An Introduction to Thunderbolt

On Feburary 24th 2011 Apple released a new series of laptops. While this was fairly note worthy in it’s self one of the biggest things about this release was the inclusion in these new laptops of a new form of connectivity. This connectivity is called Thunderbolt and was jointly developed by Intel and Apple. To be a little more technical it is an expansion bus off of the standard PCI Express bus with a total bandwidth of 10Gbps. In Apple’s implementation Thunderbolt uses the same port and connector as the Mini DisplayPort. One of the outstanding features of Thunderbolt is designed to be fiber optic based and very high bandwidth. Of course fiber optics are easily more expensive than copper so a copper adaptation has been implemented to keep costs down.

So wait, this means this new connectivity is occupying the same port as video. As you may have noticed there is only one Thunderbolt port on the new laptops. So what do you do when you have a pair of Thunderbolt monitors and a Thunderbolt hard drive? For now I think Apples conservative use is going to play out perfectly fine. There aren’t a lot of devices yet that support it and what is the likely hood that folks are going to be plugging two devices in at once. But lets say this connectivity really takes off or lets say you are the power user who is going to go out of their way to get the latest and greatest. Apples solution is a group of splitter connectors for what ever you need to do. What some people may not realize before going after these no doubt expensive connectors is that Thunderbird is design to chain together up to seven devices.

So is this going to become the connectivity of the future? Apple tried with Firewire which lost out to USB despite Firewire being the technically better connector. So we’ll have to watch carefully and see what happens to Thunderbolt. Can Apple and Intel convince other manufacturers that this really is the way to go? USB 3 is making headway as well as we all know it isn’t always technical prowess that makes the winner. We here at Teknami will be keeping tabs on the battle of connectivity standards.

Apples implementation of Thunderbolt
Explanation of Thunderbolt from Wikipedia
Intels press release about Thunderbolt

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About the author

Brock Hatfield had written 10 articles for TEKNAMI

Currently a tech industry insider working at a Fortune top 20 company, co-founder and creative director of FatHat Games and an avid blogger. He started in what could be considered the coal mines of the tech industry doing phone support for a local ISP. In his 14 year career he has done IT work in businesses ranging from printing, publishing, healthcare and industry.