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ExpressCard Technology Host Adapters Information ExpressCard Sponsors

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Based on both the extremely fast PCI Express (PCIe) and ubiquitous USB 2.0 standards,
ExpressCard is simpler, smaller, and much faster than PCMCIA PC Card removable expansion
technologies. The transition to ExpressCard has left many users in difficult situations with
both forward and backward compatibility issues. Fortunately, many solutions are beginning to
appear that will allow the use of ExpressCards on desktop computers, PCMCIA PC Cards on
ExpressCard equipped laptops or desktops, and even USB 2.0 based ExpressCards via USB
2.0 ports. Furthermore, Expresscard to memory card adapters are now available.

Adding Memory Card Capabilities to ExpressCard Based Computers


Adding ExpressCard Capabilities to PCIe Based Desktop Computers
Use PCMCIA PC Cards (16/32-bit) with ExpressCard Equipped Computers
Specialty and Unique ExpressCard Adapters

Adding Memory Card Capabilities to ExpressCard Based Computers


Memory cards are used everywhere today. Digital cameras, MP3 players, mobile phones,
PDAs, and more. Many people used fast and portable PCMCIA PC Card to memory card media
adapters in the past to share data between mobile devices and laptop computers. Now that
many laptops feature ExpressCard instead of PC Card, a new generation of memory card
adapters are available.
ExpressCard to CompactFlash Memory Card Adapters
ExpressCard to CompactFlash Memory Card Adapters allow speedy
and reliable access to data stored on CompactFlash memory media
cards. These devices are perfect for digital photographers since they
support PIO though Mode 6 and DMA through Mode 4, meaning they
take full advantage the newer UDMA4 CompactFlash Cards like Lexar
Professional UDMA 300x, and SanDisk Extreme® IV CompactFlash cards. For other
CompactFlash memory card users, ExpressCard adapters allow for fast access to
CompactFlash contents with speeds typically exceeding the fastest USB 2.0 adapters.

ExpressCard to Multiple Memory Card Adapters


ExpressCard to Multiple Memory Card Adapters allow quick and safe
access to data stored on memory media cards. They are excellent for
digital photographers and other memory media card users,
ExpressCard to Multiple Memory Card Adapters allow for speedy
access to card contents rivaling and sometimes exceeding USB 2.0
adapters. ExpressCard to Multiple Memory Card Adapters are light and compact. Many
models support the SDCH (SD Card 2.0) standard and SD Card, MultiMediaCard and
MultiMediaCard 4.0, xD Picture Cards (including Type M and H), Memory Stick and Memory
Stick Pro. Others have added support for microSD (Transflash), M2, and other emerging card
technologies.
Synchrotech is a popular source for ExpressCard memory card adapters
Adding ExpressCard Capabilities to PCIe Based Desktop Computers
PCIe to ExpressCard drives provide PCIe based desktop computers
complete access to ExpressCard applications. PCIe to ExpressCard
drives are transparent to cards inserted, and accept both ExpressCard
34 and 54 cards. No drivers are required for ExpressCard drives, but
ExpressCard used with them might depending on the card. An
ExpressCard drive's PCIe 1X connection enables full 250MB/s
(megabytes) throughput for PCIe based ExpressCards, and 480Mb/s
(megabits) speeds for USB 2.0 based ExpressCards. ExpressCard drives enable sharing of
ExpressCards between both laptops and desktops.
PCIe to ExpressCard drives are no longer limited to locating the
ExpressCard slot on the backplane of a desktop computer. Newer PCIe
to ExpressCard drives place the ExpressCard slot in a 3.5 inch drive
bay enclosure, providing an ExpressCard slot in the same location as
DVD-R, CD-R, or floppy drives. This convenient location makes it
even easier to take advantage of ExpressCard technology on desktop
computers. The front located ExpressCard drives provide the same functionality as rear
access PCIe to ExpressCard drives.
Synchrotech is an excellent source for PCIe to ExpressCard Host Adapters
Use PCMCIA PC Cards (16/32-bit) with ExpressCard Equipped
Computers
The brand new ExpressCard 34 to PCMCIA PC Card and
CardBus Read-Writer DuelAdapter™ connects the latest
generation of ExpressCard equipped laptops with PCMCIA
32-Bit PC CardBus and 16-Bit legacy PC Cards. A cross-
platform device, the DuelAdapter™ seamlessly converts data
at the highest throughput speeds. DuelAdapter™ works with
PC Cards technologies including: wireless networking, video,
cellular broadband, audio and memory card expansion.
The DuelAdapter™ has special electronics which convert
PCMCIA PC Card input to ExpressCard compatible signals, and the adapter can reach transfer
rates up to the full 2.5Gbit/sec supported by the ExpressCard interface. The simple to install
adapter works with ExpressCard equipped laptops or desktops. DuelAdapter™ has been
tested with a wide range of PC Cards including: Panasonic P2 cards, and Cingular, Sprint, T-
Mobile, and Verizon's 3G wireless cards. If drivers exist on a supported platform for a
specific PC Card, then it should work fine with the DuelAdapter™.

Specialty and Unique ExpressCard Adapters


USB 2.0 to USB 2.0 Based ExpressCard Adapters
USB 2.0 to USB 2.0 Based ExpressCard Adapters allow use of USB 2.0
interface ExpressCards via a USB 2.0 port connection. These devices only
work with USB 2.0 interface ExpressCards, not PCIe interface ExpressCards,
so this rules out any high end host adapters, etc. USB 2.0 interface
ExpressCards typically include: ExpressCard Storage Devices, ExpressCard
to Memory Card Adapters, ExpressCard to RS-232 Host adapters, and
other low speed and or complexity applications. Always check with the
manufacturer of an ExpressCard to learn which bus interconnect it uses.
PCMCIA PC Card to USB 2.0 Based ExpressCard Adapters
PC Card Type II to USB 2.0 Mode ExpressCard Adapters allow use of USB
based ExpressCards with PC Card equipped computers. USB 2.0 interface
ExpressCards typically include: ExpressCard Storage Devices, ExpressCard
to Memory Card Adapters, ExpressCard to RS-232 Host adapters, and
other low speed and or complexity applications. Always check with the manufacturer of an
ExpressCard to learn which bus interconnect it uses. These adapters will not work with any
ExpressCard using the PCI Express (PCIe) portion of the ExpressCard standard. Most
ExpressCards, including host adapter for FireWire, SATA, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, etc. will
not work with the PC Card to USB 2.0 Mode ExpressCard. 16-bit PCMCIA PC Card to
ExpressCard adapters provide more power than their 32-bit equivalents, for ExpressCard with
higher power requirements. 16-bit adapters draw a full 5V, ensuring ExpressCards aren't
effected by performance problems associated with lower power 32-bit adapters. Another
advantage of these devices is that they present only a minimal protrusion outside of laptops.
Check with online retailers like Synchrotech or directories like that at PCMCIA's
ExpressCard.org for Specialized ExpressCard Adapters.

ExpressCard Technology Information for ExpressCard 34 and 54


Slots and Devices
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The PCMCIA recently introduced the PCMCIA ExpressCard standard as a successor
technology to the venerable PCMCIA PC Card and PC Cardbus standards. PCMCIA ExpressCard
slots are available today on a wide range of host systems. More and more peripheral devices
based on PCMCIA ExpressCard are appearing everyday. Based on and supporting both the
very fast PCI Express (PCIe) and ubiquitous USB 2.0 standards, ExpressCard is smaller, faster,
and much simpler to deploy than the previous expansion technologies like PCMCIA PC Cards.
ExpressCard's flexibility and high speeds provide breakthrough applications including full
throughput eSATA host adapters, UDMA 4/PIO Mode 6 supporting CompactFlash adapters,
and FireWire 800 host adapters. All new is the availability of ExpressCard slots deployed on
desktop machines for PCIe 1X applications, alleviating the problem of opening a computer's
case when installing new peripheral devices.

Host Adapters Providing ExpressCard Read/Writer Capability


PCIe to PCMCIA ExpressCard readers allow PCIe based desktop computers to utilize
ExpressCard applications. Such readers are completely transparent to any card inserted,
accepting either ExpressCard 34 or 54 cards. ExpressCard drives themselves require no
drivers, but the cards being used with them might. PCIe to PCMCIA ExpressCard reader's PCIe
1X configuration realizes full 250MB/s (megabytes) throughput with PCIe based ExpressCards,
while USB 2.0 ExpressCards operate at a 480Mb/s (megabits) speed. Excellent for sharing
devices between modern laptops and desktops, PCIe to PCMCIA ExpressCard drives are a
smart addition for desktop machines. Online stores offer PCIe to ExpressCard readers that
work with both ExpressCard 34 and ExpressCard 54 Cards.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding ExpressCard 34 and ExpressCard


54 Cards
What are PCMCIA ExpressCard Cards?
Key PCMCIA ExpressCard and PCMCIA PC Card Differences
Are there PCMCIA ExpressCard to PCMCIA PC Card adapters?
Are there any PCMCIA PC Card to PCMCIA ExpressCard adapters?
ExpressCard Physical Dimensions
ExpressCard Physical Slotting

What are PCMCIA ExpressCard Cards


ExpressCard is the PCMCIA's newest removable, portable, expansion technology to replace
16-bit PC Card and 32-bit PC Cardbus card devices. As a technology based on the latest bus
standards, ExpressCard holds several advantages over PCMCIA PC Card some of which are
explained below.

Key PCMCIA ExpressCard and PCMCIA PC Card Differences

ExpressCard offers two all new interconnect technologies

ExpressCard utilizes two interconnect technologies, the most important of which is PCI
Express (PCIe). ExpressCard devices utilizing PCIe 1X technology are capable of 2.5Gb/s per
direction. An ExpressCard operating in full duplex mode has an approximate throughput of
250MB/s x 2, or 500MB/s of throughput. This is about four times the effective speed of 32-
bit PC Cardbus. Alternatively, ExpressCards utilizing USB 2.0 for less complex and lower
speed applications, have a maximum throughput of 480mb/s.

ExpressCard's bandwidth provides much higher performance

PCIe 1X technology based ExpressCards are capable of 2.5Gb/s per direction, allowing for
realization of applications, like host adapters, which underperform or are impossible with PC
Cardbus. Examples of bottlenecked Cardbus host adapters, that don't tax ExpressCard are
Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and FireWire 800 (IEEE 1394.b). Furthermore, ExpressCard will be able
to handle the newest SATAe and other high end busses with relative ease.

ExpressCard replaces a parallel bus with a high speed serial bus

ExpressCard follows the trend of SATA and PCI Express of a transition from parallel to serial
buses. ExpressCard utilizes a 26-pin beam on blade serial connection, rather than the 68-
pin parallel connection used for PC Card. ExpressCard's utilization of PCIe and USB 2.0 serial
connections built in host systems reduces complexity. It also eliminates signal timing
problems associated with parallel buses.

ExpressCard is inexpensive and easier to implement than PC Card

Since ExpressCard harnesses busses already existing on the newest host systems, it doesn't
need separate ASIC bridge chips for integration. Differing from PC Card and PC Cardbus
which required a controller chip to bridge underlying system bus to the card slot, ExpressCard
devices essentially plug into either the system's PCIe or USB 2.0 bus, based on the type of
ExpressCard employed. Savings in both cost and complexity are a hallmark of ExpressCard.

ExpressCard offers superior power management and saving

ExpressCards operate at 1.5 and 3.3V baselines, which are lower voltages than PC Card.
Systems deploying ExpressCard technology can take full advantage low power utilization and
allow for longer batter life in portable applications.

Are there PCMCIA ExpressCard to PCMCIA PC Card adapters? (backward


compatibility)
Yes, the innovative DuelAdapter ExpressCard 34 to PCMCIA PC Card and CardBus Read-Writer
allows any system with an PCMCIA ExpressCard slot to use both legacy 16-bit PC Cards and
32-bit PC Cardbus Cards. The host computer can have a native ExpressCard 34 or
ExpressCard 54 slot, or have a PCIe to ExpressCard adapter and work with the DuelAdapter.
As long as the PCMCIA PC Card is supported by the underlying operating system, it will work
when used in conjunction with the DuelAdapter.
Are there any PCMCIA PC Card to PCMCIA ExpressCard adapters? (foreward
compatibility)
For PCIe based ExpressCards, no. PC Card, even in the 32-bit variety, doesn't provide enough
bandwidth. Moreover, ExpressCards differ from PC Cards in physical connectivity, form factor,
bus technology and voltages.
For USB 2.0 based ExpressCards, yes. Several devices act as USB 2.0 hubs, passing USB 2.0
signals from an ExpressCard through to a PCMCIA PC Card slot. These PCMCIA PC Card to USB
2.0-Mode ExpressCard adapters come in both 32-bit and 16-bit PCMCIA PC Card types.
PCMCIA to USB 2.0 based ExpressCard adapters do not work with any PCIe based
ExpressCard. Technically, there adapters break the PCMCIA specification, since a given host
slot is supposed to support both the PCIe and USB 2.0 portions of the ExpressCard standard.
Physical Slotting for ExpressCard Cards
ExpressCard slots, like
ExpressCards, come in two
varieties; those for both
ExpressCard 54 and 34 cards,
and slots for ExpressCard 34
cards only. Regardless of their
physical dimensions
ExpressCard slots are required
to provide both PCIe and USB
2.0 functionality. ExpressCard
54 slots, as seen in figures A
and B on the right, accept both
54 and 34 cards. What PCMCIA
terms as a "novel guidance
device," physically guide an ExpressCard 34 device to the connector part of the slot, as seen
in the lower left corner of figures A and B. With the connection portion of ExpressCards for
both types being an identical 34mm, this scheme enables an elegant way to utilize either
type of card. Conversely, ExpressCard 34 slots only accept ExpressCard 34 cards as seen in
figure C. This last fact is important when shopping for ExpressCards, if a device only accepts
ExpressCard 34 slot, then only look for ExpressCard 34 devices. The PCMCIA's literature
states systems deploying multiple ExpressCard slots should lay them out on a horizontal
plane adjacently rather than a "stacked slot" convention employed for PC Card slots.
Physical Dimensions for ExpressCard Cards
ExpressCards are available in
two form factors: ExpressCard
34 and ExpressCard 54. These
form factors share identical
dimensions except for width,
which is where the form factor
names are derived.
ExpressCard length is 75mm
and their depth (or thickness)
is 5.0mm. 5.0mm is the same
depth as PC Card Type II.
While the shapes and widths of
ExpressCard form factors
differ, the portion of the card
connecting to the card slot are
identical at 34mm.
ExpressCard 34 cards are
rectangular in shape and
34mm wide. ExpressCard 54
Cards at their widest point are
54mm wide, but 34mm wide
at the connection point,
creating a "Fat-L" shape. Both form factors are allowed additional volume extending outside
of what is considered the flush portion of an inserted card. Referred to as the extended
portion of the card, ExpressCards with such configurations are called extended cards.
Extended portions may exceed a card's dimension on any axis, with obvious practical
limitations. For an example of an ExpressCard 34 featuring an extended portion on two axis
(depth and width) see: ExpressCard 34 to CompactFlash Memory Card Adapter. See
ExpressCard Physical Slotting for a Image of how ExpressCard modules are deployed in the
two types of ExpressCard slots.
PCMCIA ExpressCard and PCMCIA PC Card Data Table
16-bit 32-bit ExpressCard ExpressCard
PC Card PC Cardbus (USB 2.0) (PCIe 1X)
Voltages 3.3/5.0/12.0V 3.3/5.0V 1.5/3.3V 1.5/3.3V
Maximum 250 MB/sec. per
20 MB/sec. 132 MB/sec. 60 MB/sec.
Throughput direction
PC Cards ExpressCard 34 ExpressCard 54
Depth Type I/II/II 3.3/5.0/10.3mm 5.0mm 5.0mm
Length 85.6mm 75mm 75mm
Width 54mm 34mm 54mm

ExpressCard Product Sources


Many online vendors offer a wide range of ExpressCard 34 and ExpressCard 54 products
including Synchrotech.

© 2007 expresscard-products.com, updated 2007-08-30

ExpressCard, PCIe, PCI Express