The USB 3.0 price war starts now

Good news for consumers, not so good news for IC makers

NEC MIGHT STILL be the only company making USB 3.0 host controllers for PC motherboards, but there are seemingly oodles of manufacturers of USB 3.0 chips that go into devices that hook up to your PC. A full on price war has already started between these companies and considering that the starting price for these chips was somewhere between $5 to $6 and we’re already down to half of that, we should start seeing some very affordable USB 3.0 devices fairly soon.

It’s of course not that simple, but with multiple players on the market competing for what is so far a tiny market share, it’s going to get mighty rowdy. The main players appear to be ASMedia Technology – which is a subsidiary of Asus – VIA Technologies and Symwave, although there are also several IP only players that will most likely be finding themselves partners sooner rather than later.

The cost of the controller is only a small part of any USB 3.0 device, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be much outside of USB 3.0 to SATA bridges. This is why we’re seeing so many different USB 3.0 external drives and enclosures being announced at the moment and pretty much no other USB 3.0 devices. Of course external storage devices are the most obvious devices that gain an advantage from the extra bandwidth that USB 3.0 offers over USB 2.0, but we’re hoping that someone will come up with something a bit more interesting soon.

Still, with no promise from Intel or AMD with regards to integrating USB 3.0 host controllers into upcoming chipsets for 2010, it looks like at least NEC will have a field day until one of its competitors comes out with a better solution. So far NEC is in a unique position, unlike the manufacturers of the device bridge controllers who are now fighting for as little as $2 to $3 per chip. However, this is still far more than a similar USB 2.0 chip sells for, but until we see a more widespread adoption of USB 3.0, we have a feeling that the cost of these chips will level out due to lack of demand.S|A

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