Cypress to add USB 3.0 support to its series of West Bridge controllers

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard about a West Bridge before

IF YOUVE EVER built your own PC you might be familiar with the terms North Bridge and South Bridge, well, Cypress has a third entry which it calls a West Bridge which in a way is similar to Intel’s PCH, except that it’s mainly intended for ARM based solutions. The West Bridge sits between the processor and the USB interface and handles quite a bit of the processing that would otherwise have been done by the SoC and as such can help free up resources and improve battery life.

We had a chat with Cypress at the Mobile World Congress and were informed that the company is working on versions of its West Bridge that will incorporate USB 3.0 support, but it’s not likely that these products will be ready until 2012. The significance of this is that we’ll see smartphones and tablets, but also other devices, including the potential of digital cameras and camcorders among others that will get native USB 3.0 support.

Cypress doesn’t seem to believe that USB 3.0 will be adopted quickly enough for it to speed up its development, citing Intel’s unwillingness to offer wholehearted support for the platform until next year as one of the reasons. That said, Cypress is a believer in USB 3.0 and is expecting that we’ll see some real benefits in the long term. One point that we had missed pertaining to the USB 3.0 standard on mobile devices is that when they’re plugged into a USB 3.0 port on a PC they’re limited to a power draw of 900mA, but when plugged into a wall charger, they can pull 1500mA which means that way a battery powered USB 3.0 device can charge faster.

We’re a little bit more curious about the comment about USB 3.0 potentially replacing HDMI on many handheld devices, as the representative we spoke to suggested that due to the extra speed on offer, there’s no longer any need for an HDMI port on these types of devices. In as much as that would make life much easier, it would still require that the device you plug your handheld device into has a USB 3.0 port which isn’t very likely to be the case. The USB 3.0 standard is meant to incorporate a streaming video part, but we haven’t managed to locate any solid details as to how this is meant to work. It’s not as if the bandwidth isn’t there, but there are some other issues that come into play, least not connectivity on displays.

 The West Bridge also interfaces with a wide range of other peripheral connectivity solutions such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, digital TV-tuners, SDIO/SD card interfaces and even NAND Flash memory and with the added benefit that USB 3.0  brings in terms of performance, we might see some interesting developments here too. What is clear is that once Cypress gets its new West Bridges out in the market, we’ll see vastly reduced waiting times when it comes to copying digital content to and from our mobile devices, something no-one’s going to complain about.S|A

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