Intel sketches out the next generation of Thunderbolt: twice as fast, 33% thinner

Thunderbolt ports on Macbook Pro Retina

The ThunderBolt connector has used the same plug-and-port design for years, but the next generation is reported to mix things up with a new design and even faster speeds. Intel has given the as-of-yet-unnamed standard (we'd place iCash on Thunderbolt 3) update the codename Alpine Ridge, and it's said to double the transmission rates of Thunderbolt 2 to up to 40Gbps. The new connector is also shorter in height, measuring in at around 3mm, compared to the 4.5 mm of the current Thunderbolt design.

The design of today's Thunderbolt connections is based off of the Mini DisplayPort standard, which has been in use since debuting on Apple MacBooks in 2008. Intel's slides say there will adapters for old cables to maintain compatibility with the new Thunderbolt, but there don't appear to be any plans for built-in hardware backwards compatibility.

That amped-up 40Gbps transfer rate means that a single Thunderbolt 3 port would be able to drive two 4K displays (as the standard still supports daisy-chaining) through the use of four PCI Express lanes, though there will also be a low-power version for lower power devices like the MacBook Air that will only use two PCI Express lanes.

We're still likely a ways off from seeing Thunderbolt 3 hitting the market. Thunderbolt 2 devices just started landing a few months ago (though computers have been shipping with Thunderbolt 2 support for some time). But here we have a look at the future of Thunderbolt: even faster and a bit thinner. What do you think — is this the Thunderbolt you've been waiting for?

Source: VR-Zone, Via: Ars Technica

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Derek Kessler

Managing Editor of Mobile Nations, occasional web designer, Army musician, armchair pundit, news addict, all-around nerd, professional ranter, and user of many phones.

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Reader comments

Intel sketches out the next generation of Thunderbolt: twice as fast, 33% thinner


The reason why they went wire instead of optical was to carry a current so you don't have to have a chunky external wall plug for every device. Intel contemplated optical for some time and went with wire. Don't expect a change or you could be very disappointed.

They have optical now.. its just not in high demand and really expensive to buy the cable. Most people like myself don't need more than 10 - 15' of cable.. Me, I just run 2 10' cables under around my desk to my Thunderbolt Station (CalDigit)..