Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Intel Networking Upgrades Hardware Technology Apple

Can Thunderbolt Survive USB SuperSpeed+? 355

Lucas123 writes: "The USB SuperSpeed+ spec (a.k.a. v3.1) offers up to 10Gbps throughput. Combine that with USB's new C-Type Connector, the specification for which is expected out in July, and users will have a symmetrical cable and plug just like Thunderbolt but that will enable up to 100 watts of power depending on the cable version. So where does that leave Thunderbolt, Intel's other hardware interconnect? According to some analysts, Thunderbolt withers or remains a niche technology supported almost exclusively by Apple. Even as Thunderbolt 2 offers twice the throughput (on paper) as USB 3.1, or up to 20Gbps, USB SuperSpeed+ is expected to scale past 40Gbps in coming years. 'USB's installed base is in the billions. Thunderbolt's biggest problem is a relatively small installed base, in the tens of millions. Adding a higher data throughput, and a more expensive option, is unlikely to change that,' said Brian O'Rourke, a principal analyst covering wired interfaces at IHS."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Can Thunderbolt Survive USB SuperSpeed+?

Comments Filter:
  • by maccodemonkey ( 1438585 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:17AM (#46996305)

    Thunderbolt isn't going to replace USB in all cases, but Thunderbolt isn't about the speed. It's about the protocol. Thunderbolt is basically PCI-E over a wire. Can you connect a GTX 780 Ti ( with USB 3.1? No? Not really a replacement then. Same goes for any other device that has traditionally been a PCI-E card. Or, you know, you can get an adaptor ( and directly connect a PCI-E card.

    Speed wise Thunderbolt is evolving too. At this rate there isn't much of a chance of USB 3.1 catching Thunderbolt. As the OP mentioned, Thunderbolt is still ahead of USB 3.1 and 40 Gbps Thunderbolt is coming soon ( But again, even is USB catches Thunderbolt, or both become fast enough, the protocols and designs of the connections makes them entirely unsuitable for each other's uses (you wouldn't connect a mouse and keyboard to your PCI-E bus directly via Thunderbolt.)

  • by AcidPenguin9873 ( 911493 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:53AM (#46996443)
    USB 3.0 added DMA and async (no-polling) control. CPU usage should be on par with FireWire.
  • by DreadPiratePizz ( 803402 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:56AM (#46996455)
    Probably not for most people, but I do it all the time on film sets. Rather than carry a workstation, you can just cary a laptop and a thunderbolt chassis with a RED ROCKET card for playback and transcoding. On location, this is a lifesaver.
  • by Anonymous Freak ( 16973 ) <> on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @01:16AM (#46996537) Journal

    USB is the "mainstream, use for anything" connector. USB SS+ with type-C and 100 W power delivery makes it even moreso.

    Thunderbolt is external PCI Express. Over long distances with optical cabling. Yes, there are few places in which TB is better than USB SS+, but in those places, USB SS+ can't compete - at all.

    Need a 20 Gb/s connection to your storage array in the next room over? USB SS+ can't do that. Need an effectively-zero-latency connection to an external sound/video editing rig? Yeah, PCIe is your format, over Thunderbolt.

    And don't expect Thunderbolt to sit still, either. While USB has plans to increase speed, so does TB. TB has PCIe3 coming up, and other improvements.

    No, I never expect Thunderbolt to become even as mainstream as FireWire was, but it most certainly won't just go away, either.

  • by maccodemonkey ( 1438585 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @01:16AM (#46996539)

    What PCIe cards are you plugging in again? Graphics cards? You still have yet to demonstrate that it is not a novelty. I have never seen a CAD setup like that. Nor have I heard of a gaming rig that uses a laptop CPU but has an external graphics box. Maybe you're right and it will be all the rage in CAD houses.

    What devices are these? Still graphics cards? [] [] [] [] []

    I could go on but really the answer is "Every single PCI-E card that exists." Or "Every single PCI-E card that is important to professional users that just because you don't know about doesn't mean it doesn't exist."

  • by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @01:57AM (#46996699)
    The first? There are any number of "docking station"-style solutions that are less specialized and therefore legitimately useful to even more people - the primary one being the one integrated into Apple's Thunderbolt display (but there are cheaper solutions from Belkin, Sonnet, Matrox, CalDigit, etc). Get home, plug your laptop in, and with that one connector it instantly has access to your 30" display(s), gigabit ethernet, and your USB 3, Firewire, and other Thunderbolt peripherals (and the speakers, mic, and webcam built into the display, too). For a laptop, Thunderbolt can be remarkably useful. On a desktop less so IMO.
  • by kirthn ( 64001 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:05AM (#46996743)

    same niche market that Apple made popular ;) was Apple who made USBpopular, with their first iMac.....USB was also original by Intel, and did hardly anything for 5 years...then came the first iMac, and suddenly almost overnight USB was took PC's about 2 years to catch up, from PS/2

    would not underestimate the influence of Apple ...

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:12AM (#46996785)

    There is one thing Thunderbolt does have going for it, however.

    Since it's essentially a PCI bus extension --- this means, you can add an external PCI chassis attached via Thunderbolt without needing special drivers, and in theory.... you can do things like add additional GPUs and arbitrary PCI devices to your desktop way beyond the expandability of your physical motherboard's or primary chassis' form factor.

    There's really no way to accomplish something like that using USB, at least.... not with complicated specialized drivers being developed

  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:19AM (#46996971)

    Thunderbolt's speed is a PCIe2 speed, which is 10b/8b encoding, so 20Gb is only 16Gb of data with 20% overhead at the physical layer.
    It can't deliver the claimed speed in terms of data transferred. If they moved to PCIe3, that gets much better though with 130/128 encoding.

  • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @04:20AM (#46997145)

    I figured that all along. It took off on Apple hardware, with almost no pickup on normal PCs. That has finally started to happen a little - some upper end motherboards have 1 or 2 Thunderbolt ports now, and Asus has an add-on board for a few others - but it is really a niche thanks to its odd hardware requirements and lack of early adoption outside of Apple. USB is easier to use, and at least up to 3.0 has been backward compatible with older devices. With an even faster option, as long as they don't screw something up, I don't see how USB could not continue to be the leading connectivity standard.

    Try hooking an external SSD up to you machine via USB3 and then via Thunderbolt and you'll see why Thunderbolt is desirable if you are transferring large amounts of data: []. Take a look at the "Time to write 16.9 Gb of data" row in the table at the bottom and imagine you are transferring 3,4 or 500 Gb. There is about 250 Gb of data on the SSD in my MacBook Pro, large amounts of that data can change frequently meaning long backup times and cutting the time it takes to write that stuff up to disk in half is a major bonus. The problem Thunderbolt has had is not just backwards compatibility, i..e. that here are so many USB 3 devices out there that it is going to take a looooong while to put a dent in the USB monoculture (as you correctly pointed out). Thunderbolt devices have also had a tendency to be more expensive which didn't help either nor did the fact that up until now you have only started to benefit from Thunderbolt for real when using SSDs and they are also expensive which just aggravates the cost problem. When the USB 3 alternative is 2-3 times less expensive than Thunderbolt the choice for the consumer is obvious. If there is going to be a USB standard that is comparable in speed to Thunderbolt, backwards compatible with all the old USB2 and USB3 devices and that has a better connector, Thunderbolt is doomed. Intel should have pushed Thunderbolt way more aggressively i.e. handed out Thunderbolt product licenses liberally, provide motherboard and peripheral manufacturers with incentives or even sell Thunderbolt chips at cost.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @05:44AM (#46997325) Homepage

    I take it you don't do video?

  • That sounds amazing! You're saying that USB 3.1 means I won't be able to suck out the entire contents of your RAM like I can with a Firewire or Thunderbolt dongle?

    What would really be amazing would be if instead of snark, your comment contained some sort of awareness of the existence of an IOMMU, which prevents this sort of attack on modern hardware.

BLISS is ignorance.