USB 3.0 chip costs falling as compatible devices rise

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Posted on: 20 Jul 2010

With global demand forecast to reach 2.3 billion pieces by 2015, more China companies are releasing products compatible with the new standard.

 

With an increasing number of China suppliers launching devices that can support USB 3.0, compatible cables, HDD enclosures, adapters and motherboards are set to become less expensive in the months ahead.

 

NEC used to be the only company providing USB 3.0 chips, which reached a high of $9 per piece in 2009. But the growing number of China factories manufacturing compatible devices has boosted demand for the chips, prompting other suppliers, including ASMedia and VIA, to release their own. Now, USB 3.0 chips are down to $3 each and are projected to fall further to between $2 and $2.50 this year.

 

At present, the bulk of China output consists of USB 3.0 cables. Compared with other devices, cables do not require new components and materials, apart of course from the chips. Further, suppliers need only to incorporate four additional wires for data transmission. So instead of integrating just four wires into the cable, they have to include eight. Although the technical requirements are higher, there are no major changes in production and material sourcing.

 

External HDD enclosures, including docking stations, contribute the second-largest to total production. One of the reasons the USB standard was upgraded to 3.0 was to speed up transmission rates, given that data files are increasingly growing larger. A 1080p movie, for instance, can exceed 20GB. Such files are often copied to external HDDs, and doing so on USB 3.0-capable devices is said to be 10 times faster than 2.0. In-Stat projects 70 percent of external HDDs will support USB 3.0 by 2012, with shipments of compatible flash drives reaching 200 million.

 

China suppliers, however, mostly make enclosures and not the actual HDDs. There are currently 15 USB 3.0 HDD enclosure manufacturers in the country.

 

Adapters account for the third-largest share of China's output and are the most practical. Without compatible PCs, USB 3.0 cables, external HDDs and hubs would serve no purpose. But only 10 to 15 percent of the latest PCs support the standard. One issue is that compatible motherboards are too expensive and incorporated mainly in high-end computers. Instead, many suppliers are integrating adapters with two USB 3.0 ports that connect via a PCI-E interface. This means even older PCs can be made compatible with the standard. At present, China has about 10 makers of USB 3.0 adapters.

 

Motherboards take up the smallest share of USB 3.0 compatible devices in mainland China. In general, the mainland contributes only 5 percent of global motherboard supply, with Taiwan accounting for nearly 90 percent. Two of the world's major providers, Asus and Giga, said 25 to 35 percent of their output will support USB 3.0 by end-2010. In mainland China, companies such as Unika have also committed to releasing motherboards that support the standard this year. IDC forecasts 45 percent of laptops and netbooks will be USB 3.0-compatible by 2012.

 

In terms of chipsets, AMD is incorporating NEC's ?PD720200 chip into its motherboard design, and developing its own USB 3.0 chips at the same time. Intel, however, is not set to launch USB 3.0 chipsets until 2012.

 

IDC estimates global shipments of USB 3.0 chips will reach 12.45 million 2010 and 2.3 billion in 2011. Worldwide demand is projected to hit 2.3 billion pieces by 2015, half of which will be used for data storage.

 

 


 

 

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.


Posted: 20 July 2010

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