Thunderbolt technology - A primer

Summary:Intel has lifted the lid on its much-anticipated Thunderbolt I/O technology. Here's a quick rundown of what we know about this new technology.

Intel has lifted the lid on its much-anticipated Thunderbolt I/O technology. Here's a quick rundown of what we know about this new technology.

  • Dual-channel offering a whopping 10Gbps per port (to put that into perspective you can push a full-length HD movie through the connection in less than 30 seconds).
  • The port is bi-directional, so it offers 10Gbps in both directions simultaneously.
  • Dual-protocol support for PCI Express and DisplayPort.
  • Fully compatible with existing DisplayPort devices.
  • Daisy-chain up to six peripherals (compare this to Firewire which supports 63 devices, and USB which supports 127).
  • Supplies 10W of power over bus  to peripherals.
  • Supports electrical (copper) or optical (fibre optic) cabling.
  • Low latency.
  • Supports HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)/HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection)
  • Apple is the first to offer Thunderbolt to its customers.

Note: Thunderbolt is an Intel trademark term, not Apple.

"Working with HD media is one of the most demanding things people do with their PCs," said Mooly Eden, general manager, PC Client Group, Intel. "With Thunderbolt technology, Intel has delivered innovative technology to help professionals and consumers work faster and more easily with their growing collection of media content, from music to HD movies. We've taken the vision of simple, fast transfer of content between PCs and devices, and made it a reality."

"We're thrilled to collaborate with Intel to bring the groundbreaking Thunderbolt technology to Mac users," said Bob Mansfield, Apple's senior vice president of Mac Hardware Engineering. "With ultra-fast transfer speeds, support for high-resolution displays and compatibility with existing I/O technologies, Thunderbolt is a breakthrough for the entire industry and we think developers are going to have a blast with it."

Several innovative companies have announced Thunderbolt technology-based products, or currently plan to support Thunderbolt technology in upcoming products, including Aja, Apogee, Avid, Blackmagic, LaCie, Promise, and Western Digital. Intel is working with the industry on a range of Thunderbolt technology-enabled products including computers, displays, storage devices, audio/video devices, cameras, docking stations and more.

Topics: Intel


Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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