Wednesday, June 22, 2016

USB current draw by HID devices and Amulet Zero Clients

One of the complaints I often get from Amulet users is that they get strange results when using power-hungry USB devices. The prime culprits are Wacom tablets (particularly the Intuos and Bambo series) but today I went to a facility where they were getting intermitent behaviour from the left hand control and shift keys which in Media Composer is a real pain. 
The most common third-party Avid coloured-keycap keyboards are from Logic
They come with a USB hub built in and so you'd expect them to draw a bit more than an HID device, but it's worth looking up what the spec is for USB power draw. This is stolen from Wikipedia;

There are limits on the power a device may draw, stated in terms of a unit load, which is 100 mA, or 150 mA for SuperSpeed devices. There are low-power and high-power devices. Low-power devices may draw at most 1 unit load, and all devices must act as low-power devices when, starting out as, unconfigured. High-power devices draw at least 1 unit load and at most 5 unit loads (500 mA), or 6 unit loads (900 mA) for SuperSpeed devices. A high-powered device must be configured, and may only draw as much power as specified in its configuration.
Or, in summary;

However, flipping the keyboard over gives a different story;

Wow, 1.1A - more than twice what the spec says. However - these keyboards are used the world over and it seems that motherboard USB ports are more than able to power them. I thought I'd get my own reading to see what the current draw was so I stuck one of those USB volts/current monitors in line. The keyboard continued to work but the USB-meter gave me a 0mA reading; it was working the day before, but today, no dice. When I got it back to the workshop I opened it up and discovered the current-shunt resistors was blown away!

 see bottom left on the +Vcc rail - where's the resistor?!

So I conclude that the keyboard is actually pulling a lot more than 1.1A (at least at in-rush).

So, Amulet can supply 2.0A across the USB hub on it's Zero Client with a maximum of an amp on any one port. All much better than the spec but somewhat less than the Logic keyboard is pulling. In the case of power-hungry, non-compliant keyboards and tablets I stick in a powered hub and that normally fixes the problem.

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