“Why,” you may be thinking as you read the title of this blog post, “would I care about a high-speed interface on my desktop when it’s most likely to show up first and foremost on notebooks and tablets?” Why, indeed? And now that Asus has produced what looks like the first PCI-E x4 interface card for the Type-C version of USB, their promotional materials provide an interesting figure by way of a potential answer (but a potentially ticklish one, too, as I’ll explain further):
ASUS is apparently first-to-market with an adapter card to bring Type-C USB to older PCs with empty PCI-E x4 slots or better.
As you might expect, this great leap forward comes with at least one catch, and maybe two. Catch 1 is that you need to consume a PCI-E x4 slot to add just one USB 3.1 Type-C port to your PC. I’m going to guess that this may represent an expensive consumption of slot space for many users in the target audience for this hardware. Catch 2 is that exploiting the gains in read/write performance (which are for sequential data, and thus most applicable to laAnrge file reads or writes) requires support for something called “USB 3.1 Boost” that needs to be turned on in the PC’s BIOS to work. Right now, only updated ASUS motherboards using 9-series chipsets can take advantage of this feature. And finally, the only place I can find this item for sale right now is at SabrePC.com, where it goes for the princely sum of $95 (by way of comparison, I paid around $70 recently to add 4 USB ports on an x4 card that gave me four discrete ports, each with its own independent USB controller).
Right now, I’d put the USB 3.1 Type-C retrofit technology at the stage of “nice and interesting but by no means must-have.” I guess when it starts taking up significant mindshare with hardware and peripheral device makers and end-users alike, that stage will change. Here’s hoping!
[Note Added 4/7/2015: Found a link to a Sunix USB 3.1 card via Windows 10 Forums that proclaims itself to be “the world’s first USB 3.1 cards” available for delivery this month. The press release itself is undated, but it appeared on Windows 10 Forums on April 1.]