Texas Instruments to make USB 3.0 host controller

Demo’s high bit-rate 1080p video with DisplayLink

DURING THE USB-IF developer’s conference we had a chat with a representative from Texas Instruments, as the company was demoing various upcoming USB 3.0 solutions, including a USB 3.0 hub design, a USB 3.0 repeater and USB 3.0 to SATA bridge solutions.

However, Texas Instruments was also sharing its booth with DisplayLink, the company behind most of the various options that allows you to connect a screen to your PC or notebook via USB. The two were showing off the first live demo of DisplayLink’s new USB 3.0 solution and the extra bandwidth available allows DisplayLink to play back Blu-ray quality 1080p video, something its current USB 2.0 solutions aren’t capable of.

If you’re not familiar with how DisplayLink’s products work, then let us explain quickly. A DisplayLink adapter isn’t a graphics card, it relies on your CPU and the graphics card in your PC or notebook to do all the processing. A compressed video signal is sent over the USB cable to a custom logic chip that decompresses the video and there’s also a small 16MB frame buffer that makes sure everything plays back smoothly. This means that if there’s more bandwidth available, more complex content can be pushed down the USB cable to the display.

The USB 2.0 implementation is as we said somewhat bandwidth limited, but that is not the case with the upcoming USB 3.0 implementation. The development board was connected to the Texas Instruments USB 3.0 hub, which also happens to be a development board, although we were told that silicon should be ready shortly. A USB3.0 to SATA bridge was also connected to the USB 3.0 hub and data was copied to the hard drive that was connected to it at the same time as the 1080p video was being played back, something that isn’t possible to do with the USB 2.0 DisplayLink adaptors. The only bad news is that DisplayLink won’t be launching its new USB 3.0 products until CES 2011.

We also asked Texas Instruments about a potential USB 3.0 host controller from the company and we were told that it was in the pipeline. However, the chap we had the chat with was an engineer and wasn’t willing to comment further as he wasn’t sure how much information he was allowed to reveal about it. The good news is that we should start to see a lot more competition in the USB 3.0 host controller market later this year and competition usually means lower prices, which is a good thing for the consumer.S|A

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