, a director of business development for embedded systems at Fujitsu Microelectronics of America.
"Our USB 2.0 PHY has been tested and proven so it's a safe choice and having two macros may not affect chip size very much," Yoshida said. "In the future, they might be integrated but at this moment people including our competitors think combining the PHYs is not the right decision," he added.
The Fujitsu chip should be in production by September. It is available in sample volumes for $10. The company believes USB 3.0 eventually make its way into digital cameras and mobile phones, however, it would not comment on any future product plans for chips to serve such systems.
A variety of USB 3.0 chips are expected to roll late this year and systems using them could emerge in the first half of 2010. With as many as 2.6 billion USB products in the market, one market researcher projected as many as 500 million devices could shift to the 3.0 spec by 2012.