Intel, in conjunction with Apple’s MacBook Pro refresh, today announced its “Thunderbolt Technology”, formally known as “Light Peak”. This connector, based around the PCI Express bus, enables a 10Gbps bi-directional connection to devices plugged in, and thanks to the fact that devices can be daisy-chained (up to six), one Thunderbolt connector can offer a lot of expandability.
The biggest selling-point for Thunderbolt is that it’s built around DisplayPort technology, so using this port is one way to expand the use of your notebook onto a monitor. Then with daisy-chaining, you could add other devices as well, such as external NAS boxes or other storage devices. Currently, the cables are copper-based, not fiber, which could be the reason this isn’t called “Lightbolt”.
Fortunately, current DisplayPort monitors are fully compatible with Thunderbolt connectors. You just need to plug it in, and you’re good to go. That’s a huge advantage, as many people can continue to use the displays they already own. According to Intel, Thunderbolt is going to be an excellent technology for producers, as the latency is insanely low and improves audio/video sync.
For Thunderbolt to work, a controller must be installed onto the motherboard or built into a chipset, just like USB. Apple is the first out the door with such an offering, and hopefully it won’t take too long before others are in on the action as well; including DIY motherboard vendors.
Because Thunderbolt is 2x the theoretical speed of USB, we might just see some vendors create storage products based around the connector. Though, even as it is, we are having a hard time tapping the full potential of USB 3.0 for storage, but it’s fun to think about. According to Intel, Thunderbolt would allow you to transfer a full HD movie in 30 seconds, or a year’s worth of MP3 music in 10 minutes. In theoretical terms, Thunderbolt’s 10Gbps bus amounts to 1.25GB/s (1,250MB/s).
You can read a lot more about the tech at the official site below, and also look at Apple’s landing page for it here.
From the company with the fastest processors comes the fastest way to get information in and out of your PC and peripheral devices.‡ At 10 Gbps, Thunderbolt™ technology gives you great responsiveness with high-speed data and display transfers in each direction—at the same time.‡ With a single cable, connecting a PC to multiple devices is simple, making it easy to get and see what you want, when you want it. Thunderbolt technology gives you incredible flexibility; high performance expansion is just a cable away for new and novel uses, now and in the future.