USB 3.0 Internal Connector Cable Spec Released!

Alex Castle

Want to  know if you’re a tier 1 nerd? You are if the phrase USB 3.0 Internal Connector Cable Specification Revision 1.0 gets your nerd on. Yeah, we thought you’d get as excited as we did. This is, afterall, one of the final hurdles to getting native SuperSpeed USB 3.0 down in the motherboard.

Not sure what the hell we’re talking about? It’s the spec that defines what an internal motherboard header will be for SuperSpeed USB 3.0. Up until now, case  enclosure vendors have had to hack together work arounds for front mounted USB 3.0 ports by running pass through cables that go out the back of the case and plug into the motherboard’s USB 3.0 ports on back.

The new Internal Connector Cable spec means cases will be able to use a standard header connector to hook up those front USB 3.0 ports. If you’re wondering why you can’t just use standard USB 2.0 headers, the answer is that you can’t. The pin out for the uberfast USB 3.0 is completely different than a USB 2.0 header. To make matters worse for case vendors, several motherboard vendors have struck out and are now offering boards with USB 3.0 headers – all using different layouts of course.

Looking at the header design for the USB 3.0 Internal Connector Cable Spec, there are 19 pins total – 10 more than a standard USB 2.0 header. Unlike the USB 3.0 spec for the maximum length of external cables (there is none) the Internal Connector Cable is limited to 18 inches and for small form factor machines, Intel is recommending a 12-inch cable run.

When will motherboards get USB 3.0 internal connectors? We suspect it won’t happen until either Intel or AMD add native support to their core logic chipsets. And that’s unlikely to happen until well into 2011.

If you’re ready to throw your USB 3.0 dock across the room in frustration, that actually parallels previous implementations of USB, a USB IF spokeswoman said.

“Typically new I/O technology is introduced by using a discrete solution in the beginning as it provides a standards based solution that is time to market, provides a key enabling tool to the industry to develop the ecosystem and proves the technology is sound. Once these attributes have been verified then a company would look at providing an integrated solution,” the spokeswoman told Maximum PC.

For many nerds, the wait has been too long causing some to board the conspiracy train and look for plots behind every new technology that could compete such as Intel’s LightPeak.

But has the delay been overly long? If you’ll remember, it took roughly two years from the introduction of the first NEC discrete USB 2.0 controller to the first motherboard chipsets with integrated USB 2.0. That chipset was Intel’s 845E/GL/G/GE/PE/GV chipset paired with the ICH4 southbridge.

NEC introduced its USB 3.0 controller in May of 2009. If USB 3.0 follows the same timeline, chipsets with the functionality would be right on time if introduced next year.

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