Intel’s Thunderbolt interface is pretty slick. It combines DisplayPort and PCI Express over a single cable with a staggering 40Gbps of aggregate bandwidth. Each Thunderbolt channel has 10Gbps of bidirectional bandwidth, and there are two channels per port. Those specifications refer to Intel’s current-generation Cactus Ridge Thunderbolt controller. According to DigiTimes, a new Falcon Ridge chip will be released in 2014 with even more bandwidth on tap. Falcon Ridge is said to offer 20Gbps per channel, doubling Thunderbolt’s total throughput.
Falcon Ridge won’t be ready in time for Intel’s next-gen Haswell CPUs, but it looks like the chip giant has a Thunderbolt update in store for that platform. A Redwood Ridge chip will purportedly debut in the second quarter of next year and should make its way into Haswell-powered ultrabooks, among other systems. Although Redwood Ridge doesn’t increase Thunderbolt’s per-channel bandwidth, it does add support for DisplayPort 1.2. The existing Cactus Ridge chip is limited to DisplayPort 1.1a.
Expanding Thunderbolt’s display support and increasing the interface’s bandwidth are nice upgrades, but we’d rather see Intel work to make the technology more affordable for end users. DigiTimes says the Cactus Ridge controller costs PC and motherboard makers about $20 right now. The required cable, which we haven’t seen bundled with Thunderbolt devices, runs close to $50 online. Even with the 25% reduction in cable costs Intel expects later this year, Thunderbolt will remain a pricey proposition.