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Express Card

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• A Smaller & Faster PC Card Solution • Suitable for Mobile and Desktop Systems • Supports USB 2.0 and PCI Express Applications • Lower System and Card Complexity PCMCIA Presents ExpressCard™ Technology PCMCIA is a non- profit trade association founded in 1989 to establish technical standards for modular peripherals and to promote interchangability among computer systems. PC Card technology is already a feature in almost every notebook computer, empowering users to configure systems and create unique, integrated solutions to meet their computing interconnect needs. Based in San Jose, California, the association has more than 100 member companies worldwide. http://krimo666.mylivepage.com/
Page 1: Express Card

• A Smaller & Faster PC Card Solution

• Suitable for Mobile and Desktop Systems

• Supports USB 2.0 and PCI Express Applications

• Lower System and Card Complexity

PCMCIA PresentsExpressCard™Technology

PCMCIA is a non-profit tradeassociation foundedin 1989 to establishtechnical standardsfor modularperipherals and topromoteinterchangabilityamong computersystems.

PC Card technologyis already a featurein almost everynotebook computer,empowering usersto configuresystems and createunique, integratedsolutions to meettheir computinginterconnect needs.

Based in San Jose,California, theassociation hasmore than 100member companiesworldwide.


Page 2: Express Card






54 mm



75 m


34 mm

75 m


54 mm

22 mm

IntroductionPCMCIA developed the ExpressCard™ standard tocarry forward the benefits of ‘plug-in’ I/O cards to thenext generation of personal computing devices.

The standard was developed by a large number ofPCMCIA member companies including technologyleaders, system manufacturers, card manufacturers,and representatives from all other parts of the PC Cardindustry.

Module SizesTo support the broadest range ofapplications there are two sizes of module.Both are smaller that today’s CardBus card.

The smallest card, the ExpressCard/34module, is almost half the size of a CardBuscard. We expect this size to be well suitedto a very broad range of applicationscovering communications, media, andgeneral purpose add-ins.

The standard also specifies a wider cardcalled an ExpressCard/54 module. This is to

support those technologies which require aphysically larger module. In this space wewill see devices such as smartcard readers,CompactFlash adapters, and 1.8” harddrives.

All ExpressCard modules are 5mm thick butthe standard also allows for carddevelopers to build longer ‘extended’modules. These can have thicker portionswhich project beyond the envelope of thehost system.


Page 3: Express Card

Native BusConnectionsThe ExpressCard standard supports both the USB 2.0and PCI Express interfaces.

Card manufacturers are able to choose whichever busis appropriate to their application; the performance ofPCI Express, or from the wide range of solutionssupported by USB.

All host PC ExpressCard slots will support cards usingeither interface. The host platform no longer needs toincorporate a bridge chip between the chipset and thesocket. PCI Express and USB 2.0 are fully hot-pluggable.

Host System SlotsMobile and Desktop host systems can provideExpressCard/34 slots when space is at a premium, orthe wider Universal ExpressCard slot to accommodateboth module sizes.

The Universal ExpressCard slot has a novelguidance feature to ensure that theExpressCard/34 modules are alwayscorrectly inserted.


Page 4: Express Card

Benefits of Membership

• Free PCMCIA Standards• Complete access to the ExpressCard

Specifications• Access to all proposals and working

materials while in progress, beforepublic release

• Committee Minutes• PCMCIA Update Quarterly Publication• Access to Members-Only Web Site• Use of PC Card Logo• PlugFest Interoperability Workshops• Free Manufacturer’s Tuple ID• PCMCIA Membership Plaque Annually• Meeting Participation

(Executive and Associate only)• Proposal Submission

(Executive and Associate only)• Free Mobile Advisory Council (MAC)

membership (Executive and Associateonly)

Membership Levels

There are three levels of membership inPCMCIA that offer something for anycompany involved in the manufacture,design, or distribution of PC Card products.

Executive Membership($10,000/year)

Executive Members plan the strategic futureof PCMCIA and modular peripheraltechnology by controlling the By-laws ofPCMCIA and by filling seven of eleven seatson PCMCIA’s Board of Directors. Executivemembers also enjoy full voting rights on alltechnical, marketing, and organizationalissues. Executive members are also entitled tosubmit proposals for changes to the PC CardStandard.

Five contacts at each Executive membercompany receive the PC Card Standard andPCMCIA Update, and may register forPCMCIA meetings free of charge. As thedriving force behind PCMCIA, Executivemembers receive valuable exposure onPCMCIA’s home page and in all PCMCIAliterature.

Associate Membership($3500/year)

Associate Members are the backbone ofPCMCIA activity. With full voting rights on allPCMCIA technical and marketing committeesand four of eleven seats on PCMCIA’s Boardof Directors, Associate membership is perfectfor companies that want to help drive thepromotion and advancement of PC Cardtechnology. Associate members are alsoentitled to submit proposals for changes tothe PC Card Standard.

One contact receives all mailings andliterature, including the PC Card Standardand all updates, and may register formeetings free of charge.

Affiliate Membership($1500/year)

Affiliate Membership is ideal for companiesthat need up-to-date information about PCCard technology and want to participate inPCMCIA’s marketing and promotionalactivities. Affiliate members may not attendmeetings, but do receive complete meetingresults following each meeting, along withaccess to all of PCMCIA’s marketing activitiesand members-only web site.

One contact receives all mailings andliterature, including the PC Card Standardand all updates. Affiliate member companiesare entitled to one free product listing on thePC Card Resource Directory.

Personal Computer Memory Card International Association

2635 North First Street Suite 209 • San Jose, CA • 95134 • USA

Tel: 408-433-2273 • Fax: 408-433-9558 • Email: [email protected]

Visit our web site:


© 2003 Personal Computer Memory Card International Association. All rights

ExpressCard, the Rabbit symbol and the PCMCIA Ribbon symbol are trademarks of PCMCIA

PCMCIA Membership


tivePCMCIA Membership

Level/Benefits Grid










Free PC Card Standard and Updates

80%+ Discount on additional Standard copies

PCMCIA Update Quarterly Publication

Access to Members-only Web Site

Free access to download PC Card Standard

Use of PC Card logo on products

Free Permanent Manufacturer's Tuple ID

Access to NEWCARD specifications

Access to Proposals while in process

# of Contacts (Free meetings, Standards)

Listings on the PCMCIA Resource Directory

Attend Membership Meetings

Moblie Advisory Council Membership

Submit Proposals

Seats on the PCMCIA Board of Directors

Voting rights in Committee

Logo on PCMCIA Web Site Home Page

Control of PCMCIA By-laws

PCMCIAMission Statement

To developstandards formodular peripheralsand promote theirworldwideadoption.

Executive Members

Dell Computer


SCM Microsystems


Page 5: Express Card

ExpressCard is a trademark of PCMCIA.* All product and company names herein may be trademarks of their registered owners.06/04v1

The ExpressCard™ Compliance Program

A Brief Overview of the ExpressCard Compliance Program

The ExpressCard Compliance Program isdesigned to give the consumer theconfidence that they can buy host systemsor modules bearing the ExpressCard brandknowing that they will work together. Thisimprovement in the end user experience is

expected to help grow the market for ExpressCard products bymaking it feasible for complete novices to add hardwaredevices to their systems. The improvement is expected to bemost apparent on Desktop PCs where adding hardware to thesystem previously required opening the case to insert a board.Establishing the reliability and predictability of products thatbear the ExpressCard brand is central to the expanded use ofthe technology.

Compliance Program CoverageCategory Coverage SourceUSBInterface

Protocol and electrical elements needto meet the current USB 2.0 teststandard


PCI ExpressInterface

Functional, protocol and electricalelements meet PCI Express 1.0a


Mechanical Connector and card elements all needto meet the specified dimensions andtolerances


Durability Friction surfaces must allow for thenumber of insertion and removalcycles defined in the Standard



Host and modules must perform withsupplies within range defined in theStandard



Operating range of host slots andmodules must be within the thermalrange specified in the Standard



Establishing that modules work withsystems


Regulatory Not part of Compliance Program N/A

Applications Not part of Compliance Program N/A

Compliance Process1. Complete self-administered checklist for product

- Designed to ensure product meets the ExpressCard Standard

- Different checklists exist for different product categories2. Attend an interoperability test event

- To be scheduled about four times per year- Co-located with either PCI Express or USB event

3. Apply for license to use ExpressCard logo- Proof of successful checklist and interoperability testing

4. Product entered into PCMCIA database and Comp. ID issued- Product may use the ExpressCard logo

Compliance Checklist Coverage• End user ExpressCard products

- Modules

- Systems• Components

- Slot Power Switch- Connectors

• Module/System manufacturers to use compliant connectorsand power switches- If not using existing components, manufacturers are

responsible for also testing those elements

Interoperability Events• Participants are module and system manufacturers

- Connectors and Power controllers tested indirectly• Modeled on similar events set up by USB IF

- Held in an "Embassy Suites" style hotel- Module manufacturers visit each system manufacturer in turn

and complete a predefined set of tests- System manufacturers assigned a fixed location

- At end of event, PCMCIA correlates results to determinepass/fail results

• Two categories of testing- Interoperatility checklist: mandatory for compliance

submittals- Additional test coverage: does not affect compliance test

results, but provides additional value to participants

Interoperability Coverage• Standard defines behavior for the following cases:

1. Initial module insertion2. Graceful removal

3. Hot insertion4. Surprise removal

5. Cold insertion6. Sleep/suspend removal

7. Sleep/suspend insertion8. Hibernation removal

9. Hibernation insertion

• Interoperability checklist intends to verify appropriatebehavior for a given module and system combination



Page 6: Express Card

ExpressCard is a trademark of PCMCIA.* All product and company names herein may be trademarks of their registered owners.06/04v1

Compliance Test FixturesPCMCIA will make the following test fixtures available:1. Plug-in board for PCI Express desktop systems which

provides a fully functional ExpressCard Slot- Works in PCI Express CEM slot

- Supports both PCI Express and USB interfaces

Test Fixture willbe available from

PCMCIA,providing a fully

functionalExpressCard slot

2. ExpressCard module to support signal integrity testing ofPCI Express portion of host ExpressCard implementation

3. USB module to support signal integrity testing of USBportion of host ExpressCard implementation

PCI Express (top)and USB 2.0

(bottom) testingmodules support

signal integritytesting

Self Qualification• Companies may apply to be allowed to self certify

- May be appropriate if they have numerous product releases& cycles

• Requirements- Ability to maintain and run interoperability test suite

- Will include range of systems and ExpressCard modules

- Enrollment in similar programs for other industry groups,such as USB self certification

• Company still needs to submit registration & passingcompliance report for each product to PCMCIA forcompliance IDs

Third-Party Test Houses• Some manufacturers may be unable to attend the

interoperability events and/or be unable to self-certify• PCMCIA is working with commercial test houses to provide

a "Turnkey" solution for a fee- Manufacturer provides test-house with a module or system- Test house executes checklist and interoperablity tests

- Provides manufacturer with a registration/compliance reportpacket ready for submittal to the PCMCIA

• Details will be published on PCMCIA web site

What You Can Do Now• System Vendors:

- Prepare your roadmap now for ExpressCard implementations

- Choose your chipsets- Test your ACPI solutions

- Join PCMCIA and participate

• Module Vendors:- CardBus and PC Cards - choose your migration path- New technologies - PCI Express, USB or both?

- Join PCMCIA and participate• Review materials available on PCMCIA web site:

- www.expresscard.org• Plan to participate in first compliance workshop

- Watch www.expresscard.org for details

About PCMCIAThe PCMCIA is the leading trade association for plug-inmodular I/O expansion for personal computers and notebooks.Founded in 1989, the association has over 120 members anddeveloped the 16-bit PC Card and CardBus standards.

PCMCIA2635 North First Street Suite 218

San Jose, CA 95134 • USA

Tel: 408-433-2273 • Fax: 408-433-9558Email: [email protected]

Visit us at:www.pcmcia.org



Page 7: Express Card

10/03v1 ExpressCard is a trademark of PCMCIA.* All product and company names herein may be trademarks of their registered owners.

ExpressCard™ Technology

The New Standard for High-Performance, Low-Cost I/OExpansion for Desktop and Mobile Systems

The ExpressCard standard promises todeliver high- performance, modularexpansion to desktop and notebookcomputers at a lower cost and in a smallerform factor. Consumers will be able to addmemory communications and security

devices by simply inserting ExpressCard modules into theirsystems. The new standard supports sealed-box expandabilityin desktops and thinner notebook design.

Key Features• Leverages PC Card technology

- Reliability and durability

- Hot plug-n-play and auto-configuration

• Roughly half the size of today’s PC Card• Supports both USB 2.0 and PCI Express* in each slot

- Increased bandwidth while reducing the number of signals

• Lower cost- No host controller

- New connector technology

• Requires less power

• Replaces CardBus as the preferred I/O solution

Two SizesExpressCard/34: 34 mm (W) x 75 mm (L) x 5 mm (H)

ExpressCard/54: 54 mm (W) x 75 mm (L) x 5 mm (H)

As compared to CardBus (Type II): 54 mm (W) x 86 mm (L) x 5mm (H)

Card Interfaces

Connector Style• 26 pin beam on blade

Bandwidth support• USB 2.0: 480 Mb/s

• PCI Express* (x1): 2.5Gb/s/direction

Power available to card (average)• 3.3V: 1000mA

• 3.3V aux: 250 mA• 1.5V: 500 mA

Max current combined across all power rails: Up to 1750mA

For More Informationwww.expresscard.org

The ExpressCard system interface supports a direct connectionto the chipset. The slot configuration supports both card sizes.

Industry Support100+ PCMCIA member companies, including Dell, HewlettPackard, IBM, Intel, Lexar Media, Microsoft, SCM Microsystemsand Texas Instruments.


Expected Applications

Interface Target Applications

PCI Express Wired LANBroadband modemsTV Tuners/DecodersI/O Adapters (e.g. 1394a/b)Magnetic Disk Drives

USB 2.0 Wired & Wireless WANWireless PANFlash MemoryFlash Card AdaptersSecurityLegacy I/O (PS2, serial, parallel)Optical Disk DrivesGPS Receiver

PCMCIAThe PCMCIA is the leading trade association for plug inmodular I/O expansion for personal computers and notebooks.Founded in 1989, the association developed the PC Card 16and CardBus standards.


Page 8: Express Card

The ExpressCard™ Standard – The Next Generation PC Card TechnologyOctober 2003 – Copyright PCMCIA

In 2004 a new generation of PC platforms offering higher performance andscalability will be launched. These improvements are due to the introductionof PCI Express as a system bus. In support of this PCMCIA has introduced anew standard for hot swappable system modules which it believes will replace‘CardBus’ as the preferred solution for end user add-ins. This new ExpressCardtechnology is designed to allow a broader range of applications at a lower costthan CardBus and has been embraced by both desktop and notebook systemmanufacturers.


The ExpressCard standard gives the user a very easy way toadd hardware or media to his system. The ExpressCardmodule can be plugged in or removed at almost any time,and unlike traditional add-in cards for desktop computers, itdoes not require any tools. ExpressCard technologyprovides desktop and mobile computer users a consistent,easy, reliable and non-threatening way to connect devicesinto their systems.

Illustrated here are ExpressCard slot and module concepts for bothmobile and small-form-factor desktop computing platforms

ExpressCard technology replaces conventional parallel buses for I/Odevices with scaleable, high-speed serial interfaces. It allowsdevelopers to create modules using PCI Express* for their highestperformance applications, or to use USB* to take advantage of thewide range of USB silicon that is already available. Irrespective of thebus technology that the module vendor chooses, the end userexperience will be the same. There will be no external indications tothe end user of which underlying bus the module is using.

Module form-factors

There are two standard formats of ExpressCardmodules: the ExpressCard/34 module which is34 mm wide and the ExpressCard/54 modulecharacterized by its 54 mm width. Bothmodule formats are 5 mm thick, the same asthe Type II PC Card. The standard modulelength is 75 mm, which is 10.6 mm shorterthan a standard PC Card. ExpressCard/34modules and ExpressCard/54 modules both usethe same connector interface.


Page 9: Express Card

The ExpressCard Standard - The Next Generation PC Card Technology

* Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

The ExpressCard Standard also allows extended module formats (not shown here) to provideExpressCard module developers the facility to integrate features such as LAN and phone lineconnectors, or Antennas for wireless cards into the body of their products.

The two sizes of ExpressCard modules give system manufactures a degree of flexibility that theydid not have with earlier module standards. While the ExpressCard/34 device is better suited tosmaller systems, the wider ExpressCard/54 module can accommodate applications that will notphysically fit into the narrower ExpressCard/34 form factor. Examples include SmartCard readers,Compact Flash readers, and 1.8” disk drives. The ExpressCard/54 module also provides extra spacefor components and can dissipate more thermal energy than the smaller module. This may makeit a natural choice for higher performance and first generation applications. However, themodule manufacturer who can fit his application into the narrow module will have the advantagethat that particular module will work in both types of ExpressCard slot.

The socket which can accommodate the ExpressCard/54 module can also support anExpressCard/34 device. To improve the ease-of-use this slot includes a novel guidance featurewhich is designed to steer ExpressCard/34 modules into the connector socket. It is also worthpointing out that the dimensions are such that inserting a CardBus card into an ExpressCard slot orvice versa will not damage either part.

The ExpressCardarchitecture is modularand extensible, allowingfor multiple slots asillustrated here.

In any multi-slot host implementation, all slots provide equivalent I/O interface functionality andthe choice of which slot to use for any given module is irrelevant. Both module formats affordaccess to the same I/O interface performance and source power although the largerExpressCard/54 module provides the application nominally 140% the internal volume and 160%the thermal dissipation capacity of the ExpressCard/34 module.

The Connector

A common beam-on-blade style connector is used for both module and the corresponding hostconnector accommodates the insertion of either module. The blade contacts are located on theExpressCard module and are designed for high durability and reliability. The connectors aredesigned to be capable of 10,000 card insertion and removal cycles.


Page 10: Express Card

The ExpressCard Standard - The Next Generation PC Card Technology

* Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

The Interface

Each slot of the ExpressCard host interface must support a single PCI Express lane (x1) operating atthe baseline 2.5 Gbps data rate, in each direction, as defined by the PCI Express Base Specification1.0a as published and maintained by the PCI Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG). The ExpressCardhost interface must also support the low-, full- and high-speed USB data rates as defined by theUSB 2.0 Specification as published and maintained by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF).Support of both interfaces is a condition for being an ExpressCard-compliant host platform.

An ExpressCard module may use one or both of the standard interfaces depending on theapplication requirements.

The ExpressCard host interface – List of Signals

Signal Group Signal Direction Description

PETp0, PETn0PERp0, PERn0 Input/Output

PCI Express x1 data interface:1 differential transmit pair and 1 differentialreceive pair

REFCLK+REFCLK- Input PCI Express differential, spread-spectrum

reference clock

PCI Express

PERST# Input PCI Express functional resetUniversal Serial Bus(USB)

USBD+USBD- Input/Output USB 2.0 serial data interface


Input/OutputInput/Output SMBus management channel

CPPE# Output PCI Express module detection and powercontrol

CPUSB# Output USB module detection and power control

CLKREQ# Output Used to indicate when REFCLK is needed (PCIExpress-only)

System auxiliarysignals

WAKE# Output PCI Express function initiated wake event+3.3V Primary voltage source+3.3VAUX Auxiliary voltage source+1.5V Secondary voltage source

Power & Ground

GND Return current path

To assist in applications that require special sideband system management features, ExpressCardhost systems may also connect a two-wire SMBus interface to the slot. If available, ExpressCardmodules may provide support for such features as remote alerting and sideband radio control.

The following table summarizes the power supply limits for any given ExpressCard module. Forpurposes of the following table, the definition of ‘Average’ is the averaged steady-state maximumcurrent consumption for the given module application. ‘Max’ is defined as the absolute maximumvalue that may be measured outside of the initial in-rush current that is allowed during the powerramp-up period.


Page 11: Express Card

The ExpressCard Standard - The Next Generation PC Card Technology

* Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

ExpressCard module power supply limits

Supply Limits Notes

+3.3V 1 1000 mA – Average1300 mA – Max Primary supply voltage

250 mA – Average275 mA – Max

Auxiliary supply voltage; this current is also available during thepower saving D3 state with wakeup enabled


5 mA – Average Auxiliary supply voltage during the power saving D3 state withwakeup disabled

+1.5V 500 mA – Average650 mA – Max Secondary supply voltage

1. The average current combined across both +3.3V and +3.3VAUX rails shall not exceed a total of1000mA. The maximum total current across all power rails combined shall not exceed a total of1750mA.

All ExpressCard modules, independent of the amount of power drawn from the host system, shallnot exceed the thermal power limits defined for modules: 1.3W for ExpressCard/34 modules and2.1W for ExpressCard/54 modules. Thermal limits are based on an assumption of uniformly heatedmodule with a maximum case temperature of 90ºC in a host environment of 65ºC, and considerheating due to adjacent modules.

Hot Plug Functionality and Power Management

ExpressCard technology is designed to allow users to install and remove modules at anytime,without having to switch their system off. This hot plug functionality is a well established part ofthe CardBus and USB usage models and is also supported by PCI Express. By relying on the auto-detection and configuration of the native I/O buses (PCI Express and USB 2.0), ExpressCardtechnology can be implemented on a host system without an external slot controller. It simplyneeds a device to control power to the slot based on a simple, wired, module presence detectionscheme.

Regarding power management, both PCI Express and USB natively support features that allow formodule applications to be placed in very low power states while maintaining the ability to detectand respond to wakeup requests. Examples of how these features may be used by an ExpressCardapplication include receiving network messages via a wireless communications module that comein while the PC is in a sleep state. Effective use of these features is the key to creating high-performance applications which are both power and thermally efficient.

Relationship to the PC Card Standard

The PC Card Standard, which defines the 16-bit PC Card and the popular CardBus™ technology,were the first and second generations of card standards developed by PCMCIA. The ExpressCardstandard represents the third.

As host systems move to a PCI Express based architecture, we expect ExpressCard technology toreplace CardBus on the notebook and become broadly available on desktop platforms, especiallythe smaller form factor ‘sealed box’ designs.

For More Information

For more information on ExpressCard technology and becoming a member of PCMCIA pleasecontact:

PCMCIA2635 North First Street Suite 209San JoseCA, 95134USA

Tel: 408-433-2273

www.pcmcia.org , www.expresscard.org


Page 12: Express Card

WHITE PAPERSeptember 2003



Ron Shaw, Technologist, Dell Advanced Platform Engineering

ExpressCard technology is a small, modular add-in card designed to re-place the larger PC Card over the next few years. The ExpressCard

specification was released in Sep-tember 2003. Developed by the

Personal Computer Memory Card International Associ-ation (PCMCIA), the technology takes advantage of the scalable, high-bandwidth serial PCI Express and USB 2.0 interfaces. Systems with ExpressCard slots are ex-pected to ship starting with the introduction of PCI Express in 2004.

ExpressCard technology enables externally accessible slots that can be used for upgrades, new peripherals, and new classes of add-in cards (referred to as Express-Card “modules”). ExpressCard technology leverages the operating system and device-driver support associ-ated with the industry-standard USB and PCI Express interfaces. The technology also addresses system de-sign and cost issues by removing the specialized silicon required for the custom interface of the PC Card and by using smaller connectors with fewer pins. ExpressCard technology can deliver nearly four times the data trans-fer rate of the PC Card interface by using some of the latest I/O interconnect technologies. Finally, an Ex-pressCard slot is a more cost-effective expansion solution than a PC Card slot. This cost advantage will encourage PC companies to expand the use of Express-Card slots in portable computers and a wide range of other host systems, including small form-factor desk-top platforms and handheld devices. ExpressCard technology can also be used in nontraditional personal electronics and automotive applications.

Dell is a strong proponent and supporter of Express-Card technology. In this white paper, we explain why the PC Card is nearing its end of life and we describe Ex-pressCard technology. We conclude by describing how the industry and customers can transition smoothly from legacy PC Card to ExpressCard technology.

Limits of the PC Card

The PCMCIA was founded in 1989 as an industry trade association and standards body to develop, maintain, and promote a standard for modular cards that are inter-changeable among portable computers. PCMCIA membership includes module vendors, system ven-dors, silicon providers, software providers, and representatives from associated special interest groups (SIGs).

The original PC Card standard addressed the need for memory cards, followed by a standard that addressed I/O module requirements. The PC Card standard has fur-ther evolved to accommodate higher-speed applications such as networking and multimedia. The latest version (v. 8.1) addresses the need for lower-cost cards by allowing dedicated interfaces to some of the newer, lower-pin-count devices. The latest PC Card con-trollers allow a direct connection to USB devices, consumer flash devices, smart cards, and specialized I/O devices. The form factor and connector have re-mained the same to ensure compatibility with existing modules. Despite these advances, the limit of the PC Card connector design was reached with version 8.1. The connector is a 68-pin-in-socket connector originally designed for transfer rates of 10 megabytes per second (MB/sec). With version 8.1, the practical limit of the in-terface has been reached. Its bandwidth is insufficient for high-performance upcoming requirements such as Gigabit Ethernet network adapters and 1394b cards.

ExpressCard Technology

The new ExpressCard interface is smaller, faster, and less expensive than the PC Card interface. The Express-Card connector has just 26 pins and the interface has a potential transfer rate of up to 500 MB/sec (or 250 MB/sec in each direction) using a single-lane (or x1) PCI Ex-press link. In addition, its form factor is up to 40 percent smaller than a PC Card, which allows ExpressCard mod-ules to be included in smaller host systems.

Read Dell’s technology white papers @ www.dell.com/r&d

Page 13: Express Card

www.dell.com/r&dIndustry Transition From PC Card to ExpressCard Technology


The PCMCIA developed the specification with support from the PCI-SIG and the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF). The ExpressCard specification uses the PCI Express and USB I/O interconnect standards of the PCI-SIG and USB-IF. During its development, the PCI-SIG and USB-IF provided guidance and feedback to the PCMCIA. The resulting ExpressCard form factor lever-ages the knowledge base of these organizations and many of their member companies. The PCMCIA, PCI-SIG, and USB-IF will also cooperate on ExpressCard cer-tification. Each ExpressCard module will require certification, and current plans are to leverage the PCI-SIG and USB-IF certification programs. Leveraging the PCI Express and USB specifications reduces the soft-ware and silicon development effort required to implement the technology. It also allowed the PCMCIA to concentrate on developing the new form factor.

An ExpressCard module can be implemented using ei-ther PCI Express or USB, depending on the bandwidth required. A USB ExpressCard module is suitable for lower-speed devices such as a Bluetooth™ wireless card or a consumer flash memory card. A PCI Express ExpressCard module is suitable for higher-bandwidth devices such as 1394b and Gigabit Ethernet cards. To accommodate both types of cards, all ExpressCard slots are required to support both the USB 2.0 and PCI Express (x1 link) I/O interconnects.

ExpressCard Modules and Slots

There are two different ExpressCard module widths: 34 mm and 54 mm. These will be denoted on the module with the name ExpressCard/54 for the wider modules and either ExpressCard or ExpressCard/34 for the nar-row module. Figure 1 compares ExpressCard modules to PC Cards.

There are three basic ways that ExpressCard slots can be implemented in a platform to accommodate these card sizes.

• One 34-mm slot — The 34-mm slot is the simplest host solution. Shown in Figure 2, this type of host slot will only support ExpressCard/34 modules. The advantage of this configuration is its compact size, and it will be common on small portable and hand-held devices.

• One 54-mm slot — The 54-mm slot shown in Fig-ure 3 accommodates both ExpressCard/34 and Ex-pressCard/54 modules. The mechanical design requirements for an ExpressCard/54 implementa-tion are more expensive. Its larger size and higher cost have a greater impact on smaller, low-cost platforms where the benefit derived from support-ing both card sizes must be weighed against form-factor and cost penalties.

• One 68-mm slot — The third slot size is a dual 34-mm slot in which two 34-mm slots are installed side-by-side. As shown in Figures 4 and 5, the re-sulting 68-mm slot can accommodate one Express-Card/54 module or two ExpressCard/34 modules.

Figure 1. ExpressCard Module Sizes

Figure 2. 34-mm ExpressCard Slot

Figure 3. 54-mm ExpressCard Slot

Page 14: Express Card

September 2003


Advantages of ExpressCard Technology

ExpressCard technology has the following advantages over the PC Card:

• Complements PCI Express and USB devices• Low cost and small size • High speed

Complements PCI Express and USB Devices

ExpressCard modules provide an alternate PCI Express or USB form factor that complements PCI Express cards, which must be plugged into the system board, and USB solutions, which are connected via a USB ca-ble. In contrast, ExpressCard modules are simply plugged into the external ExpressCard slot, just as PC Cards are installed today.

Low Cost and Small Size

The smaller size and lower cost of ExpressCard technol-ogy enables compelling enhancements for all

platforms, including servers, desktops, portables, tablet PCs, and handheld and consumer electronics devices. Portable computers can get smaller or add more slots. Desktops can add external low-cost upgrade slots. Handheld devices can leverage the same modules as portables and desktops. The same ExpressCard mod-ule can be used in all classes of computer as well as noncomputer applications.

High Speed

Its higher speed enables ExpressCard technology to be used for higher-bandwidth consumer applications. For example, ExpressCard modules may include high-defi-nition TV tuners, new LAN solutions, and faster wireless solutions. Users can install these modules by simply in-serting an ExpressCard module into the ExpressCard slot in the same way that a PC Card is inserted into a PC Card slot today.

Transition Scenarios

The PCMCIA has enabled a transition path from the PC Card to ExpressCard technology. The foundation for this transition is laid in the PC Card version 8.1 specifi-cation, which allows for PC Card form factors that use USB as their native bus. A low-cost USB PC Card can be used as a “carrier card” for an ExpressCard/34 module. In this way, an ExpressCard/34 module can be used in a USB PC Card slot or an ExpressCard slot. Figure 6 illus-trates this concept. Beginning in 2004, new host platforms will implement CardBus/USB controllers that can accommodate these USB PC Cards, as well as ex-isting non-USB PC Cards. This approach enables a transition period during which organizations can mi-grate to ExpressCard modules while maintaining support for legacy PC Cards.

Figure 4. 68-mm ExpressCard Slot With Two ExpressCard/34 Modules

Figure 5. 68-mm ExpressCard Slot With One ExpressCard/54 Module

Figure 6. USB PC Card as Carrier for ExpressCard/34

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www.dell.com/r&dIndustry Transition From PC Card to ExpressCard Technology


Native ExpressCard slots may start to appear in 2004 when PCI Express systems are introduced. A small form-factor desktop platform that does not currently support an external expansion slot is a good candidate for a low-cost native ExpressCard slot. However, in the initial stages of the industry transition, ExpressCard modules will not be as widely available as PC Cards. During this period, a special ExpressCard module can be used that connects to an external PC Card reader. This approach enables a low-cost expansion solution that can accommodate both ExpressCard modules and legacy PC Cards.

During the transition period, some host platforms will have a PC Card slot and an ExpressCard slot. This con-figuration is suitable for large portable computer platforms that have the mechanical volume to accom-modate both slots. The PC Card and ExpressCard slots can be stacked or, on very large platforms, placed side by side.

As the industry transition continues, the small size of ExpressCard slots enables more creative placement. On current portable computers, two PC Card slots must be stacked because their large size limits their location. In contrast, a 34-mm ExpressCard slot can fit on either side, the back, or on the display of the portable comput-er. The slot can also be located in the docking station.

This design flexibility is not limited to portable plat-forms. An ExpressCard slot can be added to a desktop platform by installing a low-cost connector to the sys-tem board. This allows ExpressCard solutions consisting of a cable and daughter board to be easily added to a system. ExpressCard slots can be placed on the top, front, back, or side of a desktop system. Ex-pressCard slots can also be located in displays or small external appliances that sit on a desk next to the display.


Dell has taken an active role in developing, promoting, and supporting the ExpressCard specification. This in-cludes encouraging current PC Card solution suppliers and application developers to move to ExpressCard modules.

Dell customers should prepare for the transition to Ex-pressCard technology, which will begin in late 2004. Customers should require that new portable computer platforms have CardBus/USB PC Card slots. This capa-bility will enable the new portables to read legacy PC Cards, as well as ExpressCard modules that are insert-ed into low-cost carrier cards. Customers should also plan to procure these carrier cards, which are USB PC Card solutions.

As more ExpressCard modules become available, their smaller size and increased bandwidth will accelerate the transition. PC Card slots may persist longer in the largest portable platforms, which have the mechanical volume to support ExpressCard and PC Card slots. The timing of the final removal of PC Card will depend on the variety of solutions available in ExpressCard modules.

For More Information• ExpressCard technology: www.expresscard.org• PCMCIA: www.pcmcia.org• PCI-SIG: www.pcisig.com• USB-IF: www.usb.org

Information in this document is subject to change without notice.© 2003 Dell Inc. All rights reserved.

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