PLX bridges gap between USB 3.0 and PCIe 2.0


— 9:56 AM on March 15, 2011

Add PLX to the growing list of companies developing USB 3.0 hardware. The company is bringing its expertise in bridge chips to the SuperSpeed spec with a pair of peripheral controllers that link PCI Express with USB 3.0. SemiAccurate has the skinny on the two chips, which can be used to hang PCIe devices off USB ports or vice versa.

The USB 3380 offers a single USB 3.0 port and one lane of gen-two PCI Express connectivity. You still only get a lone USB port with the 3382, but there's a pair of PCIe lanes with a couple of configuration options. The lanes can be used to attach a pair of PCIe devices, or they can combine to provide a faster pipe to a single peripheral. A single PCIe 2.0 lane offers about 500MB/s of bandwidth in each direction, while one USB 3.0 port can push closer to 600MB/s, at least in theory.

SemiAccurate notes that the PLX chips are capable of faking device types to fool the host system, a feature that should make it easier to connect PCIe devices via USB. External graphics cards are named as one possible implementation, although I can't help but wonder if little more than a single PCIe lane's worth of bandwidth would be sufficient for modern games. Of course, the USB-IF has yet to certify the PLX chips, which will only be shipping in sample form in the first half of this year. Mass production isn't expected to begin until the third quarter.

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