Intel has announced at Computex 2015 that Thunderbolt 3 will be adopting the USB Type C connector, in what the company is calling "the USB-C that does it all".
The new Thunderbolt 3 will provide 40Gbps in bandwidth, double the bandwidth of Thunderbolt 2, and will be able to support USB, Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, and PCI Express protocols, meaning it will be possible to transfer data, run a display, and power a computer simultaneously. The protocol is claimed to be able to transfer a 4K movie in 30 seconds.
Intel says that Thunderbolt 3 is able to support a pair of 4K 60Hz displays, or a single 5K 60Hz display. Power-wise, Thunderbolt 3 is based on the USB power delivery specification, and is able to provide up to 100 watts of power for notebook charging, and 15 watts to bus-powered devices. The protocol will allow up to six devices to be daisy-chained.
Shahaf Kieselstein, Intel client connectivity group general manager said Thunderbolt allowed Intel to deliver on the vision of a single connector that does it all.
"Beauty is doing all three use cases at the same time over single cable," he said.
The company said it expected the use of discrete external graphics cards carried over Thunderbolt to boost the graphical output of laptops to be used widely among gamers.
Using existing networking stacks in Windows, OS X, and Linux, the protocol will allow peer-to-peer networking at 10Gbps speeds, which Intel said would help migrating an existing PC setup and data to a new machine.
The first batch of Thunderbolt 3 supported devices are expected to ship before the end of the year. A compatibility adapter will be available that supports older Thunderbolt protocols.
A number of cable options are available: Passive copper cables will support 20Gbps Thunderbolt, USB 3.1, and DisplayPort 1.2 up to 2 metres in length; active copper cables provide 40Gbps Thunderbolt and USB 3.1 up to 2 metres; and an active optical cable is being developed to support Thunderbolt 3 for lengths of 60 metres.
Disclosure: Chris Duckett attended Computex as a guest of Intel.