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.