Via Labs shows off optical USB3 zero client

CES 2011: USB3 flash controllers too

Via LogoVIA WAS SHOWING off two USB3 goodies at CES, an optical zero client board and a USB3 flash controller. Both look to be really big sellers in their respective fields, but you will probably never know you are using them.

The first one up from Via Labs is a zero client, basically a dumb graphical terminal for users to run copies of Windows on a remote box, something that most other OSes do natively. The Via chip is the small one in the center, with a DisplayLink controller right under the DVI port.

Via optical USB client

Note the fiber cable

One interesting part is the optical link, with the optics likely provided by Avago, although we are not 100% sure of that. This means that the cable lengths that this board can support are basically unlimited. Need more than 10km of cable between your desktop and monitor? If so, you have bigger problems than Via can solve.

These types of devices work well in educational settings, really well. It looks like Via has about all the pieces to make a killer box for the classroom. It may not rival a gaming box for hype factor, but it is likely more significant to the end user.

Far more significant is the Via VL750 USB3 NAND flash controller, it is now shipping in production quantities. We have been talking about this one for a while, it is basically the ‘other’ chip on USB flash sticks. This one will do 4 channels interleaved, and supports up to 128GB of memory at current flash densities.

Via flash controller

Bare boards for USB3

Theoretical performance, if you use the very best of everything, is a bit above 120MBps read and 80MBps write. That said, you will never see that in practice, a fully loaded stick with top tier SLC flash doesn’t make much sense to build, much less sell. With a test stick, we got about 20MBps write out of the one we have, a bit more than half of what we saw with the Kingston Ultimate drive in the same machine.

Where this chip is going to do well is the mass market, not the performance sector. Via makes inexpensive devices, and that means USB3 performance for low prices. With any luck, the VL750 will usher in a wave of affordable but fast USB3 sticks, and that is a good thing. The chips are shipping in quantity now, so it won’t be long until they hit the store shelves, all wrapped up in an opaque plastic case.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate