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Old January 4th, 2012, 08:01 PM   #1
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USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

Greetings fellow Sony SxS users.
I have recently upgraded laptops meaning I have gained some features but at the same time, lost others. My former mobile workstation allowed me the amenities of Firewire800 and an ExpressCard port as well as other inputs/outputs, but those were critical to my uses. I have since moved on into the digital realm, and no longer operate tape cameras as my primary source, so the loss of Firewire on the new laptop was not a huge loss at all.

I am, however, disappointed at the loss of the ExpressCard adapter and how that seems to be fading away from a lot of high end laptops in the market today.

I would much rather have the ability to transfer the footage from the SxS media directly, without the need to plug my EX1 into the machine. (I also utilize MxM adapters, but the laptop has an SD card reader, which is incredibly convenient for my other devices.)
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I have searched online and on this site both and have seen options for USB 2.0 adapters which can be obtained, however, transfer speeds of USB 2.0 are clearly slower than the ExpressCard speed alone. Looking at the specifications of USB 3.0, it appears that it could in theory produce similar throughput of the ExpressCard. (Discussion of Sony SBAC-US10 here: http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/sony-xdc...sb-reader.html )
This led me to wonder why, at this time, no company has made any form of an adapter for USB 3.0 to ExpressCard? I would assume many users, beyond this community which use ExpressCard readers would see this as beneficial as they upgrade to new machines.

I researched to see who those in charge were for the ExpressCard standard and I was surprised to see that they have since been assimilated into the USB Implementer's Forum. Now that this is the case, should there be someone that could answer definitively whether or not this product could exist?
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I performed a simple test where I recorded a video clip to fill my 8Gb SxS memory card and then transferred it via USB 2.0 from the EX1 to the machine resulting in a time in the neighborhood of 8 minutes.

Another test was done after transferring the footage over to a Class 10 SDHC card and copying it from the SD card reader onto the machine's hard drive, resulting in an approximate time of 6 minutes, 40 seconds. (~17% speed increase)

Finally I inserted the SxS card into the ExpressCard port on the older laptop, with a transfer time of just over 2 minutes. (~75% speed increase!)
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Theory and results often do not match, and I know that theoretically USB 3.0 can reach speeds of over 10 times that of USB 2.0, which seems clearly sufficient to meet the speeds of the ExpressCard port on laptops.
What's stopping companies from making an adapter to USB 3.0 for these cards?
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Old January 5th, 2012, 01:25 AM   #2
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

But the main questions remains of course: why do companies like Apple, who produce professional laptops, used extensively in the video industry, abandon the Express Card slot, now that SxS cards have become one of the main standards in this industry? Do they live on another planet or have they lost touch completely with the professional market since their profit is emanating mainly from toys like iPhone and the likes?
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Old January 5th, 2012, 05:11 AM   #3
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

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Originally Posted by Luc De Wandel View Post
have they lost touch completely with the professional market since their profit is emanating mainly from toys like iPhone and the likes?
That.

There have been countless rants from many professional sectors used to working on Macs lately. First the graphic designers moaning about Apple installing lower end LCDs in their computers and dropping the matte screen option for glossy offerings only, IT pros for Apple dropping their server line, video pros for Final Cut becoming an iMovie with a few extras, now ExpressCard,...

It's pretty interesting, I'm reading Steve Jobs' biography these days, and he's always been targeting the masses. Looks like the professional market was a great way to sell a few (very) high-margin products to make money when the company was in difficulty, but now this has passed it goes to the dump...
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Old January 5th, 2012, 10:07 AM   #4
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

It's interesting, yes, but I'm trying to look at it with more of a broad brush including both markets (personally, I use PCs). But I have also seen the Apple product movement where they're removing professional utility to their products.

Clearly with Apple's Thunderbolt technology, they have the ability to make a product to support an adapter, but there is still little movement on that front as well (Sonnet has a product, but currently does not support SxS media: Sonnet - Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter ). However, there are rumors that the next Apple lineup will include USB 3.0, as the cost for chipsets are much cheaper than Thunderbolt and most users will never utilize the speeds Thunderbolt offers (claimed to be in the range of twice the speed of USB 3.0).

Which brings it back to the question, why does it seem that no one is designing anything to truly take advantage of the USB 3.0 speeds (aside from hard drive storage)? Certainly, even in the consumer market, there is a need for users to use their old ExpressCards, but now have a system that cannot allow that use (modems, card readers, whatever the case may be). Why is no one capitalizing on this?
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Old January 5th, 2012, 10:39 AM   #5
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

The Current MacBookPro 17" still has the Express34 port and Thunderbolt as well.

I still have 2 of the 15" MBPs with Express34 ports and they are still very nice fast machines.

I am sure there will be Thunderbolt to Express34 support for SxS in the near future.
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Old January 5th, 2012, 12:02 PM   #6
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

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Originally Posted by Olof Ekbergh View Post
I am sure there will be Thunderbolt to Express34 support for SxS in the near future.
Perhaps, but that wasn't the original question.
Using Thunderbolt would be a potential option for Mac users of now, but in the future, as USB 3.0 becomes more prominent (and cheaper to install chipsets into systems) both Apple and PC users will be using USB and seeing as USB 3.0 clearly has the throughput to meet and surpass speeds of ExpressCard, I just don't see why there is not a direct adapter to plug these cards into a system.

Thunderbolt may well take off and Apple may take that path, but there is no reason why USB 3.0 should be left alone, when it is fully capable of doing the job needed with ExpressCards.
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Old January 5th, 2012, 02:24 PM   #7
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

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Originally Posted by Joshua Dunn View Post
why does it seem that no one is designing anything to truly take advantage of the USB 3.0 speeds (aside from hard drive storage)?
Because frankly, apart from storage to some extent and pro video (look at Blackmagic's offerings for that, here and here), there isn't much that requires or can take advantage of the huge bandwidth of USB3.0.
I have an USB3.0 CF/SD card reader, but I guess that would still count as storage...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joshua Dunn View Post
Certainly, even in the consumer market, there is a need for users to use their old ExpressCards, but now have a system that cannot allow that use (modems, card readers, whatever the case may be). Why is no one capitalizing on this?
Expresscard is not "old" and far from dead, it's still found in most PC laptops. It's only being removed of small form factor machines, which usually aren't the ones you'd use for tasks that require cards anyway.

Another point, expresscards that actually use the full potential of the port are very rare beyond SxS. The vast majority only use the USB2.0 link that's part of the Expresscard interface, but not the high speed PCI Express link. So the SBAC-US10 or similar adapters that only provide the USB2.0 link are enough for them.

I really don't understand Apple's choice of Thunderbolt instead of USB3.0, apart from the marketing/differetiation aspect they've always been good at. It's more expensive, takes more space on a motherboard, is a whole new format vs a well-established, backwards-compatible one, it offers performance that's useless at this point and will be for several years...
Back in the days they went with FireWire, which was a good thing as there was no alternative. Now for Thunderbolt, it makes a lot less sense...

I doubt we'll see USB3.0 in Apple computers anytime soon. Just like they don't want to hear a thing about Blu-Ray, they've now made a choice to go Thunderbolt and that's it.
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Old January 5th, 2012, 02:59 PM   #8
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

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Originally Posted by Andre Bernet View Post
...apart from storage to some extent and pro video (look at Blackmagic's offerings for that, here and here), there isn't much that requires or can take advantage of the huge bandwidth of USB3.0....

....Expresscard is not "old" and far from dead, it's still found in most PC laptops. It's only being removed of small form factor machines, which usually aren't the ones you'd use for tasks that require cards anyway.

Another point, expresscards that actually use the full potential of the port are very rare beyond SxS. The vast majority only use the USB2.0 link that's part of the Expresscard interface, but not the high speed PCI Express link. So the SBAC-US10 or similar adapters that only provide the USB2.0 link are enough for them...
Thanks, I forgot to mention Blackmagic's products when I made mention of all this. But with their options I'm once again plugging the camera directly to the machine itself, whereas with the ExpressCard port, one simply plugs in the card, transfers, and still has the camera available to keep shooting if need be. The SBAC-US10 would be the best current available option for someone such as myself; I just wished they could/would update it for the available speeds of USB 3.0.
------
Sorry, "old" kinda slipped out, but I can say it's becoming more difficult to find a laptop machine that is powerful enough to take advantage of Adobe's Mercury Playback Engine that also has an ExpressCard port. I see a lot of new models where the same series from 2-3 years ago no longer offer the ExpressCard port (example would be the Asus "Republic of Gamers" series--a model I own from 2 years ago had both firewire and an ExpressCard port integrated, whereas new models of that series do not have those options; these include full on desktop replacements with 17" monitors or better.)
During my searching, I had stuck very closely to Toshiba (where they still include the ExpressCard port on many of their models). However I would discover that most often, their systems only had the integrated graphics chip, not enough for working heavy in Photoshop, much less After Effects or Premiere.
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Old January 7th, 2012, 06:45 PM   #9
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

I'd like to agree that the difficulty in finding fast notebooks with both Expresscard and a variety of other high speed ports has become rather vexing. I found my last two pc purchases driven to 'closeout' models that still included the Expresscard slot, while the 'updated' versions no longer include it. For run-around stuff I wanted to have a really small, lightweight laptop, and the only one I could find that was under 14" and under 4lbs was a discontinued VAIO 13" i5 with expresscard slot, but unfortunately it's only USB2.
For more demanding transfer sessions I ended up with an (also recently discontinued) i7 Asus 15" that has not only the Expresscard, but also USB3 and eSata. Of course at <1K price I'm not demanding that it to be useful forever, but when I go on location I really don't want to think about bringing any kind of expresscard/USB adapter.
As to a USB3 version of the SBAC-US10, my feeling is that Sony will eventually come out with one, just as they've come out with the PMW-U2 (USB3) drive -- assuming that we as users make noise to indicate we'd be willing to buy one.
Personally I'm doing fine on SxS transfers - between the various computers and a Nexto2500 drive.
But faster transfers are always a good thing, so every step towards faster data is really a step forward. I just hope that the Expresscard slot doesn't disappear quickly, as manufacturers seem to move towards 'mass market' rather than 'maximum usability'.
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Old January 8th, 2012, 06:04 AM   #10
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

Hate to say it but don't let your use of the Expresscard slot blind you. In most Macs the slot remained unused, and where it was used it only housed stuff that could be attached to the computer in other ways. Video is only a small percentage of the user base, and SxS users a tiny fraction of that.

As for USB3, forget it. The camera doesn't have USB3, only USB 2. The likes of the MxM adaptors tap into a USB2 signal that is already on the connector in the camera. The camera would need a USB3 chip inside it or you'd need to create a circuit that could convert PCI-E to USB3, which would probably be bulky and expensive.
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Old January 8th, 2012, 06:10 AM   #11
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

Thunderbolt is far faster than USB3 and is a far better spec. It's Firewire v USB all over again.

I have no doubt adaptors will become available. And those of us with towers will be able to add cards to our computers in the same way my tower has ESATA with a Blu-Ray drive hanging off it.

That doesn't mean I'm defending Apple. I'm by no means certain if I want my next edit suite to be an Apple when Windows has come on leaps and bounds. Windows 7 is very impressive. I'll see what Windows 8 brings.......
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Old January 8th, 2012, 06:21 AM   #12
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

Thunderbolt is an Intel design just like USB not an Apple invention. It was just released by Apple first PCs will have it this year. There will be no liciencing the tech for add on cards so you will have to buy a new machine to get it. At least that's the way it is now...

I think it is great - one port that does everything!
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Old January 8th, 2012, 08:26 AM   #13
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

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I think it is great - one port that does everything!
It is, as long as it takes off. USB has always been dire for high speed applications because it's serial. They can botch it around but the fact remains it's serial and it never does the speed it says on the spec (hence why Firewire 400 is always faster than USB2). It's also rubbish when multiple devices are on the same bus.

As I said, Firewire v USB all over again. It's going to need someone like Dell to adopt it. Intel can offer it on their chipsets but the system builders will decide if it's worth it to include it.
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Old January 8th, 2012, 05:20 PM   #14
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Re: USB 3.0 to ExpressCard Adapter

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As for USB3, forget it. The camera doesn't have USB3, only USB 2. The likes of the MxM adaptors tap into a USB2 signal that is already on the connector in the camera. The camera would need a USB3 chip inside it or you'd need to create a circuit that could convert PCI-E to USB3, which would probably be bulky and expensive.
Sorry Marcus, I think you misunderstand my call outs here. I was referring specifically of a device that would allow a user to plug their device into an ExpressCard slot and transfer to a machine utilizing USB 3.0 speeds independently from the EX1. (Whether for SxS media or other needs, it would seem to me that they could make a design to do both.)

Yes, I understand the needs of PCI-e, however the theoretical throughput to USB 3.0 is there to match needs of PCI-e, it seems likely that a company could research and build a product which could drive cost to consumers down.
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