Saturday, December 26, 2009

PC Card gives way to ExpressCard

PC Card gives way to ExpressCard.

Developed in 2005, the ExpressCard has become an industry standard, replacing the PCMCIA card. This next generation standard keeps the benefits of I/O cards with the added benefits of being smaller and faster, suited to mobile and desktop systems, support of USB 2.0, 3.0 and PCI Express applications, lower power requirements, and lower implementation costs. It is estimated that approximately 95% of the mobile market is utilizing the ExpressCard technology over that of the older PC Cards.

How does the ExpressCard evolve and compare to the PC CardWhat is the ExpressCard?
The original PC Cards were released in 16-bit and later 32-bit cardbus designs. They allowed  mobile computers additional connectivity with different I/O devices such as USB, FireWire, Ethernet, RS232, and more. The ExpressCard has overtaken the PCMCIA CardBus. The major difference is the Express Card has a higher bandwidth than the PCMCI Card. This is due to the direct connection to the system bus over the PCI Express lane and USB 2.0, while CardBus cards only interface with PCI. What this means is that an ExpressCard can have a maximum throughput of 250 MBps and 480 Mbpsthrough USB 2.0. The PC Cards have a shared total of 1.06 Gbps, far slower than the ExpressCard.

The ExpressCard operates at 1.5V or 3.3V; the PCCard operates at 3.3V to 5.0V, making the Express Cardfar more efficient. Other advantages over the PC Card include lower costs, better scalability, and better integration with motherboard chipset technology than Cardbus. PCMCIA devices can be connected to an ExpressCard slot via an adapter.

What other Form Factors are there for the ExpressCard?
There are two form factors for the ExpressCard, ExpressCard/34 and ExpressCard/54 -  The ExpressCard/34 is 34mm broad and ExpressCard/54 is 54mm broad in an L-shape —the connector is the same on both (breadth 34 mm). Compared to the standard PCMCIA cards that are 75 mm wide the ExpressCards are smaller in design. Adapters are available to allow for PC Cards to be used in ExpressCard slots, as well as adapters that will allow ExpressCards to be used in a standard PC Card slot.

How widely supported is the ExpressCard?
Almost all major PC and main board manufacturers are incorporating the ExpressCard into their laptop and even desktop designs. This is partly because the cost of implementing the ExpressCard is lower than that of the PC Card. Industry leaders such as Intel, AMD, NVidia, SanDisk, Texas Instruments, and others are all ExpressCard Executive Members and there are far more affiliate members. This means that there is more of a push by the top industry producers to implement this technology. As more laptops are being built with only ExpressCard buses, more adapters will be used to keep older PC Cards working. There will also be an increase in the sales of ExpressCard connections, from USB, Ethernet, Serial, FireWire, and more.

More of the market is being taken over by the ExpressCard bus than in previous years. It is making its way into the marketplace as new laptops and netbooks replace existing systems. 80% of all mobile computers will have this bus technology by the end of 2009, making it a prime market for companies selling ExpressCards and the related adapters.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What is PCI-Express?

You can have the world’s fastest processors, the fastest memory, and the fastest access time to your stored data. If you don’t have the proper bus speed, you have a very expensive computer that provides no more power than its predecessors. No matter how fast your processors, memory, and peripheral devices are without the proper bus speeds, you will get minimal, if any, additional speeds.

This was the dilemma that has been a plague to PC development. No matter how fast, the bus speeds never really increased enough to match the new higher speeds. High speed buses used to be only a concern with graphic cards. They required direct access to the memory and the processor so that they could render the information quickly. The PCI organization (PCI-SIG) has developed several technologies to try to overcome the bus speed limitations. The latest and most widely accepted is that of the PCI Express bus.

Why should PCI Express be of any importance to people?
Any PC builder, technician, or seller should be aware of the changes in the PCI market. These changes affect the form factor, speeds, and implementation costs of the PCI connection. The old PCI connection is slowly fading. It was an old standard; back in the 90’s and is now considered to be no longer adequate to fit the speed and performance needs, in the new century. The graphics connection of AGP has been successfully ended by the PCI-SIG group and now exists on less than 5% of the available main boards. This means that the growing trend in main board development will see an increase in growth of PCI- Express connections.

What is PCI Express?
PCI Express changes how the bus communicates with peripherals and the rest of the computer. PCI Express is a serial connection that employs full duplex (sending and receiving) to double the effective speeds. PCI Express comes in many form factors, from PCI Express 1x to the server grade PCI Express 32x. The number before the ‘x’ indicates the number of communication lanes that the PCI Express bus uses. So 1x means that it uses one lane, while the 32x indicates it uses 32 lanes to send and receive data. Each lane represents a full duplex, serial communication that has speeds of up to 500 MBps.

The serial design decreases the cost of creating the cards; the full-duplex allows it to effectively double the speed of a single duplex connection with fewer raw materials. The connections are more reliable than the older parallel connections of PCI. PCI Express was also designed with lower power requirements. While some PCI Express cards do have their own power connections, it is not common. Most of the time these are only found on the most powerful of the PCI Express video cards.

Will PCI Express work with all of the connections that PCI does now?
Yes, PCI Express works with all of the connectivity types. Meaning you can find PCI Express network cards, video, sound, serial, parallel, USB, and more. PCI Express is also backwards compatible with other PCI Express cards. This means that if you have a PCI Express 8x connection you can use any PCI Express card of 8x or less.

PCI Express is the future for main boards.
The market has already seen a significant reduction in the AGP connection slot which is quickly being overtaken by the PCI Express form factor. These advancements are lowering costs and energy requirements while increasing the efficiency of computer peripherals. While many manufacturers are using a PCI and PCI Express side by side design, many of the higher end main boards are excluding almost all PCI connections. It is estimated that over the next 5 years, PCI will be as uncommon as its predecessor ISA.

Friday, December 4, 2009

MANHATTAN Partner Esquire Technologies Named CRN Distributor of the Year 2009

Esquire Technologies, distributor of information technology and digital lifestyle products including MANHATTAN components, peripherals, cables and accessories was named CRN Distributor of the Year 2009. The honor bestowed by CRN readers and clients was announced at the 14th CRN Outlook Awards on December 3, 2009 and is considered one of the event’s most prestigious IT categories. Esquire Technologies was selected CRN Distributor of the Year 2009 for its promotion of world class brands, target growth opportunity identification and development, value added services and solutions for the channel, business to business excellence and financial performance. It distributes world-renowned brands to resellers, distributors, system integrators and system builders in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

In addition to receiving the Distributor of the Year 2009 award, Esquire Technologies was recognized with first positions in 16 components, peripherals and systems distributor categories. Mahomed Cassim, Esquire Technologies Group Sales and Marketing Director attributed the sweeping win to the company’s “large choice of affordable, high-end, technologically advanced products and solutions.” Esquire Technologies announced this year several important initiatives including its iBonga Rewards loyalty program and an alliance with FIFA™ becoming the world’s first official distributor of computer accessories carrying the FIFA™ and Zakumi™ brands for the 2010 Soccer World Cup™. Asgar Mahomed, Esquire Technologies Managing Director added, “From our perspective, winning these awards is a ringing endorsement of the work achieved over the last few years. We appreciate the fact that clients and readers went out of their way to vote for Esquire, and feel this is a positive reflection of our reputation in the market and our commitment to the IT industry."

Read more about the CRN Outlook Awards and Esquire Technologies.

Friday, November 13, 2009

MANHATTAN Announces Compatibility with Microsoft Windows 7

MANHATTAN, a leading global provider of personal computer components, peripherals, cables and accessories, announces its compatibility with Windows 7. The new operating system is considered by industry experts an incremental upgrade of Windows Vista featuring better interfaces and presentations, enhanced usability, advanced hardware and device support and other general performance improvements. The new Windows 7 enhancements are fully compatible with most existing Windows Vista applications and hardware. All MANHATTAN products are currently compatible with Windows Vista and will function with Windows 7. MANHATTAN product specifications, packaging and other materials will be revised accordingly to include Windows 7. Any new Windows 7 drivers and software updates required for MANHATTAN products can be located and downloaded at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bluetooth Speakers: The Next Market Phase for Bluetooth

Bluetooth has become a major player in wireless communications. It seems as though every portable device, from phones to MP3 players, is Bluetooth enabled. This technology has allowed people to share information and devices without complicated network hookups and cables. Portability and connectivity has become part of Bluetooth’s mission.

Everyone has seen people using the Bluetooth headsets that allow them hands-free use of their mobile phones. There are stereo headsets, mice, keyboards and other devices being released every year. As the Bluetooth market grows, so too does the range of products that now come Bluetooth enabled.

One area of great development is Bluetooth speakers. Until recently, the only Bluetooth speakers available were typically desktop speakers, which had limitations because of their small size. Now there are larger speakers, with rich, full stereo sound. With the convenience of Bluetooth, you do not have to worry about connecting your sound source to your speakers. Bluetooth connections make it easy to connect multiple devices without having to change wires or purchase expensive docking systems.

As the list of devices that incorporate MP3 players and Bluetooth grows, so does the convenience of using Bluetooth speakers. Even cell phones are able to store and play MP3 files. With all of these portable players available, the convenience of using full-sized speakers is even more evident. You do not need special equipment, and anyone can connect his or her devices to the speakers. This makes entertaining easier than ever before. With a push of a button, your speakers are ready to be linked with other devices. You do not need to have a single source for your music any longer.

Expect to start seeing more Bluetooth speakers in your retail shops. MANHATTAN has introduced the 2800 Acoustic Series Bluetooth Bookshelf Speaker System. The design is compact enough to fit into smaller spaces, but has the full sound of floor speakers. It follows the same easy connect methods that are in use with other devices, as well. Devices like this will be appearing more often.

MANHATTAN 2800 Acoustic Series Bluetooth Bookshelf Speaker System

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

HDMI 1.4 Specification - Ethernet Channel

HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC) consolidates video, audio and data streams into a single HDMI cable, supporting high-speed, bi-directional networking up to 100 Mbps. As a result of this cost- and space-saving feature, networking capability is being incorporated into a wide range of IP-enabled home entertainment devices. Look no further than your X-Box 360 and PlayStation3 to find some of the first examples of this, and more and more TVs and DVRs are adding an Ethernet channel for connectivity between home entertainment devices and the Internet.

Having an Ethernet channel incorporated for state-of-the-art audio/video cable reduces cable clutter, makes connections simpler and encourages the growth of the industry. The following images show how much simpler the HDMI with Ethernet cables will make this sort of connectivity.

In the image above, notice that any device that connects to the Internet must have two cables plugged into it. This configuration could be even more complicated if components use non-HDMI connections, requiring several connectors for audio and video. This tangle of cables takes longer to set up and troubleshoot, and it can even create hazards. Now compare that with the image below, showing how a setup would look using HDMI with Ethernet capability.

Networking capabilities are now becoming more available in a wide range of IP-enabled home entertainment devices. Consumers can have all the benefits of Ethernet connectivity through HDMI and further simplify their systems by eliminating the need for separate Ethernet cables. Below is a list of benefits offered by HEC devices.

1. Allow for growth of IP-based networking solutions for consumer electronics, such as DLNA, IPTV, LiquidHD, and UPnP
2. Allow connected devices to share an Internet connection
3. Enable native-format content distribution between connected devices, including recording and playback across a networked system
4. Provide a true one-cable solution for all your home entertainment needs, offering HDMI’s world-class quality and reliability plus all the benefits of home entertainment networking in one powerful connection
To make sure that you can benefit the most from HDMI Ethernet;

1. Look for devices that include HDMI Ethernet Channel functionality
2. Be sure to connect devices with one of the new cables designed to support HDMI Ethernet Channel functionality, either the Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet or the High-Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet
3. Check with your manufacturer to determine which HDMI ports (if any) will support HDMI Ethernet Channel functionality

With the growth of Internet connectivity for your home entertainment devices, HDMI Ethernet cables and devices only make more sense. You can clean up the clutter of cables, get high-speed, bi-directional communications at 100 Mbps, and enjoy the ability to use IP-based applications over a single HDMI connection.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

HDMI 1.4 Specification - Audio Channel Return

Minimizing the Cable Clutter

This feature of HDMI 1.4 is a significant change in the way that we think about audio. In previous versions of HDMI and other A/V cable solutions, audio traveled in only one direction, as shown in the image below. 

Notice that the HDMI cable forms a connection from the input device, such as a DVD/CD player, to the stereo speaker/tuner system. From there, another HDMI cable extends from the audio output of the tuner to the display (which allows the input device — in this case, the DVD/CD player — to still be connected directly to the display, bypassing the stereo system). But for the display to send a signal back to the audio output of the tuner, you’d need a separate cable. 

 With the Audio Return Channel, the return audio can be sent back to the audio output without a secondary cable, resulting in these benefits:

• The single-cable design does not require additional HDMI cables, since it uses the same connections and wires as before.
• Fewer cables reduces the time and cost of installation.
• The lip-synch feature is carried back over the return channel to ensure that sound matches the video.
Obviously, these benefits are expected to make ARC a very popular feature.

Monday, September 21, 2009

USB 2.0 M-TT Hubs

USB is the most commonly used connection in today’s computer environment. Getting the most out of this connection is a simple matter of planning. By purchasing a hub, most consumers add the convenience of additional ports, but they do not take into account the trade-off: More ports often means reduced speed, especially when mixing high-speed, full-speed and low-speed devices.

It used to be that this loss of performance was simply accepted, as manufacturers couldn’t justify the cost involved with trying to maximize the bandwidth. Times have changed, however; technology pricing has gone done, leaving no excuses for manufacturers not to maximize the throughput speed. There has been a misunderstanding within the USB community that if you wanted to increase the throughput you would simply purchase a USB 2.0 hub. This thinking is flawed, and shows a basic lack of knowledge on the part of many manufacturers. In reality, while the USB 2.0 hubs work fine in conjunction with multiple USB 2.0 devices, the performance of full- and low-speed devices suffered.

When a full- or low-speed device communicates with a USB 2.0 hub, it goes through a TT, a “transaction translator,” chip. In lower-quality, lower-cost designs, there is only one TT chip for the hub. As this single TT chip establishes communication one device at a time, it forces any non-USB 2.0 device to share that chip, which creates a bottleneck in the hub for the 1.1 and 1.0 devices, slowing down their throughput even more. The problem worsens as more devices are attached to the hub. This can reduce transfer speed by as much as 20 percent.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution.

By providing each downstream port with its own TT chip, each device is able to communicate without having to share access, thus removing the bottleneck. This is done through the use of an M-TT, or “multiple-transaction translator,” chip. It keeps the connected devices communicating in the most efficient manner possible. Plus, unlike the single TT environment — in which chip failure prevents the operation of attached full/low-speed (if not all) USB devices — the M-TT minimizes the risk of a catastrophic hub failure.

Keeping your equipment running is one thing: Making sure it runs as efficiently as possible is another. MANHATTAN takes the commitment of quality seriously by offering the best connectivity options that are available to meet your ever-changing needs. And that’s why quality, reliability and efficiency are the trademarks of all MANHATTAN products.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

HDMI 1.4 Cable Specifications

HDMI is a changing technology. The demands that have been placed on components and cables have forced changes to be made by both manufacturers and implementers. Since its release in 2003, HDMI has been through several revisions. The latest revision, HDMI 1.4, has brought with it new cable specifications. The division of cable may seem confusing at first, but with a little explanation they are pretty easy to understand. Please note that this is not dealing with the changes to the specifications and features, only to the physical cable itself.

HDMI 1.4 has introduced a few different classifications of cables: Standard HDMI, High-Speed HDMI, Standard HDMI with Ethernet, High-Speed HDMI with Ethernet, Automotive and Micro. HDMI has always been proud of its “single cable connection” standard, and while the addition of these cables may seem to deviate from that format, it really does very little to change the connections themselves. It is just that now there are “grades” of cable.

• Standard HDMI: Supports resolutions up to 1080i/720p with a bandwidth of 4.9 Gbps at 165 MHz.
• High-Speed HDMI: Supports resolutions well beyond 1080p with a bandwidth of 10.2 Gbps at 340 MHz.
• Standard HDMI with Ethernet: Supports resolutions up to 1080i/720p with a bandwidth of 4.9 Gbps at 165 MHz. It also allows support for full-duplex 100 Mbps Ethernet connection.
• High-Speed HDMI with Ethernet: Supports resolutions well beyond 1080p with a bandwidth of 10.2 Gbps at 340 MHz. It also allows support for full-duplex 100 Mbps Ethernet connection.
• Automotive HDMI: This standard HDMI cable is specifically designed for use in the automotive industry. This is a physically different cable because the design must withstand a great deal of punishment from vibration, noise, heat and cold.
• Micro HDMI: This is a change in connection form factor. It does not change the features supported; it is simply a smaller connection package for HDMI. This connector is designed for implementation on small devices.

These different cable classifications have caused a great deal of confusion in the market, and some companies are even taking advantage of this. It’s time, however, to cut through the confusion. Cables are very simple and for the most part remain unchanged in design and connection.

The differences between standard and high-speed cable go back to HDMI versions 1.1, and 1.2. Standard cable is certified to meet the minimum throughput for those standards. Since most cable has been designed to the 1.3 version, this is not a problem and most would qualify as high-speed.

The addition of an Ethernet classification doesn’t change the physical connection, but it does change the wiring structure within the cable. In order to obtain the 10/100 speeds of the Ethernet — and to meet the grade requirements — HDMI cable must now have two of the cables twisted to reduce cross talk.

The Automotive classification simply represents changes in material and the construction for locking the connections. These changes don’t affect the pin outs or the signal, but make the cable tougher in order to withstand the demands inherent in the automotive industry.

Micro classification does not change the cable or signal, either — it only denotes a change in the physical connector used in small devices. Micro HDMI is likely to supplant the mini connection that was introduced earlier.

It seems that most of the confusion has been over terminology. The cables are not different in their connections: All will still use the 19- pin HDMI connection - with micro HDMI cables, of course, in a smaller connection package.

Friday, September 11, 2009

How much a part of our lives is the Personal Computer?

How much a part of our lives is the Personal Computer? According to a 2007 Wikipedia article, there were a BILLION PC’s in use worldwide and another billion expected by 2014. AMD estimated the population of Internet users to be 1.5 billion as of January 2009. Simply put, everyone has access to a PC and ¼ of the world’s adult population owns one. In the United States, there are more computers in use than there are adults 1. The computer has become as much a part of our lives as the toaster and the telephone.

Unlike the toaster – well, maybe a little bit like the telephone – the nature of the PC is very personal. The PC is an appliance which the user touches. It takes hours of use to “break in” a new mouse or keyboard to the point where we are comfortable using it, and once we’re comfortable it would take hours to switch back to our old one. This “personalization” doesn’t apply to the PC hardware, but only to the peripherals we touch all day. We don’t buy peripherals based on price or function, we buy them based on design and performance. Sure, if a peripheral is provided to you – say, your company’s computer guy buys you a new keyboard – it may be chosen on price, but if you make the decision yourself you want a product that looks, feels, and performs well. MANHATTAN makes products like this, and we’ve been doing it a long time.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss advances in PC peripheral design and technology. We’ll blog about industry trends and new technologies that directly affect you. Hopefully, we’ll inspire some dialogue from you about what products, trends, technologies, and styles you are interested in.

1 The United States Census Bureau estimates the population between age 15 and 64 to be 205,794,364 as of July 2009. eTForecasts & Computer Industry Almanac Inc estimates that there were 214,760,000 PC’s sold from 2006-2008.