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Shift to USB 3.0 hubs gaining speed

USB 2.0 models still rule the mainstream, but USB 3.0 variants are gathering steam.

USB 3.0 and multifunction products are defining China’s USB hub industry. Suppliers are boosting their yield of the former in preparation for a demand upturn. Many expect the output share of the first type to climb from the current 10 percent to 20 in 2012 as more manufacturers develop such models. Winstars Technology Ltd, for example, aims to raise the category’s yield share of 35 percent to 55 by year-end. Shenzhen Boyye Technology Co. Ltd is developing more units. The segment accounts for 20 percent of its turnout at present.

USB hubs

This BRL-Hub-CH model from Shenzhen Bai has six USB 2.0 ports and integrates a card reader supporting SD, MMC, MS and TransFlash formats.

The initiative is driven by the growing number of products compliant with the SuperSpeed bus. Last year, worldwide shipments reached nearly 14 million, and the figure is forecast to surpass 1.7 billion by 2014, according to In-Stat. The market for USB 3.0 host and device controller ICs will have a CAGR of 120 percent in 2010-15, according to Digitimes Research, as chipmakers jump-start projects on developing solutions with the new standard. Computer processor providers such as Intel and AMD, for instance, have announced plans to launch USB 3.0-equipped platforms this year or next. Microsoft, meanwhile, has released Windows 7 SP1 supporting the specification.

Despite the ongoing migration to the SuperSpeed bus, USB 2.0 models still rule supply. This is because the majority of computer and consumer electronics products are based on the latter standard.

As regards designs, stand-alone hubs continue to dominate production. A growing number of enterprises, however, are concentrating on multifunction variants to steer clear of cutthroat competition in the low-end segment. The move also enables them to raise profit margins, with combo types priced $2 higher than single-function counterparts.

The devices commonly integrated into hubs are laptop cooling pads, and USB fans, lights, cup warmers and mouse pads. One of the most popular releases is the combination with a card reader.

Multifunction varieties account for more than 10 percent of China’s total yield. At Shenzhen Boyye, the share is 20 percent, while it reaches 50 percent at Shenzhen Bai Rui Lin Technology Co. Ltd.

In terms of aesthetics, adopting novelty designs is a major trend to attract clients. Winstars, for instance, has released a star-shaped model. Welldy Technology Co. Ltd, meanwhile, has introduced man-shaped hubs and versions that can be used as a memo holder.

While R&D priorities differ, makers agree that prospects for the line remain rosy. Most expect the country’s production value to rise by more than 10 percent by end-2011. Welldy forecasts a 15 percent increase in sales, while Shenzhen Boyye is positive of at least 40 percent growth.

Boosting companies’ confidence is the climbing supply of USB-enabled devices, especially in the computer and peripherals, consumer electronics, communications and automotive segments. Global PC shipments will go up by almost 11 percent this year to hit 387.8 million units, and 14 percent in 2012, said Gartner. Worldwide output of products with a USB interface, meanwhile, will exceed 4 billion next year from about 3 billion in 2009, according to In-Stat.

This outlook is encouraging manufacturers to continue offering the line despite low returns compared with other computer peripherals. The segment remains a secondary business for most enterprises, which also provide card readers, HDD enclosures and docking stations, USB flash drives and networking products. Many export more than 60 percent of output, and cater mainly to OEM clients. Europe and North America are the major destinations abroad, but suppliers are expanding reach in emerging markets such as South America, Asia and the Middle East to improve sales.

Product gallery

USB hubs

This BRL-Hub-CH model from Shenzhen Bai has six USB 2.0 ports and integrates a card reader supporting SD, MMC, MS and TransFlash formats.

Products & prices

Multifunction and stand-alone USB hubs from China makers commonly have four, seven or 10 ports. USB 2.0 models lead output, but there are also units compliant with USB 3.0 and 1.1.

Low-end and midrange variants rule supply. Following USB 2.0 and 1.1 specifications, these can have up to 480Mbps data rate. They are plug-and-play and hot-swappable, and incorporate overcurrent protection. The compatible OS are Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista and 7, and Mac OS 9X. Entry-level kinds have four ports and are priced from $1 to $4. Midrange variants have seven ports and may come in ABS or metal housing. Quotes are between $4.10 and $8.

Versions in USB 3.0 make up the high-end group. These go for $9 to $15. Winstars is among the enterprises that have released such units. The company’s WS-UH3040 model not only has 5Gbps data rate but also operates at 1.5Mbps low, 12Mbps full and 480Mbps high speeds. The device has four ports and works with Windows XP, Vista and 7 OS.

The key components are the controller IC, PCB and housing. Most manufacturers source the first from Taiwan providers Alcor Micro, Genesys Logic and Terminus, while printed boards are purchased locally. The metal and ABS used for the case are likewise from domestic vendors. USB hubs made of the latter rule output as they are $0.50 to $0.80 less expensive. Products may also come with buyer-specified housing materials and ICs.

The cost of several inputs, including ABS and PCBs, has been rising since 2H09 together with the rates of crude oil and copper. Labor expenses and the valuation of the yuan against the US dollar have also been going up. Although these trends are expected to persist this year, many suppliers of USB hubs are keeping quotes at current levels. Some said the reductions in controller chipset spending, which account for up to 40 percent of total outlay, will compensate for the increases in expenditure.

USB 3.0

Product gallery

Dongguan Mintotor Electronics Ltd

Model: LH-HU030
MOQ: 500 units
Delivery: 30 days
Description: USB 3.0; four ports; 5Gbps data rate; Windows, Linux OS; ABS; 95x62x22mm; CE, RoHS

USB 2.0

Shenzhen Bai Rui Lin Technology Co. Ltd

Model: BRL-Hub-4H
MOQ: 1,000 units
Delivery: 15 days
Description: USB 2.0, 1.1; four downstream ports; up to 480Mbps data rate; built-in 3.3V regulator allowing single 5V operating voltage; up to 500mA current per port; plug-and-play

USB 3.0

Shenzhen Boyye Technology Co. Ltd

Model: UH-21
MOQ: 1,000 units
Delivery: 25 days
Description: USB 3.0, 2.0, 1.1; one upstream, four downstream ports; up to 5Gbps data rate; 86x50x15mm; power adapter, 1m USB cable included

USB 2.0

Welldy Technology Co. Ltd

Model: WD-HB4051
MOQ: 1,000 units
Delivery: 12 days
Description: USB 2.0, 1.1; four ports; ABS; head doubles as a memo holder; 84.5x70x19.5mm; 51.1g; CE, FCC, RoHS

USB 2.0

Winstars Technology Ltd

Model: WS-UH2040S
MOQ: 300 units
Delivery: 9 days
Price: $2.50
Description: USB 2.0; four ports; up to 480Mbps data rate; plug-and-play, hot-swappable; overcurrent protection; LED status indicator

Note: This article "Shift to USB 3.0 hubs gaining speed" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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