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Toshiba, SSDs, And More USB 3.0

Intel Developer Forum, Day Three: All About Power
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Toshiba and SSDs

Competing in a market that’s been targeted by the world’s largest semiconductor company is no easy task. Given Intel’s push into the SSD (solid state storage) market, Toshiba has tried to differentiate itself from Intel’s more commodity-like approach. For example, Toshiba offers a half-terabyte SSD, while Intel’s current largest SSD is 160GB.

Now Toshiba is pushing into alternative form factors, such as a mSATA (mini-SATA) configuration in 30GB and 62GB sizes, suitable for netbooks or server boot drives. These drives plug directly into a mini-PCI interface and are substantially smaller (up to 1/7th the size of a 2.5-inch form factor). Toshiba will also be offering similar configurations in a “half-slim” form factor, smaller than a business card, with no actual case, that plugs directly into a SATA port.

USB 3.0 Update

We mentioned USB 3.0 (also known as “SuperSpeed USB”) in our day two IDF update. We’re updating that brief mention today with an update after a technical session on USB 3.0’s steady march towards actual products.

Up to 10x performance increase--480 Mb/s to 5 Gb/s
Fast Sync-N-Go to minimize user wait time
Optimize power efficiency--uses 1/3 the power of USB 2.0; no device polling and lower active and idle power requirements
Backward compatible with USB 2.0.

NEC announced the first SuperSpeed USB host controller, the uDP 720200. Asus had a PCI Express interface card based on the NEC chip, running in several PCs, connected to various peripherals.

Asus is also showing its previously-announced P6X58 Premium motherboard with the NEC controller built directly onto the motherboard. The system was connected to a solid state drive streaming data off at 250MB/sec, around eight times faster than similar USB 2.0 products. Fujitsu demoed a laptop PC with the NEC host controller, too.

Given Intel’s public roadmaps, it may be a good year before we see SuperSpeed USB embedded into PC core logic. Then there’s the issue of software support. At the USB 3.0 technical session, senior program manager Lars Guisti of Microsoft gave an update on how SuperSpeed USB’s XHCI driver stack might be implemented into Windows.

It’s a fairly complex driver stack, given support for backward compatibility, the new power management features, and higher data speeds. Microsoft will be delivering native support for XHCI in some future Windows update, but the timing is uncertain.

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