IT‘S HARD TO be spot on when it comes to rumours about new technology coming from the various companies in the business, but nearly a year ago we wrote about Intel working on a USB 3.0 solution of its own, well, it seems like it didn’t quite work out the way we were told by our source back then, but Intel is finally getting ready to add native USB 3.0 support. That said, it won’t arrive until early 2012 alongside Intel’s next generation platform (didn’t that just launch?)
So what we’re talking about here is native chipset support for the Ivy Bridge platform, more specifically the Panther Point chipset, of which we, currently, know very little about. What is surprising is that Intel will only add support for four ports worth of USB 3.0 connectivity, while the remaining 10 USB ports will be of the 2.0 variety. This is identical to what we’re hearing AMD is going to be offering for its next generation high-end consumer platform, although AMD has co-developed its solution with Renesas.
Intel has also developed an unusual design for its USB 3.0 implementation, as the XHCI controller hooks into the rate matching hub of the primary USB 2.0 EHCI controller, although this might be the only way to interface it easily with the USB subsystem. As this is the first diagram we’ve seen of a native chipset implementation, it’s a bit hard to say if this is the best way of doing it or not. The XHCI host controller appears to be of a similar design to that used by VLI of all companies, as both solutions relies on an internal router, something not widely used in other USB 3.0 implementations.
Intel’s solution is also free from requiring firmware, something that the current Renesas implementation requires, but something other companies have found a way around. Another advantage of Intel’s implementation is that Intel’s integrated solution allows for full BIOS support, something which isn’t quite there 100 percent today with third party chipsets and as such it’s for example not possible to flash the BIOS from a USB 3.0 drive connected to the USB 3.0 ports on many current boards.
Other things worthy of note is the fact that Intel will only offer driver support for Windows 7 and Windows 8, older versions of Windows only get USB 2.0 support from the USB 3.0 ports. Linux drivers are meant to be available from the open source community though. Intel has also adopted what has already become the standard pin out for USB 3.0 headers on motherboards and have drawn up guide lines on how to best implement support for front USB 3.0 ports on chassis.
We’re a little bit surprised that Intel is so late with native USB 3.0 support, although between now and early 2012 Intel only has the Z68 chipset planned and apparently there isn’t enough time to implement native USB 3.0 support in this chipset. We might still get to see USB 3.0 support in the LGA-2011 platform, but we wouldn’t hold our breath. For those interested in the full details, you can find a PDF full of what apparently is confidential information about Intel’s USB 3.0 implementation over at Baidu.com where document is hosted.S|A
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