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To USB or Not to USB
|To USB or Not to USB|
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
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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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
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
- It works with either USB 2.0 or USB 3.0
- Delivers power in either direction from the Host to the Device or the Device to the Host
- You get to have a single cable for both power and data
- 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.
More on USB Power Delivery tomorrow
You’ve been enjoying the Summer Olympics. Here’s my favorite commercial, courtesy of Sears.
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
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.
- 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.
- Read/Write Frequency and Durability
The characteristics required by each market segment are summarized below:
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?
I’m sure you use SD cards in your digital camera.
There are 3 major classifications of SD including
- SDHC or (Secure Digital High Capacity)
- 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 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.
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:
- Remove the SD card from their camera
- Insert it into their laptop SD card reader
- 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.
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.
- Pretty please.
- I need help.
Posted in NAND Flash, USB, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.0 Performance | 2 Comments »
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.
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.
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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
Posted by Eric Huang on 23rd June 2011
More USB 3.0
The USB-IF reported this week that 237 USB 3.0 products have certified.
First, This is Awesome.
237 products easily supports hundreds of millions of USB 3.0 products
Second, We need More.
Until now, SuperSpeed USB 3.0 certification has not been superspeedy.
1) Mostly to keep the quality of the USB 3.0 certified products at a high level
2) To make sure 3.0 works with 2.0
Certification tests had to be done at:
1) The USB-IF labs in Oregon or
2) at Quarterly USB-IF Plugfest held in Hawaii, Taiwan, or California.
I wish I could have gone to Hawaii. I’ve never been to Hawaii.
The Great Improvement is:
The USB-IF now says:
1) Take your USB 3.0 Device (peripheral) and have pre-testing done at a 3rd Party lab.
2) The USB-IF lab spot checks the results, and certifies the products officially.
This increases Certification throughput capacity by probably 10-20x.
So, thousands of USB 3.0 certifications can begin.
More USB 3.0
Asmedia and Etron have both announced they have USB 3.0 Host Certifications.
These companies join TI, Fresco, and NEC discrete Host providers.
This should keep the cost of Host implementations down
In fact, Global Sources says,
“Material overhead declined in the past months, thus pushing down USB 3.0 cable quotes. Host controller spending slipped to as low as $2 from $7 to $9 in 2008. This reduced cable rates by $0.50 to $1 compared with six months ago. The variant is still three or four times more expensive than USB 2.0 types, but prices are forecast to drop further”
Most new laptops have USB 3.0 as a standard feature (maybe not the cheapest laptops).
H.264 over USB
The USB-IF also released a new standard that allows for H.264 over USB. It’s always been possible, this just standardizes it and makes it easier. Read the press release here.
Send this URL onto your friend. and tell them to
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Posted in USB 2.0, USB 3.0 Pricing, USB Certification | Comments Off
Posted by Eric Huang on 13th January 2011
So you’ve heard about tablets, the fact that Apple didn’t launch their iPad at CES, everyone is gunning for Apple’s iPad, the Blackberry, Sony, Samsung,… tablet will be famous, and every single article that was written said “Apple iPad” in it.
This isn’t about that.
I went to the HiSense booth at CES 2011, and saw their excellent 3D TVs. HiSense is a China based TV maker. More importantly, if you look at this picture there are 4 USB ports.
Yes, 4 ports.
I’ve seen HiSense TVs in China with a single Device and a single Host port.
What would you use 4 ports for?
1) Webcam for video conferencing
2) WiFi dongle for connecting your TV to the internet (although I think WiFi will be standard in TVs pretty soon)
3) USB Hard Drive to record TV programs.
4) Connect to a USB Flash Drive or Digital Camera to view pictures.
For Video Conferencing, I’m reliably informed that Panasonic and Toshiba demonstrated this with at CES 2011. This year, they did it again. Panasonic had an integrated webcam, but Toshiba, Samsung, (and I think Sony) all demonstrated Skype Video conferencing on their big screen TVs. Samsung’s webcam wasn’t available for sale, but it uses USB and will be available later according to the booth person I talked to. The webcam at the Toshiba booth used USB in the picture below.
In case, you missed it, you can load Apps on your TV now. In addition to Skype, there’s Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk and probably more. The Samsung demo of Skype below shows the interface and in the upper right you can see the symbols next to “Be Updated with Friends”.
Now I just need to make some Friends.
Posted in USB 2.0, USB TV, USB WiFi, CES 2011, CES 2010 | Comments Off
Posted by Eric Huang on 15th July 2010
So I’m waiting for the iPod Touch 4th generation. Lots of reports now on the next generation one, here’s one more article at PC World
New BlackBerry Curve (with faster USB 2.0)
In the meantime, my company (Synopsys) has issued me the new BlackBerry Curve which comes pre-installed with an MMC (Multi-Media Card) of 1GB. In replaced it with 8GB MMC card, formatted it in the new BlackBerry, and I have a full 8 GB worth of space for holding files (data, music, video). I can now use the BlackBerry as a portable USB Flash drive, music player, video player, camera, and video camera. 8 GB enough space to carry a backup of critical files and some music. For the new BlackBerry, I also noticed that the USB Transfer time is much, much faster than my old BlackBerry. Closer to proper USB 2.0 speeds. This speaks to the variability in systems of USB 2.0 implementations. Cheap IP, cheap controllers or PHYs can lead to a real drag on USB performance. For example, If the USB eye for the PHY is bad, the speed can drop dramatically.
BlackBerry with micro-B
Many cameras still use the original mini-B receptacles, and I have a dozen of these cables. This BlackBerry uses the “new” micro-B receptacle, so I had to buy a some new cables on Amazon for $2 which actually includes shipping. The micro-B is flatter than the mini-B, and was designed to work better with smaller form-factor mobile phones. This is of course the USB 2.0 Micro-B
On the left here you can see the USB 2.0 connectors.
Standard Type A on your PC and Laptops.
Type B on your Printer or Scanner.
Mini-B on most cameras.
Micro-B on the new BlackBerrys and some mobile phones
This is the USB 3.0 Micro-B connector below.
The right side is the micro-B, and the left side of are the new USB 3.0 signals.
The Need for USB 3.0
I heard 2 stories in the last week:
1) The VP of Marketing at MCCI filled up his HD Camcorder with 32 GB of video from recordings of his son’s activities. He had never transferred data off the Camcorder in the 9 months he had the recorder. It took him over 1 hour (he stopped keeping track) to get the video off his Camcorder using USB 2.0. USB 3.0 could do this in minutes.
2) One of our Director’s of Engineering filled up his 2 GB SD card with video. He couldn’t couldn’t complete the transfer of the file to his laptop before his camera just stopped working. I’m not sure why, but it still took a long, long time. Even 2 GB takes several minutes. He came to me with the epiphany, “I really need USB 3.0.”
I said, “Yeah, I know.”
Posted in USB 2.0, USB 3.0 | Comments Off
Posted by Eric Huang on 2nd June 2010
Samsung demonstrated a USB only monitor at the Society for Information Display conference last week in Oregon. The screen uses a forked USB 2.0 connector to provide the power necessary. This is only possible because this is an edge-lit LED display.
The pictures and the full article are from TechOn here and in the link below
Also, at Everything USB, the author speculates that with USB 3.0 you could maybe use a single USB 3.0 port. I’ve run the math below and my commentary is at the end of this blog entry.
||Power per port
|USB 3.0 with modified power like on Gigabyte motherboard
||One modified USB 3.0 port will work like those find on Gigabyte motherboards
I should point out that some USB 2.0 devices pull more than the legal 500mA from a Host, and when they do, they violate the specification.
The interesting thing that TechOn reports that the display requires 6.3 W. You can see from the calculations above, that 2 USB 2.0 ports will only generate about 5 W. This means that either the actual average power requirement is much lower than 5W, or there is some power savings scheme on the screen when running on USB. My hope is that displays would run at even lower power and could run off off a single USB 3.0 port.
Rate this blog below. Because you love it (or find it mildly useful).
Posted in USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB Video | Comments Off
Posted by Eric Huang on 6th April 2010
Apple says that 300,000+ iPads flew out it’s Apple Stores’ doors the first day. Some analysts think that as many as 700,000 were sold in the first few days.
Stuff you’ve read and some you haven’t
1) In my opinion, we have never seen more, real excitement about a consumer product. Only Game Consoles (PS3, XBox360, Nintendo Wii) elicit similar behavior.
My dad, who is more than 70 years old, lined up on Saturday morning to pick up his. He had ordered 2 different ones to make sure he would get his. Up until Wednesday, he was trying to figure out if he needed a 16GB or 64GB version. He sent us an e-mail from his iPad from the Apple Store.
2) High Attach Rate – Apple reports over 1 million apps downloaded and 250,000+ books. With over 3000 available at launch.
iPhone/ iPod Touch Apps run out-of-the-box. so the thousands of apps already run on this platform.
iPad Apps will cost more than iPhone Apps which means that at $3 to $20, each App will bring in more money than the i Phone Apps.
3) If Apple achieves over 1 million users, which seems highly likely by the end of the year, they will have outpaced Google’s Android by leaps and bounds. On top of this, Apple developers can use existing iPhone apps and with minor modifications re-build them specifically for the iPad.
4) The iPad will displace more Netbooks than Notebooks
Business people will still need Notebooks, but Netbook buyers will prefer the iPad for it’s interface, versatility, and ease-of-use. Only the emerging economies and students will use Netbooks. Only people getting Netbooks for free will use them.
5) The TouchScreen will be more commonplace on the notebook
Notebooks have become so cheap, that that the incremental cost of the touch screen will make that a standard feature. People will be willing to pay for it. Notebook makers will need to provide both to increase the value of the notebook and to make it sellable. Also, the volumes of touchscreens should bring prices down.
6) USB is the only wired way to interface to the iPad. But you knew that.
I’ve picked a few key videos, that I think you should watch. Try to watch at least the first 2 videos.
Also, please rate this Blog entry below, in the bottom right.
This one talks about how the iPad is a game changer, I don’t agree on that it kills notebooks, but it definitely displaces Netbooks.
This one talks about Apps. Look at the Zillow App about 2 min 14 sec into the video.
Here’s a Video Review from PCMagazine. I like this one the best for completeness.
This is a bonus one that shows how a family would use this.
Rate me this blog below.
Posted in iPad, USB 2.0 | Comments Off
Posted by Eric Huang on 19th November 2009
Cyberpower announced that USB 3.0 will be an option on all their Gamer Xtreme PCs. This (to my knowledge) is the first PC company to announce support for USB 3.0. I checked out the CyberPower website, and I found 13 models that let me pick USB 3.0 as a feature. You can see the cheapest PC option here: CyberPower PC with USB 3.0 option.
The most useful product I would like to buy is the Sharkoon SATA dock. The will accept standard SATA drives and has a connector for a USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 cable. You can see the blue USB 3.0 receptacle in their marketing doc here: Sharkoon SATA QuickDock with USB 3.0, The dock will retail for around $75.
GeekWarning: This saves us geeks money by allowing us to buy the cheapest, barebone, unpackaged SATA hard drives, and just plug it into the dock for when we need to do a back up. We don’t need to speed the extra bucks for the fancy, ruggedized hard drives. The geeks know what I’m talking about.
Otherwise, you can buy one of the other USB 3.0 storage devices listed below for yourself, your family, your friends…
Sharkoon sells a matching USB 3.0 Host Card. Of course, if you bought the CyberPower GamerXtreme and the QuickDock then you’d be all set for USB 3.0.
Also, Conan O’Brian interviewed the Co-Creator of USB, Ajay Bhatt. You saw an actor in original USB commercial. You can see both the Interview and the Commercial and Engadget here:
Running list of USB 3.0 Products (with Links)
–CyberPower Gamer Xtreme
–ASUSP7P55D-E Premium,P6X58D Premium, P7H57D-V EVO
–Gigabyte – 7 models – GA-P55A-UD6, UD5, UD4P, UD3P, UD3R, UD3
•NEC Host in Add-In Cards/ExpressCards
–Active Media Aviator 312
–SuperTalent Flash Drive
–Sharkoon SATA Dock
Posted in USB 2.0, USB 3.0 | Comments Off
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