To USB or Not to USB
  • About

    Covering the latest trends and topics in USB IP.

    Eric started working on USB in 1995, starting with the world’s first BIOS that supported USB Keyboards and Mice while at Award Software. After a departure into embedded systems software for real-time operating systems, he returned to USB IP cores and software at inSilicon, one of the leading suppliers of USB IP. In 2002, inSilicon was acquired by Synopsys and he’s been here since. He also served as Chairman of the USB On-The-Go Working Group for the USB Implementers Forum from 2004-2006.

    Eric received an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University and an M.S. in Engineering from University of California Irvine, and a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Minnesota. and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Civil Engineering in the State of California

    Michael (Mick) Posner joined Synopsys in 1994 and is currently Director of Product Marketing for Synopsys' DesignWare USB Solutions. Previously, he was the Director of Product Marketing for Physical (FPGA-based) Prototyping and has held various product marketing, technical marketing manager and application consultant positions at Synopsys. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering from the University of Brighton, England.

Archive for the 'USB 2.0' Category

VESA DisplayPort USB Type-C certification now available – Hot off the press

Posted by Michael Posner on 10th June 2016

This week VESA announced the availability of the Early Certification Program for USB Type-C Devices Using DisplayPort Alt Mode.


The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA®) is officially launching its early certification test program for products incorporating the new USB Type-C connector and the DisplayPort Alternate Mode (“Alt Mode”) standard.

The Synopsys DesignWare IP supports both the latest USB 3.1 Gen 2 specification, Type-C and the DisplayPort alt mode. What is interesting to know is that there is not unified USB and DisplayPort testing. Both USB-IF and VESA think that while you can do either over the new Type-C connector that the certification process for each will remain separate. This is the right choice in my opinion as Type-C usage is very flexible and not all products that use Type-C will have both USB and DisplayPort integrated.  Having the USB and DisplayPort certifications separate is better for the product developers as if their product does not include one or the other then testing is simplified. If their product contains both then not problem either, both certifications can be gained.

If you haven’t already, please read last week’s blog,  https://blogs.synopsys.com/tousbornottousb/2016/06/03/stormtrooper-boots-and-usb-ip-reliability/ personally I loved it. Great analogy to why you should never skimp on IP and should always seek out the highest quality, reliable and robust IP. The funny thing is just this week at DAC a customer was complaining about the cost of USB IP but in the same sentence noted that due to a 3rd party USB 2.0 IP (NOT Synopsys’) that they suffered 50% yield. Even worse, the USB was only for debug, manufacture firmware load and test, it was not even a user accessible port. Of course if your debug port is dead you are up that creek without a paddle. This was a high volume device, 50% yield was killing this customers profit costing the company millions of dollars. When you compare what is at risk from lower quality IP it’s easy to justify paying a premium for the highest quality, reliability and robustness from a trusted supplier like Synopsys.

Finally a fun picture from a dinner while I was at DAC. Can you name the individuals in the picture? And more importantly, who ruined the photo with the bunny ears?


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Posted in 10G USB, DAC, DisplayPort, IoT, Type C, USB, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, USB Humor, USB-C | Comments Off

Achieving USB 3.1 Certification, Successful Type-C Implementation, DisplayLink Videos and more

Posted by Michael Posner on 27th May 2016

The new DesignWare Technical Bulletin has just been published

This quarterly newsletter provides the latest information on DesignWare® IP including in-depth technical articles, whitepapers, videos, webinars and more. You can read the full newsletter online. Below are the USB focused articles which I highly recommend.

Featured USB Article

USB White Papers

USB On-Demand Webinars

USB Videos

USB In the News



Posted in DisplayLink, Success Stories, Type C, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, USB Certification | Comments Off

Relationships Between USB Specs, Part Two & Where to Learn more about Type-C and DisplayPort alt mode

Posted by Michael Posner on 22nd April 2016

Recently I blogged on the relationships between USB Type-C, USB 3.1, Power Delivery and DisplayPort specifications. In my last blog I simplified the view focusing on the important and latest specifications. I think the simplified view answer most designer’s questions but there are still a few that like to see the full history and complex interactions. The below image, click to enlarge, provides a more detailed view of the different specifications, timeline representation and relationships.

USB Spec Relationship in full

BC = Battery Charging

PD = Power Delivery

HSIC = High Speed Inter Chip

SSIC = Super Speed inter Chip

DP = DisplayPort

USB = Well if you don’t know what this means why are you reading my blog?

A little commentary on the above representation focusing on the more recent changes. The USB 2.0 specification included everything from the USB 1.1 specification. When the SuperSpeed USB aka USB 3.0 specification was published in 2008, this covered SuperSpeed only so both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 specs needed to be referenced. The USB 3.0 specification was updated to USB 3.1 in 2013, adding SuperSpeedPlus or USB SuperSpeed 10Gbps capability. In 2014, multiple ECNs (Engineering Change Notices or spec changes and/or clarifications) for USB 3.1 were published. The avid reader would also find two additional specifications; USB Type-C and USB Power Delivery 2.0, a significant update of USB Power Delivery 1.0. Both these specs also received significant updates in 2015, and a new USB Debug Device Class specification was added at the same time. The Debug Device specification ties in and relates to multiple new specifications and updates that were recently published by MIPI, including Gigabit Debug for USB, Trace Wrapper Protocol, SneekPeek Protocol and System Trace Protocol. Surprisingly for most readers, the USB Debug Device Class does not relate to the USB Debug Accessory appendix that was added to the USB 3.1 spec in 2016.

Both USB Type-C and Power Delivery specs have already been updated in 2016, along with a new appendix for USB 3.1 repeaters. Synopsys is a USB-IF contributor. The 2016 spec bundle also includes USB Type-C Authentication specification that ties into both the USB Type-C and Power Delivery specifications, with future implications for USB 2.0 and USB 3.1 devices and hosts.

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To add to the spec ensemble, the Type-C Port Controller Interface spec was published in 2015. The final pieces of the puzzle can be found in the USB Type-C DisplayPort Alternate Mode specification. However, this specification was not published by USB-IF. DisplayPort Alternate mode spec is owned and published by VESA in 2014 and updated in 2015. DisplayPort 1.2a, 1.3 and 1.4 in addition to Display Stream Compression specs are required reading in addition to the DisplayPort Alt Mode spec.

The above represents a flood of specs that add up to thousands of pages where misinterpreting even a single comma, number or part of a sentence can mean the difference between compliance or not. Worst case even between working or not. This is why I simplified the view in the previous blog and why I recommend the DesignWare USB IP as then you don’t have to worry about any of this as we do.

Do you want to know more about USB Type-C and DisplayPort Alt mode?

If yes I highly recommend the recent web seminar on Successful SoC Implementation of USB Type-C and DisplayPort Alt Mode. USB Type-C is the fastest adopted USB standard to date. Designers are busy adding Type-C capability to existing products and requesting SoC designers to add native USB Type-C support in next-generation SoCs. The main advantage for users of the USB Type-C connector is the flippability of the connector. One small and robust connector for data, video and power is advantageous for portable products, and appreciated by end-users if implemented properly. However, USB Type-C implementation is non-trivial and specification updates are frequent.


This webinar discusses how to integrate USB Type-C and DisplayPort controllers and PHY IP in your next SoC. This includes solving the hardware and software partitioning challenges for an efficient, flexible and successful USB Type-C implementation. We will also provide a brief overview of Synopsys’ DesignWare® USB-C/DisplayPort IP solution which integrates USB Type-C, USB 3.1 and DisplayPort 1.3 interfaces with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) 2.2.

Attend this webinar to learn about:

  • How Alt Mode affects SoC design
  • How to implement the Type-C Port Controller to address multiple SoC design challenges
  • Effective software partitioning for the Type-C Port Manager
  • Challenges and solutions to implementing the USB and DisplayPort datapath switch
  • Creating a cost, power, area and performance-optimized USB Type-C design

Who should attend?

Design engineers, design managers, and system architects who are interested in implementing USB Type-C in their next SoC

Posted in DisplayPort, State of USB, SuperSpeed USB, Type C, USB, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.0 and 3D, USB 3.0 Device, USB 3.0 Host, USB 3.0 IP, USB 3.0 PHY, USB 3.0 Pricing, USB 3.0 Products, USB 3.1, USB 3.10, USB Certification, USB IP, USB Only, USB Power, USB Power Delivery, USB Power, Mobile Phones, Tablets, USB-C, USB-IF | Comments Off

Relationships Between USB Specs

Posted by Michael Posner on 15th April 2016

Welcome to Factual Friday.

This week I wanted to clarify, with accuracy, the relationships between USB Type-C, USB 3.1, Power Delivery and DisplayPort specifications. If you are designing the USB portion of your latest and greatest product then understanding these relationships is critical to ensure you are developing against the right set of specs. Of course if you are just integrating the DesignWare USB Solution IP into your design then you really don’t have to worry about this complexity as we’ve done the worrying for you, however I bet you still find this interesting. Thanks to Morten Christiansen, Synopsys’ USB technical expert, for the background data which enabled me to write this blog.

Trust me, this is the simple version, I might have been a little wordy… never me….

So to begin with, here is the simplified view of the relationship between the latest USB specifications and the linkages to the MIPI and VESA specs. Click the image for the larger view.

Relationships Between USB Specs

Starting in the middle you have the popular USB specifications with the classic USB 1.1 and the ubiquitous USB 2.0, aka Hi-Speed USB, at the bottom. There are related specifications supporting USB Charger detection, confusingly called Battery Charging but trust me it was part of the now defunct USB Power Delivery 1.0 specification. While USB 3.1, with blazingly fast transfer speeds, has been in the news more lately, USB 2.0 is far from its end of life. USB 2.0 is still used across products in multiple market segments and recently has become hot, hot, hot for use in the Internet of Things (IoT) products. Within IoT the benefit of USB 2.0 is that it supports the data transfer needs, internal connectivity, manufacturing and test, recovery modes, debug as well as of course power delivery for portable devices. The race to get the next killer IoT product to the market has driven the creation of a new breed of DesignWare USB IP (USB 2.0 and the classic USB 2.0 Full Speed aka USB 1.1), specifically customized to the need of the IoT product with a focused feature set and greater ease of use for rapid integration. This new solution is the lowest risk USB IP of choice delivering highest quality, reliability across Process, Voltage and Temperature variants with a support infrastructure you can trust.

Moving up the USB chain (in time) you encounter the USB 3.0 specification, aka SuperSpeed USB which introduced the 5 Gb/s data transfer rate. USB 3.0 SuperSpeed was designed to offer this higher data transfer speed to devices that needed it as well as maintaining backward compatibility with USB 2.0 to ensure interoperability and a smooth technology transition. Helping designers transition to USB 3.0 is the DesignWare USB IP which reduces the impact to the SoC by delivering up to 50% smaller area, lowest power consumption while maintaining the highest performance operation. Using the DesignWare USB 3.0 IP can save you three months or more of effort.

Now as we get to USB 3.1, aka SuperSpeed 10Gbps, (aka SuperSpeedPlus) things start to get a little more complex. The first is that there is a Gen1 and a Gen2 USB 3.1. USB 3.1 Gen1 defines the 5Gb/s data transfer rate, the same as the older USB 3.0 specification. The USB 3.1 Gen2 introduces the SuperSpeedPlus data transfer rate of 10 Gb/s, a 2x improvement. But USB 3.1 Gen 2 also introduces a slew of other capabilities such as improved data encoding for more efficient data transfer, higher through-put and improved I/O power efficiency. Again the USB-IF thought about backward compatibility and defined USB 3.1 to be backward compatible with USB 3.0 (USB 3.1 Gen1) and amazingly USB 2.0. Synopsys mirrored this in our DesignWare USB IP by making the programing interface compatible across DesignWare USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB 3.0 IP solutions meaning you can use the same software drivers. You can again trust Synopsys’ IP solution as proven by the fact that we, Synopsys, were the first to receive full USB-IF certification.

Next up is USB Type-C aka, USB-C. This is typically where confusion starts as it’s mixed up with USB 3.1 and I’ve blogged on this topic before. Summarizing, USB Type-C defines a connector standard while the USB 3.1 defines a technology standard. USB Type-C was designed to support USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1, which you can see represented in the above diagram. It’s the USB Type-C specification which intersects with MIPI and VESA.

The USB Type-C specification linkage with MIPI is based around efficient debug which has been driven by the MIPI Debug Working Group. The direct intersect is Gigabit Debug for USB which is built on top of the MIPI Trace wrapper and System Trace, SneakPeek specifications. Here is a great article on SneakPeek, Gigabit Trace Framework and Gigabit debug for USB. Look out for a White Paper from Synopsys soon. Formally, MIPI Debug does not require USB Type-C but there are additional MIPI specification developments and the recent USB Debug Accessory spec that makes Type-C the connector of choicefor debug.

The USB Type-C specification linkage to VESA is driven by what is commonly known as “DisplayPort alt mode” which is DisplayPort running over USB Type-C. The latest DisplayPort specification defines up to 8K at 60 Hz A/V performance which require DisplayPort PHY’s similar to USB 3.1 Gen2, 10 Gb/s performance. Synopsys already provides an IP solution supporting these latest specifications, USB 3.1 Type-C with DisplayPort.

Hopefully at this point you can see that there are individual specifications for USB, DisplayPort and debug and that it’s the USB Type-C specification where they intersect. Even with this USB-C can be used separately for USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 or these can be used without the USB Type-C, but who in the world would do that…..

Finally sprouting out of the top of USB Type-C is the new USB Power Delivery 2.0 and the Port Controller Specifications. However searching for a Type-C Port Controller (HW) Specification gives no results. Nor is there a corresponding Type-C Port Manager (SW) specification. Only the HW/SW interface is specified since the HW specification is inherent from the Type-C spec. Some of the SW spec is inherent from Type-C, USB 3.1 and Power Delivery specification…….

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Seems simple doesn’t it. Just remember this is the simplified version and might have brushed over some of the details. I like to say “Don’t let thetechnical details get in the way of a good story”. I say this and others by the way, see here. In this case I’ve presented technical accuracy but have brushed over the multitudes of other spec’s that string along with USB.

I’ve been building a Van de Graaff Generator at home and I must admit I’m happy with the way it’s turned out. Check out the 4-6″ sparks I can generate. The 2nd picture is a little grainy but I love the plasma spark vs. the full on lightening effect.

Mick;s Van de Graaff Generator in full effect

Mick;s Home Made Van de Graaff Generator

Posted in 10G USB, IoT, IP, SuperSpeed USB, Type C, USB, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, USB Power, USB Power Delivery, USB-C | Comments Off

Will Wireless (data & charging) replace USB?

Posted by Michael Posner on 26th February 2016

The big question on people’s minds is if wireless, data transfer and charging, will replace USB in the future. The simple answer is  NO, USB is here to stay. For the longer answer read on.

It is true, wireless data transfer and wireless charging has replaced some of the traditional USB cable connected usage but even in these devices USB lives on supporting other extended use modes. At a high level USB will always be design in to support the following use cases and capabilities

  • Internal connectivity
  • Manufacturing
  • Recovery
  • Debug
  • Standard connectivity
  • Power delivery

Internal connectivity: USB is being used more and more for internal connectivity, chip to chip, as it’s a reliable and unified (universal) way to enable the rapid integration of chip building blocks. WiFi, Bluetooth and radio chips are good examples where USB might be employed to enable rapid and seamless connectivity to other processing engines. In these use cases I’d expect the interface to be USB 3.0 to support the required connectivity performance. So USB will be designed into both the chips.

Manufacturing: This is a use case which the end user rarely sees. Lets take the example of a fully wirelessly connected IoT device. Within the manufacturing process, do you think that the company wirelessly connects to thousands of devices to upload the firmware and execute the production testing? No, of course not. Managing production firmware loading, test and debug is typically done over a reliable hard wired connection, in most cases this will be a USB connection.

Recovery: Who has not had a device go into a bricked state? A while back my little fitness tracker locked up. I tried powering it up and down but no luck. After a quick online search of course I found the product detailed documentation which listed the failsafe recovery mode. Guess what, connect the USB powered cradle to a computer and run a software app to recover the device. My wireless fitness tracker integrated USB and it was this hard wired interface that was used to recover the device. I should have known that the device integrated USB already as you plug it into a mini dock to charge. The charging interface is of course USB.

Debug: Another trend is debug over USB, sometimes called Advanced Debug and Diagnostics. Again, the product integrates USB which could support multiple use modes and the advanced debug and diagnostics extends the ports usage.

Standard connectivity: Thanks to the reliability and performance of a hard wired USB it’s still the interface of choice to connect products to a host machine. Think device backup or mass data transfer.

Power Delivery: For a while there was a trend of wireless charging and this trend for small IoT based devices is expected to continue. However while wireless charging seems convenient it’s far from perfect and suffers greatly from slow charging performance issues. Consumers are just not willing to wait hours for their phone to charge. This is where of course USB Type-C blasts the competition. The increased power delivery means the device can be charged very quickly meeting and sometimes beating the consumers expectations.

I’m sure I have missed some use cases as well but as you can see, the wireless mega trend is far from replacing USB, in fact we expect the two to co-exist. Oh, and I suddenly realized that I didn’t even cover the USB-C with DisplayPort use mode. USB is here to stay.


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Last weeks little quiz: What is this?

Can you guess what this is?

Kati guessed it correctly, it’s a Mason Bee house. Mason bees sort of adopted us. We started noticing holes in our house being filled up with mud. At first I was worried as I thought the bees were also eating into the house to make these holes. After research and observation we realized they were mason bees. We purchased one little mason bee house and in spring they quickly adopted that. Now I custom build the houses for them using either ABS piping as in the picture or cedar. I purchased disposable cardboard tubes for them to live in which we replace once they exit. This helps keep them healthy.

Newly built mason bee house

Mason been poking his head out of hole

A row of our Mason Bee houses, some purchased, some built

It should be noted that Mason Bee’s are not USB powered in anyway.

This weeks quiz, when is BODMAS used?

Posted in Bluetooth, Everyday USB, State of USB, Type C, USB, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, USB-C, WiFi | Comments Off

What is USB Type-C anyway and what does it have to do with USB 3.1?

Posted by Michael Posner on 19th February 2016

One of the challenges I had ramping back up on USB was understanding all of the advancements in the USB specifications since I last worked as part of the Synopsys DesignWare IP group. Of course along with the advancement of the USB specification also came a slew of new acronyms. Anything confusion I encountered was the connection between USB Type-C and USB 3.1. Apparently the confusion between USB Type-C and USB 3.1 is common as a simple search resulted in many technical article links, including the one below which I thought was a very good summary explanation.


Summarizing, USB Type-C defines a connector standard while the USB 3.1 defines a technology standard supporting transfer speeds up to 10 GB/s. The USB Type-C connector was designed to support the USB 3.1 defined 10 Gb/s transfer speeds. The USB Type-C connector was designed to support USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1. USB Type-C defines a reversible connection so you no longer have to continuously flip the device until it plugs in. In theory there are only two possible ways to plug in the older USB components, so why does it always take at least three attempts?

I’m not the only one who finds this funny: http://lifehacker.com/5847279/how-to-plug-in-a-usb-cable-correctly-every-time

Lastly, off topic, I made a number of the things pictured below. Can you guess what they are? Use the comment field to enter your guess.

Can you guess what this is?


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Posted in 10G USB, Type C, USB, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, USB-C | 5 Comments »

USB and Thunderbolt in 90 seconds

Posted by Eric Huang on 21st August 2012

A Blog Reader kindly forwarded this video to me explaining the differences in USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and Thunderbolt.

Watch it because it distills USB and Thunderbolt into about 20 seconds of content.


USB and Thunderbolt as explained in 90 seconds as explained by a Microsoft OEM person



Forward this Blog Address to anyone asking you about the differences between USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt.


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Western Wisconsin

I drove around Western Wisconsin on Friday.

Stopped at a Gas Station.

  • First Sign “Ethanol Free Gasoline"
  • Second Sign “Deer Dressing Services”
  • Third Sign “Ammo Sold Here”
  • Fourth Sign “Buy this Deer Head” or any of the 20 above the Beer Freezers.

I told this story to a friend who said, “I only display deer I shoot myself.”

Posted in Thunderbolt, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 | Comments Off

USB Power Delivery up to 100W of power, Specification Goes Final & Public

Posted by Eric Huang on 6th August 2012

USB delivers power, enough to charge your mobile phone or tablet, but slower than you want.  You need more power for faster charging, so the inventors of USB invented USB Power Delivery. 

The specification is now final and approved by the USB-IF.

USB 3.0 delivers up to 4.5W of power for charging.

This is an improvement of over USB 2.0’s 2.5W.

The Battery Charging 1.2 specification delivers up to 7.5W of power over USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 cables.  This is typically a wall charger, plugged into an outlet. Circuitry in your Kindle Fire or mobile phone that says “I can deliver up to 7.5W of power” and the phone says, “Bring it” (Or “I can handle Battery Charging 1.2 so go ahead and deliver the amps so can charge at with 7.5W of power”).


The big deal with USB Power Delivery is that

  1. It works with either USB 2.0 or USB 3.0
  2. Delivers power in either direction from the Host to the Device or the Device to the Host
  3. You get to have a single cable for both power and data
  4. There’s lots more power

For example, your Monitor could charge your PC OR your PC could power your monitor.

At the same time, the USB cable would deliver the video from your PC to your Monitor.

Power Delivery


More on USB Power Delivery tomorrow





Borrowing Humor

You’ve been enjoying the Summer Olympics.  Here’s my favorite commercial, courtesy of Sears.


Sears Commercial


This, to me, is the best Home Appliance Commercial Ever Made.

It has nothing to do with USB, but I might have something tomorrow.

Posted in USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB Power, USB Power Delivery | Comments Off

Does my NAND need USB 3.0? – Types of NAND by Application – Part 3

Posted by Eric Huang on 4th June 2012

NAND flash is the basic component in USB Flash Drives, SD Cards, SSDs as discussed in the first blog.

As discussed in the second blog, NAND flash is only one compenent that affects overall USB throughput.

Based on feedback from readers, I’m going to go back to the basics on NAND.  For even seasoned Semiconductor professionals, this might be useful.


Basics Review

  • NAND is non-volatile (permanent) storage. 
  • NAND is a chip (no moving parts like a Hard Drive)
  • NAND chips can be of different quality, speed, or capacity
  • Multiple NAND chips can be used together to make a larger storage product
  • NAND chips go into USB flash drives, SD Cards, SSDs …


NAND chips used in USB Flash Drives, SD Cards, and SSDs are  different

Why are they different?

  • Each type of product has different requirements.
    • Cost
    • Performance
    • Capacity
    • Read/Write Frequency and Durability

The characteristics required by each market segment are summarized below:

Memory Slide


Please note the $ per GB data is my estimate based on a review of prices at Amazon.com.


Let’s talk about this based on Market Segments starting with USB Flash Drives


USB Flash Drives

Users use USB Flash Drives

  • for temporary storage, for example for file transfers
    • Power point presentations in a meeting or
    • Photos handed to a friend
  • Typically Flash Drives are not used for long term storage
  • Consumers expect low prices

What isn’t written about much is USB Flash Drives tend to have few read and write cycles.  This means the USB Flash drive does not need to be able to handle 10,000 plus cycles of read and write.  So the NAND used in a USB Flash drive can be cheaper.


Looking at the table above, there are 2 market segments for USB Flash Drives:  Low Cost or High Performance

I would expect that the Low Cost drives have slow NAND flash and only be rated for 100s of read/write cycles.  This means it will fail sooner than a more expensive drive.  I suspect that you have either

a) Already experienced a data lost or a corrupted USB Flash Drive or

b) Lost the Flash drive before this could happen

I would expect High Performance USB Flash drives

1) have faster NAND chips to actually read and write faster.

2) Have read/write cycles up to 1000 times.


If you are using a USB 3.0 Flash Drive like the Lexar Triton 32GB unit I tested and recommended, I would expect this to have a much higher read/write cycle endurance but I don’t have data to support this.  You might use this to transfer video data between work stations and multiple people work on the same data.

Also, it would be handy for moving around certain debug info fast between work stations, rather than going through a network.


Conclusion 1 for USB Flash: If you build USB 3.0 for High Performance, you use USB 3.0.  If you use USB 3.0 you use faster NAND.   Since you are building products that will ship in mass production in 2014, you should plan to build your USB 3.0 Flash Drives with fast NAND, or it just won’t be competitive.  

Conclusion 2 for USB Flash: Within 2 years USB 3.0 will become ubiquitous, if you are in the low cost market the only questions to ask are:

  • Where are you going to compete? 
  • Will your product still be able to sell in 2 years if it uses slow NAND with USB 2.0?
  • Can you maintain even a few pennies of profit if you ship cheaper, slower NAND, if no one buys it?
  • If yes, what volumes can you ship?
  • What can you ship when competing against other low-cost providers?
  • Do you want to play in this market of slow, cut-throat USB Flash drives?

SD Cards

I’m sure you use SD cards in your digital camera. 

There are 3 major classifications of SD including

  1. SD
  2. SDHC or (Secure Digital High Capacity)
  3. SDXC or (Secure Digital eXtended Capacity)

Usually, the cheapest o these cards will only be labeled SD

SD Speed Classes

    • There are No Class (like me) cards that have no class designation.  You won’t know what speed these cards are until you actually try them.
    • Then there are Class 2, 4, 6 and 10.
    • Class 10 memory must operate at 10 MB/s or more
    • Class 2 memory operates at 2 MB/s or more
    • You get the idea.

You can expect that all SDXC cards will be Class 10 cards.

Most SDHC cards will have a rating.  A faster Class 10 card will cost more than a slower Class 2 card (for the same memory capacity).

Sidenote: There are 3 different form factors, the largest one (the blue one below) is used in most cameras, the microSD you might use in your Blackberry to increase the storage space for photos or music.

File:MicroSD MemoryCard 002.jpg

Different SD Card sizes – From Wikipedia


Back to pricing, as you can see from the table SDHC is the cheapest in terms of cost per GB of data.

Here’s 2 examples of SDXC cards from Amazon.com.


This is interesting because many consumers:

  1. Remove the SD card from their camera
  2. Insert it into their laptop SD card reader
  3. and read the data directly.

These cards are 45 MBps and 95MBps read speeds but

“…many SDHC readers are connected internally through a USB 2.0 bus, which does not have enough bandwidth to support SDXC.” from this article on SDXC.


This means that USB 2.0 can’t keep up with the speed of the SDXC.  You need to upgrade you SD Card Reader to support SDXC and therefore you need to upgrade to USB 3.0 to read these cards.

Another good reason to adopt USB 3.0 and USB 3.0 Card Readers.


If you buy a lot of SD memory, you probably know that SDHC is sweet spot for buying memory.  The cost per GB of data is the most attractive.  Most cameras do not need anything faster than Class 10 for recording pictures when you take pictures.   You want faster read speeds when transferring them to your PC because you’ve taken about 8 GB of photos each time you go to an event.

Conclusion 1 for SD: SD Cards need NAND only rated for 100s of read/write cycles.  But SDXC cards come closer to being additional, semi-permanent additional memory.  (Plug it into your PC to expand the memory available on your laptop.)  This means SDXC NAND must not only be faster, but handle 1000s of read/write cycles.

Interestingly, this may also explain one reason NOT to put an SD Card Reader into a Tablet PC until SDXC memory is proven to be reliable for continuous use for data reading writing.   If your SDXC card failed and your last 3 years of photos were on that card, you might get angry at the tablet maker.

Conclusion 2 for SD: You need to have a USB 3.0 Host in your system to support USB 3.0 to SDXC card readers.  Although SDHC is the sweet spot now, in 2 years the sweet spot will continue to more to faster SDHC, and SDXC which REQUIRES USB 3.0.  If you want your product to appeal to the high-end customers who have the most disposable income to spend, you must build your product with faster NAND, or with products that can read the faster NAND in this case SDXC.





Next Time



Blogger Comment and My Comment

I received a comment on a blog that read “What will my 2014 Lunch be?”

I didn’t understand this.  However, I am sure that you don’t adopt USB 3.0, someone else will be eating your lunch.


I am all out of Funny this week.
Send me something funny.

  • Please.
  • Pretty please.
  • I need help.

Posted in NAND Flash, USB, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.0 Performance | 2 Comments »

USB 3.0 in a PC, A Coffee proof USB 3.0 Flash Drive (More), The Kindle & USB

Posted by Eric Huang on 2nd December 2011


HP’s all in one TouchSmart 520 PC has 2 USB 3.0 Ports included in a beautiful, single unit touchscreen PC.

HP TouchSmart 520 PC

It has a BluRay burner, which is pretty cool too.  So HP beats Apple in features here. Read the PCWorld Review article here.


ADATA now waterproofed USB drives, so you can carry these around when you go scuba diving or stir your coffee with them.

You should note that the top speeds of these USB 3.0 drivers is 100 MB per second.

Top USB 2.0 speeds are 35 MB per second. Top USB 3.0 speeds are 350MB per second.

The ADATA speed is still 3x the speed of USB 2.0 which is definitely faster.  The speed limiting factor is actually the flash memory. It uses memory more expensive than memory found in today’s USB 2.0 drives, but still slower than needed to get the fastest USB 3.0 speeds.  Just keep this in mind.





The Kindle & USB – Viewer Mail


Ned writes in “"Interesting blog about the Kindle Fire and iPad.  I can’t, however, figure out what it has to do with USB…”

(Ned isn’t his real name.)

I’m glad you asked this question Ned.


This Tablet, the Kindle has only one wired interface, it’s USB 2.0.  It’s used for both charging and for content transfer.

For example, If you keep your music in the “Amazon Cloud” you can download via WiFi.

But, most people (I think) already have their entire MP3 library on a USB hard drive or a PC or both somewhere.

So it’s a lot faster to plug your Kindle Fire into a laptop or PC, and transfer all your Britney Spears and Rihanna music to your device.

You could upload your music to the Amazon Cloud, or even the Apple iCloud.  You’d then have access anywhere. And you could stream to your device.

Of course you need Wi-Fi or Broadband access to download these items.  So you still want to download with USB 2.0.

Why do you care?

Well, you’ll still need to charge your device now and in 2014.

And you’ll have even more content.

And you might not be willing to pay for a huge “cloud” to store all your data.

Are you going to trust all your kid’s photos to a single, on-line storage facility at Amazon or Apple?

Will you pay $500 a year for the storage, when a USB 3.0 drive costs only $100?


You buy 2 USB 3.0 hard drives. You store your stuff there, and keep a small amount on the cloud.

So you will have USB 2.0 now and USB 3.0 soon on all your tablets and smart phones so you can keep carrying around a gazillion videos you recorded, pictures you took, and movies/TV shows you want to watch.


Kindle Fire TechRepublic Teardown

Here’s a picture from the TechRepublic teardown of the Kindle Fire.


It’s interesting to me because the RAM chip is mounted directly on top of the TI OMAP 4430 chip underneath.  As a digital guy I don’t know why someone does this, except to improve performance, and maybe lower power required.  Someone send me an e-mail to explain why or post a comment below.


You will see the TI OMAP 4430 actually appears to have 2 USB controllers.

One is an HSOTG port on the top right.

The other is in the bottom left, and looks like a USB 2.0 Host controller.


The new OMAP 5 platform as has 1 USB DRD port and 3 USB 3.0 ports. Block diagram and description can be seen here in my earlier blog entry on OMAP 5 and Tablets.

So TI’s already moving the next platform onto USB 3.0, so in 2 years we would see TI OMAP tablets with USB 3.0.



Post your questions in the comments below (or send me e-mails)

And here’s today’s Donut.

San Jose-20111202-00383


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Posted in Kindle, Smartphone, Tablets, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.0 Adoption, USB 3.0 Products | Comments Off