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Intel Portables Hardware

Expect Hundreds of Thunderbolt Devices, Says Intel 351

Posted by timothy
from the gee-that's-a-small-production-run dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Thunderbolt ports have been spotted on a PC motherboard, but the reality is that the technology is far from mainstream outside of Apple products. Which is why it is interesting to hear Intel predict that 'a hundred' Thunderbolt devices are expected to be on the market by the end of the year. The comment was made this week at Intel's presentation at IDF in Beijing. Ultrabooks with Thunderbolt are expected to appear this year."
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Expect Hundreds of Thunderbolt Devices, Says Intel

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  • Wiki knows about it (Score:5, Informative)

    by RobertLTux (260313) <robert@laurencemartin. o r g> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:40AM (#39659683)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbolt_(interface) [wikipedia.org]

    since im against the whole LMFGI thing i will just drop a wikilink for you.

  • What is it? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:44AM (#39659765)

    In short, it's a combination of both Mini DisplayPort and PCI Express, multiplexed together and demultiplexed at the reciever, but the controller is smart enough to maintain backwards compatibility with regular old displayport 1.2, so your MiniDP adapters will still work.

  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:45AM (#39659783)

    This isn't something that Monoprice can make for $1.

    There's a CPU and a significant transceiver chip the connectors on each end of the cable.

    They're going to be more expensive than USB 3 cables no matter where you get them from.

  • Re:What is it again? (Score:5, Informative)

    by DurendalMac (736637) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:49AM (#39659861)
    Ah, but this is one port to rule them all. Conceivably, this could be the only port (aside from the charger) on an ultrabook, maybe a USB port or two in addition. Add a Thunderbolt docking station and you can add ANY port that can be placed on a PCIe bus, even an external GPU.
  • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:50AM (#39659885) Homepage Journal
    Thunderbolt will become famous for its potential for unauthorized access (DMA attack [wikipedia.org]) and nothing else. Let's hope the media outcry will be heard far enough for everyone to disable these ports completely and for vendors to stop using them. These are difficult times for privacy and we do not need such ill-designed interfaces forced down our throats.
  • The God Cable (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:53AM (#39659943)

    I understand it's just another port to plug things in. Just what we need, laptops with fifteen different input and output ports. VGA, DVI, HDMI, DP, USB3, whatever thunderbolt is, FW, eSATA, unique docking connector, Ethernet, unique power socket, and a card reader for eighteen different cards. I'm sure I've missed a few.

    The point is, it's a "God cable." It can, without exaggeration, replace all of those you listed, except the power socket one.
    (For example, A MacBook Air has a thunderbolt port and one USB port, and can connect to all the other peripheral types you mention with just those. And that USB port is just for convenience.)

    Unfortunately, it's currently priced accordingly. Also, it suffers from the Competing Standards problem [xkcd.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:56AM (#39659989)

    Thuderbolt just extends the PCIe bus to external devices, with all the speed and flexibility that entails, no biggie, right? Sure, it means you really could get rid of all the other ports completely and use a breakout cable if necessary (only in the interim as other types of ports might just go away), making devices much smaller and simpler. But we don't want fantastic new things, we just want solid legacy support for 10 - 20 year old standards.

    Really. All a geek should need to know is "externalize PCIe". All the speed of an internal bus (and more) without having to physically put the card into the machine, and even being able to do it at a distance. Greater modularity, better performance. But apparently it's bad to have newer, better things, when we could just stick with the older, crappier. Right?

  • Re:erm... what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bobbied (2522392) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:58AM (#39660043)

    Thunderbolt is a high speed device interface that has similar performance to PCI Express. It supports a wide range of devices that require very high bandwidth and low latency I/O operations, including displays, network adapters, mass storage devices (Disk Drives, RAID arrays etc.) and things like that. Like USB, the port can supply power to attached devices but it runs at much higher data rates than even USB 3.0. Currently it is generally only supported by Apple but the article is saying that it is starting to show up on more generic X86 hardware.

    Looking at the comparisons I've found, seems that Thunderbolt is likely to put a spanner in the works for USB 3.0 support. Why bother with USB 3.0 when this port exists at about the same price? Yea there is the compatibility issue with USB, but I have a feeling they will leave the USB 2.0 ports and just add Thunderbolt until they can send USB to the same place printer and serial ports went. Given the bandwidth available on this port, you can put multiple displays and a hand full of disk drives on one port and do away with the VGA, DVI, and eSATA ports in one shot.

  • by PhrstBrn (751463) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @12:15PM (#39660395)
    There is not a single thunderbolt cable on that list. It's just a bunch of displayport cables labeled thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is a combo displayport + PCIe, those cables just deal with the displayport signal and ignore the PCIe part.
  • Re:erm... what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @12:33PM (#39660773) Homepage

    > Now, you can plug in all your hard drives (via USB or FireWire or eSATA) into the monitor on top of your desk instead of fumbling around behind the machine underneath.

    I just use front facing hot swap drive bays. Doesn't matter if it is drives in the main chassis or drives in an external enclosure. They don't sit anywhere near the monitor. I would not want them to.

    For "fumble-devices", I have a hub sitting on top of the desk.

    PCs also tend to have front facing USB and Firewire ports.

    You're trying to invent problems that don't actually exist.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @12:33PM (#39660789)

    You're not giving it proper credit here. Its not "bodged" it's multiplexed. It's a high speed data bus that can transport PCI express and Displayport data. This is helpful because it lets your GPU stay in your computer.

    You're only going to connect a thunderbolt monitor to your thunderbolt port. If you're going to connect a non-thunderbolt monitor you're going to want some sort of breakout device that lets you continue the chain while providing a video out. However, sensible computers will have dedicated video ports as well as a thunderbolt port. (Unless thunderbolt eventually becomes the de-facto standard)

  • Re:erm... what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:26PM (#39661953)
    It's more useful on laptops. Get home, plug your laptop into just two cables (Thunderbolt and power) and you're ready to go with your big monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, scanner, external drives, network and that silly light-up snowman your mother bought you for Christmas. Just like you could do with a docking station, except not limited to just a few laptops by one vendor and without taking up a big chunk of desk.
  • Re:erm... what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:42PM (#39662271)
    First, VESA controls DisplayPort specification, not Apple. Second Apple has offered mini-DisplayPort royalty-free when they offered to VESA to include it in the latest spec. Lastly, nothing in the Thunderbolt specs says that companies must use the mini-DSP connector; they can use the full-size connector if they feel paranoid about it.
  • Re:erm... what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:02PM (#39663965)

    Your feelings are not mired in reality but flawed perceptions. Again, VESA controls the standard. This is some of the same illogical thinking when people listed Apple controlling AAC as a reason not to use iPods (Apple doesn't control that standard either). The fact that many, many devices are coming out with ThunderBolt says the manufacturers are not concerned about this or they would have objected to Intel.

    I take it from your feelings that you avoid using any WebKit based browser like Chome, don't use CUPS, or any software that Apple contributes to Open Source.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:48PM (#39668901)

    My point was merely that, because the bus is tied to the displayport, rather than just being an external 4x PCIe port, it is assured that most every use case already has a daisy-chain incompatible peripheral in the mix, the video device. Had the two not been combined, that wouldn't have been true.

    The fact that getting the two signals into one connector is technically impressive is true; but it's still a handicap for all but terminal minimalists.

    I'm not the same AC but I'm still not sure what your point is.

    The TB protocol encapsulates packet-oriented protocols such as PCIe and DisplayPort. TB daisychain is just a matter of passing TB packets through to the next TB device in the chain, without worrying what's encapsulated inside.

    The only Thunderbolt video output device I know of is Apple's 27" Thunderbolt Display, and it can daisy chain just fine. There's only one complication I'm aware of, and it involves this specific chain with a DisplayPort monitor at the end of the chain:

    Computer --- Apple 27" TB Display --- any DisplayPort monitor

    But it's not an inherent limitation in the Thunderbolt protocol. It's a limitation in the existing Intel TB chips.

    A 1-lane TB chip needs to support one upstream and one downstream port in order to chain. Additionally, since you're supposed to be able to plug in a single TB-unaware DisplayPort device into the end of a TB chain, TB chips also need to be able to terminate at least one virtual DisplayPort channel from the upstream TB link, and present it as a physical DP interface on whichever connector happens to be acting as the downstream port.

    However, the Intel TB chips to date can only terminate that minimum of one virtual DP channel. In the Apple TB Display, that channel is used internally (it's how video data gets to the display). So, even though chaining multiple TB Displays is no problem, you can't connect a DisplayPort monitor directly to an Apple TB Display.

    To work around it, you can add another device:

    Computer --- TB Display --- Any chaining capable TB peripheral --- DisplayPort display

    There's no reason why a TB chip can't be designed to terminate two (or more) virtual DisplayPort channels, which would solve this without requiring an extra step in the chain. The lack of such a chip in the first generation of TB interface chips was probably an oversight.

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