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Mobile Users Rejoice: ExpressCard 2.0 in 2010

The aging ExpressCard is jumping in the fast lane.

In 2006, the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) launched a new ExpressCard interface standard for laptops. Replacing the CardBus as a primary connection for devices like wireless cards, sound cards and mobile broadband connectivity, ExpressCard increased bandwidth by utilizing PCI-Express x1 over the aging PCI bus. Three years later, PCI-x x1 is beginning to age itself, and with PCI-express 2.0 already here and USB 3.0 on the horizon, the PCMCIA have released a new standard that will increase bandwidt

h and speed exponentially.

Dubbed ExpressCard 2.0 (who would have guessed), the new connection will sport a ten-fold speed increase over its older brother. The original ExpressCard uses both a PCI-x x1 and USB 2.0 connections on the chipset to send and receive data, be it for Internet use, port expansion, or a boost in overall performance (external sound cards, etc). The new 2.0 standard will utilize PCI-express 2.0 as well as USB 3.0. While the latter is not yet available to consumers, the specifications are finalized, allowing for ExpressCard 2.0 to be possible.

"The ExpressCard 2.0 Standard brings a whole new level of performance to the notebook market," said PCMCIA chairman Brad Saunders. "Users of applications such as streaming media, flash memory and large data transfers will see up to 10 times higher transfer rates using ExpressCard 2.0 Standard products [and] we expect to see these products in 2010."

So what will ExpressCard 2.0 be used for? Besides wireless connectivity, expect the standard to be utilized with new external storage devices and various multimedia components. For years, the thought of an external video card connecting to the computer via an ExpressCard slot has been thrown around. With PCI-express 2.0 now a part of the picture, the increased speed and bandwidth should make such external GPU's more popular. As for "large data transfers," eSATA is a likely candidate for new ExpressCard slots. While eSATA is becoming more popular with notebooks, anyone with a laptop over six months old is likely left out in the rain. Buying an ExpressCard with an eSATA port could help bring fast data transfer to older hardware.

At the end of the day, the PCMCIA is bringing a new, fast external connection to the table less than three years after its previous offering. That's a much more reasonable time table than the ten years we've all waited for USB 3.0.