First four port USB 3.0 host controller announced

Courtesy of VLI

IT LOOKS LIKE we’ll be seeing a lot of USB 3.0 hardware at Computex this year, although after yesterday’s competitive announcement by Fresco Logic, it now seems like we have the solution just about everyone has been waiting for, a four port USB 3.0 host controller and it’s about time too. The VL800 host controller comes from VLI, also known as VIA Labs, Inc, a subsidiary of VIA.

A four port controller would solve the conundrum of having to choose between having two rear ports, or two front ports. Currently, all case manufacturers, at least as far as we’re aware, are working on solutions that requires a pass-through cable from the two rear USB 3.0 ports to a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the front of the case, which is anything but an elegant solution.

The host controller from VLI is a potential solution to this problem despite the lack of a standardised pin-header for USB 3.0. Put two of the USB 3.0 ports at the rear I/O and place the other two on the motherboard inside the case. It’s not the perfect the solution, but at least it means that there’s no need for any pass-through cables which don’t tend to help the cable nest behind the case.

The VLI VL800 host controller supports all the current USB standards and it’s compliant with the xHCI 0.96 specification. The controller is PCI Express 2.0 compliant, although the prototype board from VLI is only using a PCI Express x1 interface which won’t offer enough bandwidth for four USB 3.0 ports. However, as this is just a prototype board, we expect to see different implementations in retail products.

VLI will be showing off its new host controller at Computex and we’ll make sure to drop by the VIA booth to get more details on it. What will be interesting to find out is the cost and how competitive the VL800 is compared to Renesas and Fresco Logic. We’d also expect to see some performance numbers, as this is of course the other aspect where the VL800 has to prove itself in comparison to its potentially lesser competitors.S|A

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