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Taiwan makers enter USB 3.0 IC mass production

The narrowing price between USB 3.0 and 2.0 ICs and the increasing number of devices supporting the SuperSpeed bus are encouraging suppliers to boost output of the first.

Taiwan chip design houses are rolling out more USB 3.0 controller ICs as major CPU makers such as Intel and AMD release compliant models amid growing acceptance of the standard. The first announced in 2010 its next-generation processor Sandy Bridge, which can operate via the SuperSpeed bus. The latter introduced the A75 and A70M chipsets that support the interface.

USB 3.0 host controller IC
Etron’s USB 3.0 host controller IC

The move is also to take advantage of the narrowing price gap between USB 3.0 and 2.0 ICs. The former’s host controller version is now below $3 per unit, while the device controller is nearly $1. This is expected to draw in more buyers for USB 3.0 models.

Suppliers such as Etron Technology Inc. have therefore started mass-producing the component to boost market share. The company has released the EJ168 model, which is suitable for the latest PC and consumer electronics platforms.

Etron meets the new xHCI specification that enables faster adoption of USB 3.0 in multimedia electronic devices and computer products. The supplier collaborates with local computer and motherboard manufacturers to help clients optimize performance not just for the controller but for the whole system as well.

The standard’s main advantages over older versions include a 5Gbps data rate, which is 10 times faster than that of USB 2.0. In addition, with charging current increased from 500 to 900mA, the SuperSpeed interface can power up devices twice more quickly than its ancestors.

Connectors come in standard, mini and micro types to match ports in LCD TVs, digital cameras, mobile phones, projectors and digital photo frames. Applications also cover computer and telecom products such as motherboards, laptops, solid state disks, card readers, external HDDs, USB hubs and flash drives, routers, portable media players and smartphones.

The USB 3.0 IC supply chain includes upstream IP providers, and downstream host and device controller IC makers. The notable IP vendors are local company Faraday, Japan’s Renesas and US-based Synopsys.

Host controller ICs are usually added on to motherboards. The major manufacturers include NEC of Japan, Fresco Logic of the US and Taiwan, and domestic players Faraday, Etron and ASMedia.

Most enterprises in the island focus on device controller ICs, where competition is intense. The area’s Faraday, Genesys Logic, Alcor Micro, Prolific and ASMedia, Japan-based Fujitsu, and Symwave and TI of the US are the category’s main providers.

Taiwan is the second-largest IC design center worldwide, accounting for about 20 percent of global shipments. Suppliers are leveraging their strong background in manufacturing and developing computer products in designing ICs to keep up with the latest PC applications.

Aside from USB 3.0, makers are emphasizing touchscreen and DDR3 controller ICs, which are also gainingpopularity globally.

Note:This article 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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