2011-09-18

Thunderbolt news: plugs, optical cables, new chips, adoption by Acer and Asus

This post summarizes a few news bits regarding Thunderbolt.

Intel Details Thunderbolt Spec: New Chips Coming Next Year, But What About Fiber Optic Cables?” by Eric Slivka for Mac Rumors.

  • Standard plugs – Mini DisplayPort versus USB: The Thunderbolt plug “is” Mini DisplayPort. Thus, Sony’s USB-shaped plug is an aberration. If Thunderbolt was to be a universal connection standard, either display plugs would have to change again or USB devices would eventually become unusable (in the far future, where there are only Thunderbolt plugs). Intel and Apple chose the former, Sony the latter. The advantage of the Intel/Apple decision is that the Mini DisplayPort plug is more robust, smaller and cannot be as easily be plugged in the wrong way. The advantage of the Sony decision is that they stay USB compatible for a very long time.
  • Optical cables: will come, but it is not sure when. They will enable longer cable lengths (than the current 3m copper cable limit) with the current standard and faster speeds with a future standard.
  • New chips: In 2012, there will be a new Thunderbolt chip set called Cactus Ridge, in two-channel and four-channel versions. Current four-channel Intel chips are used in the MacBook Pro, Mac mini and iMac. Current two-channel Intel chips are used in the MacBook Air.
Acer and Asus to Provide Momentum to Thunderbolt Adoption” by Eric Slivka for Mac Rumors.
  • Acer and Asus will adopt Thunderbolt: They will introduce machines with it in 2012. There were worries that the technology would stay limited to Macs, because HP announced in Mac 2011 that it would forego Thunderbolt in favor of USB 3. With HP either spinning off or closing down its PC division, that decision has much less weight now, anyway.

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