Today, Intel has announced the next generation of its popular Thunderbolt connector – aptly named Thunderbolt 4 – which we’ll begin to see this year in notebooks built around the company’s Tiger Lake platform. Unlike the past couple of Thunderbolt iterations, we’re not seeing a doubling of total throughput here, but we are seeing some major polish being done to the overall capabilities.
Like TB3, TB4 offers 40Gbps of bandwidth, but what’s new is the support for cables of up to 2 meters in length, and the ability to use docks with four Thunderbolt ports. With TB4, Intel wants to make sure that consumers with big needs are going to keep an eye out for it, because we’re seeing the minimum rating of one 4K display support upgraded to two of them (or one 8K), and likewise, minimum data requirements from PCIe have doubled, to 32 Gbps, allowing users to expect up to 3GB/s storage bandwidth.
If we’re talking about a notebook, Intel insists that one TB port will be available for charging, and also have the capability of waking up when connected to a Thunderbolt dock. For enterprise customers, TB4 also adds the requirement for Intel VT-d DMA protection.
While this TB4 announcement is being made today, it will take some time before we see products hit the market. The actual controllers will become available later this year, with the JHL8540 and JH8340 aimed at computer makers, and JHL8440 eyeing accessory makers. Once it drops, TB4 will allow you to use earlier generation Thunderbolt products, as well as modern USB gear through the same Type-C port.
We’re not seeing bandwidth increases overall with Thunderbolt 4, but given the bolstering of support that the updated protocol has seen, it still manages to be something worth looking forward to.