Eagle Ridge: Half of a Thunderbolt Chip

Apparently, Apple's newest MacBook Air has a smaller, cheaper Thunderbolt controller to power the single Thunderbolt port. The chip is dubbed Eagle Ridge, according to AnandTech and has a part number of L123TA46. The regular controller is dubbed Light Ridge and has a part number of L051NB32 . Light Ridge is found in the iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook, and MacBook Pro. The reason that the Eagle Ridge chip is smaller is because the MacBook Air has such a small form factor. In addition, the chip is also cheaper. If a component is cheaper, it comes at a price (usually in terms of capability). This means that Eagle Ridge chips only have two 10 Gbps bidirectional channels for a total bandwidth of 40 Gbps (2 channels x 2 directions x 10 Gbps) instead of the four 10 Gbps channels used in Light Ridge. In addition, there is only one DisplayPort output, compared to the two in Light Ridge.

As seen below, the Eagle Ridge chip is highlighted in light blue and comes in two form factors: normal and small form factor (SFF). Apple chose the SFF chip to cut costs and save motherboard space. Note that the Eagle Ridge chip is not integrated with the Intel controller next to the processor.

Image Source: AnandTech

Because this part is cheaper than the standard Thunderbolt chip, OEM's may be willing to latch on to Intel's technology and start using Thunderbolt, instead of Apple being the sole OEM using the technology.

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17 Comments

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Does anyone know of a Thunderbolt to HDMI cable/adapter that transmits both audio and video? I could not find an apple accessory in the apple online store for this. Besides I am wondering why the new mac mini refresh did not drop the HDMI port?

So, this would be like saying that some USB ports can connect to hubs, and some can't. But you have no way of knowing which, until you try?

Great marketing Apple, seriously.
/s

greenwizard88 said,
So, this would be like saying that some USB ports can connect to hubs, and some can't. But you have no way of knowing which, until you try?

Great marketing Apple, seriously.
/s


Not really, the smaller chip just is engineered for smaller form factors

greenwizard88 said,
So, this would be like saying that some USB ports can connect to hubs, and some can't. But you have no way of knowing which, until you try?

Great marketing Apple, seriously.
/s

Connecting to hubs? What are you talking about?

This chip supports one Thunderbolt port, the previous chip supported up to two ports (though some devices like the Macbook Pro only have one port - the same chip is used on the iMac which has two TB ports).

greenwizard88 said,
So, this would be like saying that some USB ports can connect to hubs, and some can't. But you have no way of knowing which, until you try?

Great marketing Apple, seriously.
/s


This makes no sense.

Light Ridge supports 80Gbps aggregate bandwidth and two DP outputs. (Which the iMac uses) Eagle Ridge only has 40Gbps total bandwidth and only one DP out. (Which is all the MBA really needs)

greenwizard88 said,
So, this would be like saying that some USB ports can connect to hubs, and some can't. But you have no way of knowing which, until you try?

Great marketing Apple, seriously.
/s


Just about the only thing you'll notice different is that it supports only one DisplayPort screen instead of two. It's still an incredibly versatile I/O.

Apple will probably be the sole OEM for a long time to come, I don't think many OEM's are eager or even thinking about this tech

Stewart Gilligan Griffin said,
Apple will probably be the sole OEM for a long time to come, I don't think many OEM's are eager or even thinking about this tech

I disagree, I think if the tech becomes cheaper you will see it expand. But as long as it remains with a boutique manufacturer like Apple and prices remain high, you won't see the technology elsewhere.

jwoodfin09 said,

I disagree, I think if the tech becomes cheaper you will see it expand. But as long as it remains with a boutique manufacturer like Apple and prices remain high, you won't see the technology elsewhere.

There's a lot of OEM's out there right now that think eSATA and USB are fast enough and good enough for the standard consumer at the moment... and a group that are learly of this due to the fate of firewire which was a similar tech in the fact you could daisy chain, etc

Stewart Gilligan Griffin said,

and a group that are learly of this due to the fate of firewire which was a similar tech in the fact you could daisy chain, etc

That is simply ignorant. While Firewire isn't big in the consumer market, I doubt that you'll find many professional studios that don't make use of it.

Stewart Gilligan Griffin said,
There's a lot of OEM's out there right now that think eSATA and USB are fast enough and good enough for the standard consumer at the moment... and a group that are learly of this due to the fate of firewire which was a similar tech in the fact you could daisy chain, etc

Sony is already in the planning stage of selling ultra thin notebooks and using a thunderbolt port for an external GPU to be hooked up to the computer - you get the benefits of portability but when you need the extra grunt you can add it as you need it.

Mr Nom Nom's said,

Sony is already in the planning stage of selling ultra thin notebooks and using a thunderbolt port for an external GPU to be hooked up to the computer - you get the benefits of portability but when you need the extra grunt you can add it as you need it.

And Sony uses a proprietary cable… IMHO: Thunderbolt is still way too slow for GPUs (max: PCIe x4 …)

This really isn't an issue. The larger chip can support two Thunderbolt ports, the MBA only has one, and this smaller chip can still run full bandwidth through that one port

Considering the goal of the MacBook Air, I'm not sure that this is really a bad thing. Both the processor and battery are smaller, and thus they surely look throughout the internals to minimize processor usage, and battery usage. Both would go up if you were forced to processor an extra channel of Thunderbolt, or even USB. After all, this machine's goal (aside from the stupidity of dropping the MacBook from their line up) is as a purely portable, low power machine.

I normally would call out Apple for trying to maximize profits at the expense of their users, but this decision actually seems to have some engineering in mind, in addition to maximizing profits, of course.