Intel Aims Thunderbolt at Industry
Apple is its earliest adopter, sporting a Thunderbolt port
By: Maureen O'Gara
Feb. 28, 2011 05:00 AM
Intel launched its long-in-coming Light Peak widgetry Thursday, renaming the new high-speed bi-directional 10 GBps connection technology Thunderbolt.
By comparison UBS 3.0 tops out at 5 Gb/s and the more common UBS 2.0 can only do 480 Mbps.
As widely bruited, Apple is its earliest adopter, sporting a Thunderbolt port complete with a lightning icon on its new MacBook Pros, where it will do double duty supporting both high-speed I/O and high-definition Mini DisplayPort devices on a single cable.
Apple is believed to have kicked in some know-how about mixing data and display.
The widgetry, which can run multiple protocols simultaneously over a single wire, is supposed to be capable of downloading a full-length high-def 10GB-20GB movie in 30 seconds. Such a feat would require fast disks and most likely implies a boxful of external drives.
Chip groupie Nathan Brookwood called it "an extremely clever approach for out-of-the-box expansion for desktop and notebook computers," something that doesn't exist for laptops right now like external graphics cards.
Intel, who will license the IP royalty-free to OEMs, promises speeds will eventually hit 100 Gbps.
The PCI Express side of the Thunderbolt equation is supposed to connect to almost any type of device - multiple ones daisy-chained together with electrical or optical cables - and Intel said the DisplayPort can drive screens with better than 1080p resolution and up to eight audio channels simultaneously.
Among other things Intel imagines faster backups and restores, thinner form factors, more flexible systems designs, cable simplification and spiffier media creation and connectivity.
The mojo, which also works with USB, FireWire and gigabit Ethernet, involves an Intel controller chip and a small display connector suitable for mobile devices.
Intel said it would be supported by Aja, Apogee, Avid, Blackmagic, LaCie, Promise and Western Digital and it figures it will appear in computers, displays, storage devices, cameras, audio/visual devices and docking stations.
The updated MacBooks, which start at $1,199, run on faster new Intel processors and new AMD Radeon graphics chips.
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