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Express Cards - what are they and why are there two sizes (34mm by USBNow

ExpressCard technology is designed to deliver high-performance, modular expansion to both desktop and notebook computers at a lower cost and in a smaller form factor. Users are able to add memory, wired and wireless communications, multimedia and security features by inserting ExpressCard modules into compliant systems. At roughly half the size and lighter than today's PC Card, ExpressCard products also leverage the proven advantages of PC Card technology, including reliability, durability and expansion flexibility while offering improved performance.

ExpressCard Advantages:

  • A Smaller and Faster PC Card Solution
  • Suitable for Mobile and Desktop Systems
  • Supports USB 2.0 and PCI Express Applications
  • Lower System and Card Complexity

There are two standard formats of ExpressCard modules: the ExpressCard/34 module (34mm x 75mm) and the ExpressCard/54 module (54mm x 75mm). Both formats are 5mm thick, the same as the Type II PC Card. The standard module length is 75mm, which is 10.6mm shorter than a standard PC Card. Both module formats use the same connector interface.


The two ExpressCard module sizes give system manufacturers greater flexibility than in the past. While the ExpressCard/34 device is better suited to smaller systems, the wider ExpressCard/54 module can accommodate applications that do not physically fit into the narrower ExpressCard/34 form factor. Examples include SmartCard readers, Compact Flash readers, and 1.8-inch disk drives. In addition to extra space for components, ExpressCard/54 modules can dissipate more thermal energy than the smaller module, making it a natural choice for higher performance and first generation applications.

The slot for the ExpressCard/54 module also supports an ExpressCard/34 device. The wide slot features a novel guidance mechanism that steers ExpressCard/34 modules into the connector socket. The ExpressCard Standard also allows extended module formats to integrate features such as LAN and phone line connectors, or antennas for wireless cards into their products. Although CardBus PC Cards and ExpressCard modules are not designed to function in the same slot, inserting a CardBus card into an ExpressCard slot or vice versa will not cause any damage to either part.


This article was published on Wednesday 24 September, 2008.
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