Intel launches Thunderbolt, 20X faster data transfers than USB 2.0

Intel announced on Thursday the arrival of their Thunderbolt technology, a high-speed data transfer connection that is currently the fastest available in the consumer market.

Thunderbolt, formerly code-named Light Peak, made its debut in collaboration with Apple, which is touting the technology as one of the primary selling features of its new MacBook Pro notebook line, also introduced on Thursday.

Intel launches Thunderbolt, 20X faster data transfers than USB 2.0

Thunderbolt. I’ll be looking forward to seeing more compatible devices soon. While USB 2.0 transfers data from one device to another at a rate of 480 megabits per second, Thunderbolt makes that technology look severely outdated with a purported data transfer speed that is 20 times faster at 10 gigabits per second. To put it in perspective, a full-length HD movie being transferred via a Thunderbolt connection would only take 30 seconds to complete.

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Perhaps the best thing about Thunderbolt is the fact that it is built upon the PCI Express and DisplayPort protocols, which not only allows the transfer of data and video over a single cable, but also has a high degree of compatibility with many existing displays and devices.

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with Intel to bring the groundbreaking Thunderbolt technology to Mac users,” said Bob Mansfield, Apple’s senior VP 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.”

Intel says that they are currently working with several hardware manufacturers to add Thunderbolt technology to other devices including computers, displays, storage devices, audio/video devices, cameras, and docking stations.  Thanks to the PCI Express-based design, it is much simpler and more cost effective to make product changes than it would be if the technology was based on an entirely new protocol. Also, adapters will support DVI, HDMI and VGA, and even the ability to connect to a high speed network via Fiber Channel.

It sounds like Intel made the right choice with largely ignoring their own USB 3.0 protocol to focus on Thunderbolt. I’ll be looking forward to seeing more compatible devices soon.

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