Wednesday, May 26th 2010

VLI Starts Sampling First 4-port USB 3.0 Host Controller

VIA Labs, Inc., a leading supplier of USB 3.0 integrated chip controllers, today announced the VIA Labs VL800 USB 3.0 Host Controller. Adding to the industry's leading line-up of USB 3.0 products, the VL800 is a single chip solution that allows a PCI Express-equipped platform to interface with up to four SuperSpeed USB peripheral devices simultaneously - double the capability of any currently available USB 3.0 host controller.

USB 3.0 (also known as SuperSpeed USB) allows for a maximum data transfer rate of up to 5Gbps, or ten times the throughput available to USB 2.0 based devices. Other enhancements provide for improved interaction between device and host controller, including important advancements in power management. The tremendous increase in throughput allows for the quick and easy transfer of large-volume data and will hasten the development of a new generation of high-performance consumer electronic products.

Not only will desktop PC systems featuring the new VL800 host controller be able to transfer huge amounts of data back and forth from several devices simultaneously, but with support for the USB Battery Charging Specification the PC's USB ports can also be used to power and charge peripheral devices such as flash drives, hard drives, video cameras and mobile phones.

"VIA Labs is currently the only company in the world to offer a USB 3.0 host controller with support for four downstream ports," said David Hsu, Associate Vice President, VIA Labs, Inc. "The VL800 is an easy and cost effective way for motherboard manufacturers to bring additional USB 3.0 performance to their product lines, it means increased design opportunities for system integrators, and of course it means consumers can use more of their USB 3.0 devices at the same time."

The host controller's four downstream facing ports support not just SuperSpeed transfer, but are also backwards compatible with previous USB specifications and offer support for Hi-Speed (480Mbps), Full-Speed (12Mbps), and Low-Speed (1.5Mbps) traffic ensuring seamless connectivity of legacy USB devices.

For more information about the VIA Labs VL800 USB 3.0 Host Controller please visit this page.
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15 Comments on VLI Starts Sampling First 4-port USB 3.0 Host Controller

#1
$immond$
Finally a 4 port card, I thought it would have been a 4X or 16X PCI-e card? I guess I am wrong.
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#2
caleb
Didnt usb 2.0 just fill up the market instantly when it arrived ?

I get this feeling all the tech is just designed to endlessly drain cash from us. I mean I remember the times when I was dreaming "oh when will I be able to watch a movie from a tiny flash memory". Ok it arrived but untill it did the industry shifted to HDTV/mkv and again its not very comfy to copy 10GB mkv over a pendrive with usb2.0. Here we go again usb 3.0 on its way to our homes to satisfy our HD needs. Im just wondering what will change untill this "standard" becomes a standard and it will loop again.
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#3
gumpty
by: btarunr
VLI Starts Sampling First 4-port USB 3.0 Host Controller
Title says 'VLI', should it read 'VIA'?
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#4
Cheeseball
VLI means VIA Labs Inc., basically VIA themselves.
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#5
gumpty
by: Cheeseball
VLI means VIA Labs Inc., basically VIA themselves.
Cool, thought it might be something like that.
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#6
caleb
You can see the name on the chip itself also
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#7
TheLostSwede
It won't become a standard until it's built into chipsets and that my friends is a thing that's in the hands of Intel, as they're controlling that part of the xHCI spec and until Intel moves that to version 1.0, no chipsets will have integrated USB 3.0 support.
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#8
Assimilator
by: TheLostSwede
It won't become a standard until it's built into chipsets and that my friends is a thing that's in the hands of Intel, as they're controlling that part of the xHCI spec and until Intel moves that to version 1.0, no chipsets will have integrated USB 3.0 support.
Light Peak offers 2x the bandwidth of USB3 (and possibly up to 20x). Given that, I'm going to wait until Intel decides which technology ends up in their chipsets, rather than buy something that might be useless in 6 months' time.

And I'm not too impressed with this card... 1 USB3 port == 1 PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, so this 4-port card is never going to be able to supply enough bandwidth to the ports.

But that also brings up an interesting question... considering that most motherboards today supply 12+ USB2 ports, does that mean future boards will have to dedicate 12 PCI-e lanes to USB3? If that's the case then PCI-e could be obsolete if version 3 doesn't arrive soon.
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#9
DanTheBanjoman
SeƱor Moderator
by: Assimilator
Light Peak offers 2x the bandwidth of USB3 (and possibly up to 20x). Given that, I'm going to wait until Intel decides which technology ends up in their chipsets, rather than buy something that might be useless in 6 months' time.

And I'm not too impressed with this card... 1 USB3 port == 1 PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, so this 4-port card is never going to be able to supply enough bandwidth to the ports.

But that also brings up an interesting question... considering that most motherboards today supply 12+ USB2 ports, does that mean future boards will have to dedicate 12 PCI-e lanes to USB3? If that's the case then PCI-e could be obsolete if version 3 doesn't arrive soon.
USB3 is backwards compatible, so it's very unlikely that it'll disappear anytime soon. As for the bandwidth, you won't get 100% of the bandwidth anyway, and you won't use all ports at full bandwidth at the same time. If you do so, you should not be using USB in the first place.
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#10
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
The reason Intel isn't going to adopt USB 3.0 any time soon is because of DMI. Future processors, especially Sandy Bridge LGA1155 successor continue to use DMI as the connection to the PCH.

DMI is physically a PCI-Express 1.1 x4 link with a different link-layer software protocol than PCI-E. Its bandwidth is 1 GB/s per direction, 2 GB/s total. When you take into account protocol overhead, the actual bandwidth available to the system is lower.

So you can imagine why Intel can't choke the PCH with too many bandwidth-heavy things. Sure the PCH has its own 8-lane PCI-E hub, but even with those ports, Intel expects motherboard vendors to use for lightweight onboard devices such as legacy IDE controllers (PCI-E x1 lets IDE controllers have fewer pins), GbE controllers, 1394, and so on. Most PCI-E x1 cards these days such as sound cards and don't even use 20% of PCI-E 1.1 x1 bandwidth. Now if they had a 6-port SATA 3 Gb/s (forget 6 Gb/s for a moment) RAID controller and a USB 3.0 controller, it would be totally crippled with the chipset bus. Instead, if it just let them use 3rd party USB 3.0 controllers, it can conveniently cover up lack of performance and features (number of ports) to the fact that they just have 2 ports per controller, cost a few dollars to add to your design, and could be bottlenecked by the x1 Gen2 interface (500 MB/s /direction for two 480 MB/s ports), and in the process cover up its own deficiencies with chipset bus features.

AMD on the other hand, expanded its chipset bus with 8-series chipsets. The new A-Link III is a PCI-Express 2.0 x4 physical link, which gives it 2 GB/s per direction, 4 GB/s total. So the 6-port SATA 6 Gb/s controller won't be starved of bandwidth, especially in heavyweight RAID modes.
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#11
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
by: $immond$
Finally a 4 port card, I thought it would have been a 4X or 16X PCI-e card? I guess I am wrong.
Actually, you are pretty correct, assuming you actually want to use more than 1 port at a time.

The controller is PCI-E 2.0, so 500MB/s Full-Duplex, while each port is 400MB/s Full-Dublex. So one port can be used at full speed at a time, so having 4 over 2 is really only a matter of convenience if you have more than 2 USB 3.0 devices, so you don't have to keep swapping them. If you are using a PCI-E 1.0/1.1 port, and it is possible, then the situation is even worse, as even a single USB 3.0 port would saturate the slot.

With that being the case, I'm sure that it would be pretty easy for card makers to just use the old 2-port controller, and rig up 4 or even 8 ports pretty easily and cheaply, thanks to the easy expandability of the USB standard.
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#12
Poisonsnak
by: newtekie1
Actually, you are pretty correct, assuming you actually want to use more than 1 port at a time.

The controller is PCI-E 2.0, so 500MB/s Full-Duplex, while each port is 400MB/s Full-Dublex. So one port can be used at full speed at a time, so having 4 over 2 is really only a matter of convenience if you have more than 2 USB 3.0 devices, so you don't have to keep swapping them. If you are using a PCI-E 1.0/1.1 port, and it is possible, then the situation is even worse, as even a single USB 3.0 port would saturate the slot.

With that being the case, I'm sure that it would be pretty easy for card makers to just use the old 2-port controller, and rig up 4 or even 8 ports pretty easily and cheaply, thanks to the easy expandability of the USB standard.
Agreed, I wish someone would just hurry up and make a 12-port USB 3.0 to PCI-E x4 chip and throw it on some motherboards, let's face it, you only ever use max USB bandwidth on 1 or maybe 2 ports at once (and then probably only if you're transferring between 2 USB hard drives). Then I don't have to worry about which USB port I'm plugging my device into.
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#13
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
by: Poisonsnak
Agreed, I wish someone would just hurry up and make a 12-port USB 3.0 to PCI-E x4 chip and throw it on some motherboards, let's face it, you only ever use max USB bandwidth on 1 or maybe 2 ports at once (and then probably only if you're transferring between 2 USB hard drives). Then I don't have to worry about which USB port I'm plugging my device into.
The thing is, VIA already has the VL810, which converts one USB 3.0 port into four.

So with a three chip setup, you can have one cheaper 2-port USB3.0 controller, and two VL810 chips, and have 8 useable ports. I don't know how costly a set-up like this would be, but I think it would be sweet for a motherboard maker to do it. So, 6 ports in the back of the board, and two internal headers from the front of the case(or just 8 ports on the back of the board).
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#14
HillBeast
Finally. Now USB3.0 cards are worth getting.
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#15
Static~Charge
I'm waiting for some benchmark results of NEC's versus VIA's USB 3.0 chip.
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