Intel's Thunderbolt tech update allows 20 Gbps throughput

Intel officially announced its new PC data transfer technology, Thunderbolt, in 2011, with support for bi-directional data transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps. Thunderbolt ports first started appearing on some of Apple's MacBook Pro notebooks later in 2011 but it was not until 2012 when the first Windows-based PCs started adding those ports to their products. However, so far only a few Windows PCs have added Thunderbolt ports, with PC OEMs preferring USB 3.0.

Today, Engadget reports that Intel revealed the next generation of Thunderbolt as part of their presentation to the National Association of Broadcasters. The next version will offer bi-directional data transfer speeds that should be double that of the current Thunderbolt ports, up to 20 Gbps. However, Thunderbolt 2.0 products will still work with the current ports, just not at their optimal speeds.

Intel also claims that the new Thunderbolt port will also allow for 4K video file transfers. Production of the port is expected to begin in mass quantities sometime in 2014. The big question: Will Thunderbolt 2.0 be used more by Windows PC OEMs compared to the current generation? It will still have to compete with USB 3.0, which will be getting its own "Super Speed" data transfer boost to 10 Gbps for products shipping later this year.

Source: Engadget | Image via Engadget

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37 Comments

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I wish Thunderbolt becomes as standard as USB.

All the crazy stuff we can do with Thunderbolt not possible with USB.. really needs to take over the market.

I personally won't be using it until I get into a more professional environment (doing things as a hobby is no reason to spend loads of money on stuff), but damn am I excited about it.

The problem with thunderbolt is that people keep looking at it like USB, it's not. Of course the USB 3.0 revision allows for high data throughput which is actually great for USB thumb drives and external HDD's because the drives can't actually read/write faster than USB 3's throughput. Putting a 20gbps cable on your external HDD won't make a spot of difference.

As it's been said before, thunderbolt (especially in today's mobile society) could lead to some awesome breakthroughs in how we operate, such as taking your nice energy efficient ultrabook/tablet and connecting up to a high performance GPU, thus enabling some very advanced features. Docking your tablet to render video then playing angry birds on the subway before presenting the video to your employers would be one such application.

Think beyond USB

I don't know...I think there comes a time when fast is too fast.

I'm wondering if there might come a time where internet speeds are faster than processor speeds...then it's like overkill the opposite way.

I'm happy with my 30Mps speeds. I don't need anything faster. I'm not in that much of a hurry to download something.

indeed. TB1 has no real practical use yet, only professional gear can take advantage of the higher speeds of USB3, most consumer stuff don't even get limited by USB2. Let alone USB3.

And indeed, I got 80mbps, and a normal mechanical drive. If I download full speed, I notice a slowdown all across my system (as its eating up half the disk speed). Do wonder why people are so eager in getting 1GB connections, what's the point. Even if you have SSD, you aren't going to be able to max out that bandwidth unless you use a whole bunch of different devices.

I'm not sure the point was ever to maximize the thunderbolt IO speeds, but to have plenty of bandwidth available to add more components on the daisy chain. I agree that there isn't much of a market developed around it which it will need to succeed.

The current highlight of the technology is being able to dock a macbook to a thunderbolt display with one cable...

Thunderbolt needs more devices. USB is too ubiquitous. I'm not adverse to buying into a faster product, but not if the market isn't there to support it.

ZipZapRap said,
Thunderbolt needs more devices. USB is too ubiquitous. I'm not adverse to buying into a faster product, but not if the market isn't there to support it.

More devices or lower priced devices? right now the main purpose of Thunderbolt isn't to replace USB but to fit in where people need massive consistent throughput such as attaching a 5 disk RAID up to their computer.

Until I can connect a full fledged desktop GPU onto a laptop via Thunderbolt... until then I'm interested. Hopefully this revision will allow it.

Arceles said,
Until I can connect a full fledged desktop GPU onto a laptop via Thunderbolt... until then I'm interested. Hopefully this revision will allow it.

I've seen a video on Youtube showing exactly this.

I don't use thunderbolt, but my next computer upgrade will no doubt have it. Not sure where all the hate for this technology is coming from. Thunderbolt has applications beyond what USB 3.0 can currently bring to the table.

Is it just because Apple was quick to adopt thunderbolt technology that people (who I thought were tech enthusiasts because they are on this board) are so put off from it?

Shadrack said,
I don't use thunderbolt, but my next computer upgrade will no doubt have it. Not sure where all the hate for this technology is coming from. Thunderbolt has applications beyond what USB 3.0 can currently bring to the table.

Is it just because Apple was quick to adopt thunderbolt technology that people (who I thought were tech enthusiasts because they are on this board) are so put off from it?

The tech was more promising when it was called Light Peak, but then they decided to gimp it and call it Thunderbolt because "it would have been too expensive". And of course they made it Apple first thus crippling availability while still being expensive. Apple's "adoption" made the tech worse.

Who made it Apple first? Intel? Untrue. Sony had a laptop that supported Thunderbolt as early as July 2011 (wikipedia).

What did Apple do that made the tech worst specifically other than being a backer of the technology?

Shadrack said,
What did Apple do that made the tech worst specifically other than being a backer of the technology?

50$ 2m cable, 30$ 0.5m cable.

Shadrack said,
I don't use thunderbolt, but my next computer upgrade will no doubt have it. Not sure where all the hate for this technology is coming from. Thunderbolt has applications beyond what USB 3.0 can currently bring to the table.

Is it just because Apple was quick to adopt thunderbolt technology that people (who I thought were tech enthusiasts because they are on this board) are so put off from it?

The problem with USB3 is the same problem with USB2 vs. Firewire - the speed is at a burst rate but not sustainable and it chews through CPU cycles meaning it isn't particularly efficient for work flows that require consistent low latency throughput which is why firewire is still preferred by many professionals.

Luc2k said,

50$ 2m cable, 30$ 0.5m cable.

Still doesn't answer the question because you're talking about accessories that Apple sells that have no effect on making a technology better or worse. Prices from manufactures vary. You can get on Newegg and buy a 3m (9.8ft) Thunderbolt cable made by StarTech for $64.27. Or you can buy a 6ft cable made by Promise for $54 when Apple is only charging $30. The prices will drop down to dirt cheap levels when the technology becomes more adopted, like what happened to the prices of USB and HDMI cables.

Luc2k said,

50$ 2m cable, 30$ 0.5m cable.

Its no mystery that Apple sell expensive (overpriced, some would argue) USB 3.0 cables too. So based on your argument, USB 3.0 is now a "worse" technology because Apple "adopted" it. Is that what you are saying? Because it sounds like nonsensical Apple hate to me.

omgben said,

Still doesn't answer the question because you're talking about accessories that Apple sells that have no effect on making a technology better or worse. Prices from manufactures vary. You can get on Newegg and buy a 3m (9.8ft) Thunderbolt cable made by StarTech for $64.27. Or you can buy a 6ft cable made by Promise for $54 when Apple is only charging $30. The prices will drop down to dirt cheap levels when the technology becomes more adopted, like what happened to the prices of USB and HDMI cables.

They set the trend. Everything that revolves around Thunderbolt is very expensive. When it was still called Light Peak and the cable was made of optical fiber, the projected price was around that of HDMI cables. Now explain to me how going copper made it cheaper.

I don't blame Apple for all this btw, I blame Intel. They had something great, but they decided to **** it down the drain, for more profit no doubt.

I'd be interested to hear from someone with technical knowledge of how this compares to PCIe4.0, particularly regarding throughput and latency. The reason I ask is because it would be a lot easier for non-technical users to connect an external GPU to a Thunderbolt port than it is to open the case and physically install a PCIe card. In fact, cases could be designed like SATA drive-bays where you simply slide in a GPU without needing any technical knowledge (ventilation could be handled through the rear, like many cards already do).

For all the advances with computing it's disappointing that nobody has sought to address basic usability issues. Why should a user have to open a case and deal with cabling when installing a new hard-drive? And with GPUs, even if PCIe is dramatically faster there's no reason a much simpler installation method couldn't be implemented. Sure PCs are easy to build for those with experience but many users lack the confidence to get started and even technical users would benefit from a more streamlined approach if it doesn't impede performance.

This is probably the "promise" of Thunderbolt. I think there are currently some latency issues in Thunderbolt 1.0 that prevents this.

The market wouldn't be limited to non-PC enthusiasts. It would be awesome if a low-end laptop that had perfectly reasonable on-board video for battery and upfront cost saving that could be attached to an external video "card" for gaming/high performance applications.

There's still not a lot of specs on PCIe 4.0 and Thunderbolt 2.0 right now, if you happen to find them post it here and I'll take a look.

So far the only thing I could find is that Thunderbolt 2 is 20GB transfer compared to 16GB of the PCIe 4. That doesn't say a lot.

rahvii said,
So far the only thing I could find is that Thunderbolt 2 is 20GB transfer compared to 16GB of the PCIe 4. That doesn't say a lot.

Exactly. It all depends whether TB2 supports simultaneous transfers (sends and receives at the same time), what the latency is, how data is transmitted (packets or continuous stream), the amount of power it can transmit, etc. If it's lacking in any one of those areas then that might make it completely unsuitable for what I was suggesting.

People without the technical knowhow of children (does the triangle fit in the round hole? or the square in the triangle hole?) should not even want to replace anything or install hardware on their own.

Its stupidly easy, might look hard. But everything fits in 1 way and 1 way only.
Altho I have seen people trying to jam a RAM module into a PCIE slot.....

If lack the capacity of a 5 year old then yes, please do not touch the inside of your computer.

Doubt TB will do any good unless you want harddisks, GPU's etc outside your case. For now USB is fine. Mechanical external drives don't even reach full USB2 speeds. SSD's don't even come close to the USB3 speed. What else could possibly go faster for the general consumer to need upto 20GB/s.

Every computer has USB slots, I have yet to see one (non mac) that has TB. Backwards compatible. Maybe in 5 years TB is replacement worthy, for the foreseeable future, it isn't.

Shadowzz said,
People without the technical knowhow of children (does the triangle fit in the round hole? or the square in the triangle hole?) should not even want to replace anything or install hardware on their own.

That's nonsense, and you know it. Motherboards have numerous headers, power connectors, chipsets (different speed SATA and USB), fans etc. Properly applying thermal paste is obviously daunting to somebody when applying it wrong could wreck a £300 CPU. Power supplies have numerous connectors and you have to ensure adequate wattage and loading (rails) or you risk damaging components. You have the risk of static discharge. Then there's properly configuring the BIOS/UEFI, including boot order, chipset features (AHCI), etc. And of course there's knowing how to install Windows, especially when you're dealing with multiple hard-drives.

As I said, it's easy if you have a bit of experience but to suggest the average five year old can do it is nonsense and your statement isn't even slightly credible. It also doesn't address the point I was making, which is that there's no need for it to be so complicated - streamlining the build process would improve sales for components and reduce the amount that can go wrong.

I did a bit more of research and found out that putting latency aside, still lighting 2 doesn't quite match PCIE3 speeds at 16X, which is about 64Gb. Although is totally possible to run a video card from there, it will be very under utilized.

Is true that Flash SSD are slower than what thunderbolt offers, but in the case that you are sending data to multiple drives, or using RAM SSD (which 20Gb is nothing compared to what it can do), you can totally use the added bandwidth. Also for multiple 4K monitors with added refresh rate or stereoscopic tech and other fancy stuff it totally makes sense to have thunderbolt 2.

USB 3 might be enough for the average consumer use of a data I/O port, but that doesn't mean that it could do much better and that there are very interesting uses for the added speed of the thunderbolt. Yeah, most of its possible current uses are kind of exotic, but it's still a better technology and is not necessarily more expensive to include. Is simply better and can be harnessed.

Of course, USB omnipresence will still rein anyways.

theyarecomingforyou said,
I'd be interested to hear from someone with technical knowledge of how this compares to PCIe4.0, particularly regarding throughput and latency. The reason I ask is because it would be a lot easier for non-technical users to connect an external GPU to a Thunderbolt port than it is to open the case and physically install a PCIe card. [...]

The way I see this going, I foresee that in the future we would be able to add extra juice to laptops and other portable devices by pluging them into docking stations with high speed and very low latency. Particularly with the whole concept of using GPUs for co-processing, or perhaps the Zeon Phi cards.

Lets have decent stuff out for the current thunderbolt, I want a thunderbolt dock but I don't want to have to sell a kidney to get one!

Phouchg said,
Why? For the sake of it?

10Gbps should be enough for everybody right?

Now... where did I hear a similar comment before? Umm...

pmdci said,

10Gbps should be enough for everybody right?

Now... where did I hear a similar comment before? Umm...


10Gbps? Copying an holographic matrix with that is gonna take years. I wonder what pre-warp civilization would be ever content with that.

francescob said,

10Gbps? Copying an holographic matrix with that is gonna take years. I wonder what pre-warp civilization would be ever content with that.

I wonder if post-warp civilization will still understand sarcasm without a "/s" at the end of every phrase.

There's already too many different standards as it is.

Afaik, HDMI 2.0 will also have about 20Gbps for 4K@60p video, bidirectional audio and Ethernet all in one cable. No file transfer, but seriously - why the hell a display cable even needs one? It does too much as it is. I like cables. It's easier to isolate faults that way, when they happen, I might add.