Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Intel's Thunderbolt offers Two 10 Gbps Bi-Directional Channels

Intel unveiled its Thunderbolt, a new high-speed PC connection technology that is featured on Apple's new line of MacBook Pro notebooks and a coming wave of higher performance peripherals.

Thunderbolt (formerly codenamed Light Peak) combines high-speed data transfer and HD video connections over a single cable. Thunderbolt uses two communications protocols -- PCI Express for data transfer and DisplayPort for displays. It can support two 10 Gbps bi-directional channels for a total throughput of 40 Gbps.

DisplayPort can drive greater than 1080p resolution displays and up to eight channels of audio simultaneously. Thunderbolt technology is compatible with existing DisplayPort displays and adapters. All Thunderbolt technology devices share a common connector and can be daisy chained.

Initially, Thunderbolt uses copper cables with a reach of 3 meters. It provides up to 10W of power. Intel also plans to introduce fiber-based Thunderbolt connectors, and these are expected to support distances of tens-of-meters.

Unlike with USB, Thunderbold is a proprietary technology and Intel is the only silicon vendor supplying the controller chip for Thunberbolt. Intel said it will continue to support USB 3.0, which offers peak connection speeds of 4.8 Gbps. Thunderbolt is expected to appeal to HD media enthusiasts.

Intel said it expects a range of Thunderbolt technology-enabled products will come to market, including computers, displays, storage devices, audio/video devices, cameras, docking stations, etc. Companies that announced Thunderbolt technology-based products are Aja, Apogee, Avid, Blackmagic, LaCie, Promise, and Western Digital.