Report: Thunderbolt bandwidth to double in 2014

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.

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    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Unless Intel offers compatibility with USB, this isn’t going to go anywhere. They can throw all the bandwidth they want at it. Price, availability, and active cables is just a kick in the junk. Adopting USB 3 on their chipsets late doesn’t really add appeal to it either.

    TB doesn’t really fulfill a role of any sorts.

      • bhtooefr
      • 7 years ago

      It has the advantage of higher bandwidth, and I believe potentially lower latency as well.

      And, just by virtue of being more expensive, TB devices (while being niche market) will likely be engineered to a higher standard than USB devices, just like we’ve seen with FireWire/1394 versus USB.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        Bandwidth is independent of latency. You can have a really fat pipe that goes around the world…

        I can see what you’re saying with the TB catering to a higher end market, but going off of history, firewire devices weren’t outright superior to USB devices. It may have felt that way as part of exclusivity (like buying a Mac), but they weren’t.

      • End User
      • 7 years ago

      What do you mean “compatibility”? eSATA, USB 3.0, ethernet, VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort are all supported. Thunderbolt is basically PCIe + DisplayPort.

      Intel added USB 3.0 to Ivy Bridge. Why is that not appealing? The Ivy Bridge based Aspire S5 with Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 looks particularly tasty [url<]http://us.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/series/aspires5[/url<]

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah, lets see it do that without a breakout box. Example I want to connect my USB mouse to a TB port… Fill in the solution.

        I mean it’s great and everything. I can do the same exact thing with PCIE slots on my motherboard, but that doesn’t mean I want my motherboard sitting on my desk in front of my mouse.

        IF TB had a compatible connector with USB AND you don’t need to buy a device to convert, then they would have something. But they don’t and simply being a ‘tunnel’ is not the same as being compatible. You wouldn’t need a device that converts your USB signal to a TB one. I mean PCIE is is compatible in that regard too.

        Essentially TB isn’t different from other connections. It’s not natively compatible and it still needs a device on the other end to convert for it. You don’t just plug in a TB cable and it shits out rainbows on the other side.

          • End User
          • 7 years ago

          [quote<]It CAN do it, that doesn't mean that it supports it right now. Show me a device that spits out estata, usb3, ethernet, vga, hdmi or displayport at the other end. Or really any of those besides a display signal connected to a proprietary connection. I've only seen TB used as a interconnect for devices, not as a tunnel (which is what you're implying). You don't just plug a TB cable into your computer and magical rainbows pop out the other end.[/quote<] Whoa. That was your original post. Now I have to read your revised post as well. Sheesh. [quote<]It CAN do it, that doesn't mean that it supports it right now. Show me a device that spits out estata, usb3, ethernet, vga, hdmi or displayport at the other end.[/quote<] Ya, you read about the Belkin/Matrox breakout box after you posted that so you had to come-up with a different plan of attack (see below). [quote<]Yeah, lets see it do that without a breakout box.[/quote<] heehee [quote<]You don't just plug in a TB cable and it **** out rainbows on the other side.[/quote<] My TB to giga ethernet cable **** out rainbows on the other side. [quote<]Example I want to connect my USB mouse to a TB port... Fill in the solution.[/quote<] Why bother. Connect it to a USB port. [quote<]I mean it's great and everything. I can do the same exact thing with PCIE slots on my motherboard, but that doesn't mean I want my motherboard sitting on my desk in front of my mouse.[/quote<] Thunderbolt takes PCIe expansion slots and kicks them in the balls. Now laptops, small form factor PCs and AIWs can have all the advantages of PCIe without resorting to expansion slots. I don't know about you but my expansion slots are taken up by my SLI setup. That's why my MB has a TB connector.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            So… instead of addressing relevant points, you simply mocked my old post I corrected (to which you still decided to reply to after I posted)? Not just that, seeing as your post wasn’t edited, you decided to still reply to it before actually replying.

            “Why bother. Connect it to a USB port.”

            EXACTLY my point, which is what I outlined in the first post.

            Laptops can use PCI-E and PCI-E is hot pluggable since gen 1. They could’ve done this for years and there are even external PCIE cables, but they aren’t ratified by a standard.

            Not everyone has four cards in Sli, I’d say almost no one has that. Let alone two cards, although that’s not uncommon. I would question you using a breakout box for your desktop computer with four graphics cards in it, but I think this is starting to get ridiculous.

            That and lets see you plug a PCIE card into TB (which is one of the points I outlined in my last post). I’m going to reiterate, you don’t simply plug in a TB cable and it shits out rainbows on the other end. You need devices designed for TB just like you need devices designed for USB.

            “My TB to giga ethernet cable **** out rainbows on the other side.”

            Why would you do that when your motherboard has built in gigabit? Pretty much all laptops made in the last decade have gigabit on board too. You’re just trying to find an excuse to use TB when it isn’t practical.

            • End User
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<][quote<]My TB to giga ethernet cable **** out rainbows on the other side.[/quote<] Why would you do that when your motherboard has built in gigabit? Pretty much all laptops made in the last decade have gigabit on board too. You're just trying to find an excuse to use TB when it isn't practical.[/quote<] 2012 11" MBA [quote<]So... instead of addressing relevant points[/quote<] Can you list your relevant points clearly/briefly in point form? Thanks. I'll address each one.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    No connectivity solution that requires active cables is ever going to penetrate the market.

    Low cost, not high quality, drives the market because fundamentally people look for a good deal, and expensive, active-cable technology is never going to compete with the passive cables that get included free with other tech like eSATA and USB3.

    Yes, Thunderbolt might actually [i<]be[/i<] better, but it won't [i<]sell[/i<] better.

      • internetsandman
      • 7 years ago

      Sad but true, and add in the fact that USB3 fixed the only problem that 90% of the market had with USB2 (slow speeds) and TB will stay a niche product until they either get merged into the same physical connector, at which point people will start buying TB simply cause it’s become a default standard like USB is, or get much, much cheaper.

      • designerfx
      • 7 years ago

      Bingo. Add a complete breaking of any and all previous interoperability and you just raised the cost well above what even the cables cost by themselves by an order of magnitude.

    • bhtooefr
    • 7 years ago

    I suspect that Redwood Ridge is what’s holding up the Mac Pro – DisplayPort 1.2 has enough bandwidth to feed 3840×2160 @ 30 bpp, 60 Hz, with some to spare, and Apple probably wouldn’t use a 10 bit panel for a 21.5″ ACD. (But they may feed it a 30 bpp signal.)

    It, however, does NOT have enough to feed a 5120×2880 @ 24 bpp, 60 Hz panel – DP1.2 only has 17.28 Gbit/s, and that mode with reduced blanking requires 22.518 Gbit/s. 50 Hz doesn’t quite fit either, needing 18.678 Gbit/s, and that’s not the way Apple does things from what I’ve seen anyway.

    DP1.3 adds Panel Self Refresh, so I could see Apple making a DisplayPort 1.4 standard that abuses the PSR hardware to only send updates, rather than whole frames (and to do that as quickly as possible), although that can add some latency.

      • shank15217
      • 7 years ago

      keep dreaming, there will never be another mac pro, it goes against everything apple stands for now. xserve and mac pro.. RIP

        • internetsandman
        • 7 years ago

        What exactly would that be? Last I checked they weren’t against high performance systems.

    • Hattig
    • 7 years ago

    USB3 – practically free with a new system.
    Thunderbolt – adds $20 BOM to a system (~$40 end user), and to each peripheral that supports it. Cable $50. That’s a lot to pay for relatively little extra bandwidth.

    Yeah, leave the ThunderBolt for workstations and servers please, put it on a PCIe card. Don’t make me pay for something I will never use. Either that, or drop the price to practically free, as with USB3.

      • Corrado
      • 7 years ago

      Except that TB can do a lot of stuff that USB3 can not. Like tunnel any protocol you want over it. Including PCIe.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        Which there are tonnns of implementations of and cases for right now.

      • XTF
      • 7 years ago

      Can’t USB be added to DP itself? Some monitors already include a USB hub and this would save one cable. Most systems don’t need the bandwidth of TB.

      Why is TB so expensive anyway?

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        The cables are active. There are additional chips at each end of the cable.

        • GTVic
        • 7 years ago

        And 640K of RAM is more than enough for everyone, right?

      • jdaven
      • 7 years ago

      TB is clearly superior to USB3 in every way except price. As is true of everything in our capitalistic system, you will have a choice. If you don’t need TB, then don’t buy a product with TB. But please don’t rain on the parade of everyone else who do not possess a carbon copy of your exact, personal needs.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        And availability, and compatibility.

          • XDravond
          • 7 years ago

          And charging capability….
          I don’t know how much TBs 5W max power gives you but I’m pretty sure 10W (5V*2A like the Ipad charger) is more and the coming (weirdly high) 100W standard even more so…

          But USB (many small/cheap and more mobile stuff) and TB (higher bandwidth and more stationary stuff that needs a lot f power like a NAS) isn’t really playing in the same arena anyway so why do I have to keep repeating it?

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            That 100w standard is going to be for standalone chargers only. No one is going to try and route that through a motherboard.

            • XDravond
            • 7 years ago

            Hehe you don’t say why not put it in a laptop?…

            …Yes I’m fully aware my own power brick is on 90W….. 😉

            But still it’s USB (sort of…) and the chargers is probably be somewhat more chunky than todays 2,5-10W ones…

          • designerfx
          • 7 years ago

          I think we’re starting to look at some serious apple fans. I thought techreport was about technology, not about apple bias?

          lack of compatibility = screw it.

          I’m not going to break every device I have in the house to act like increased bandwidth and tunneling will make up for that.

            • jdaven
            • 7 years ago

            TB is an Intel spec.

            • End User
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]I think we're starting to look at some serious apple fans. I thought techreport was about technology, not about apple bias?[/quote<] WTF are you going on about. Thunderbolt is a standard PC spec. I've got a Thunderbolt port on my P8Z77-V PREMIUM.

        • Thresher
        • 7 years ago

        I don’t really think that’s the point.

        The problem is that cost is a huge factor, USB 3.0 serves current high capacity storage concerns well, and with dvi, HDMI cables, and even Display Port, there really isn’t anything that makes Thunderbolt really necessary or even desireable at its current pricing. I assume prices will come down over time, but if they remain signficantly more expensive, then TB remains a niche product and will not get the widespread adoption that intel seems to be wanting.

        TB certainly is faster, but right now and for the reasonably forseeable future, its a solution in search of a problem.

        Until it comes down in cost, USB 3.0 and HDMI/DVI/DP are much cheaper and serve the same need.

          • destroy.all.monsters
          • 7 years ago

          Pro/prosumer audio (and likely video – but not my area of expertise). USB 2.0 doesn’t have that great of throughput and firewire is dead. Most manufacturers are skipping USB 3.0 and going to thunderbolt. Universal Audio, Apogee, among others.

          Plus Magma type breakout boxes for pci/pcie cards.

          For the average user there isn’t yet much use for it but then there wasn’t for ESATA when it first came out either. Give it two or three years.

          FWIW there seems to be no pro or prosumer audio gear targeting USB 3.0.

            • designerfx
            • 7 years ago

            apogee? Universal audio? Two companies that advertisee “apple products”? They’re going to follow what apple does – which is, you know, thunderbolt.

            That doesn’t show thunderbolt demand or superiority, that shows that a company that is relying on apple is relying on apple. Who would have thought!

            If you think apogee and universal audio are the proper prosumer solutions I advise you to start actually doing some real research or shop something other than just a mac.

            • Waco
            • 7 years ago

            Is TechReport getting overrun with Apple zealots? Booooo.

            • jdaven
            • 7 years ago

            Actually, no. TR has always been filled with a few PC Zealots but mostly, regular technology enthusiasts who like to discuss all technologies regardless of who is providing the technology.

            • destroy.all.monsters
            • 7 years ago

            You are seriously clueless. Universal Audio has been cross platform since forever. If you knew anything about them, their company, or their products you wouldn’t be pulling this out of your a$$.

            The reason they went with thunderbolt was due to bandwidth reasons (future proofing was icing on the cake) – and only for that reason.

            How about you research something before shooting your mouth off?

            For the record I don’t own a Mac and anyone that knows my post history knows damn well I’m no Apple evangelist.

            Universal has promised PC support for Apollo this summer – and anyone familiar with UA knows they’ll follow it up.

            Now please show me how their UAD-1, and UAD-2 products are Apple only. Go ahead I’ll be only too happy to watch you eat your hat.

            • designerfx
            • 7 years ago

            future proofing? on an apple standard? Excuse me while I laugh so hard I cry.

            What part of saying “screw all of our current standards for implementation” sounds future proof? This is not about bandwidth, this is about screwing every single current implementation.

            displayport, which was a break away from HDMI? (broken futureproofing). Thunderbolt, which encompasses displayport among others? broken futureproofing.

            There is no reason to actually trust apple for anything long term at this point. Even if thunderbolt is implemented across all motherboards all we did is raise cost, and screw interop to all hell. Which actually matters a lot when you’re doing anything professional across any business.

        • Hattig
        • 7 years ago

        I’m moaning because I actually have paid for a computer that incorporates Thunderbolt, but I will never use it, nor will most people that have bought this model of computer. I *would* use ThunderBolt if the cables weren’t $50, and the external TB enclosures weren’t twice the price of an eSATA/USB3/Firewire enclosure. What this computer doesn’t have is USB3 due to a certain company not including USB3 in their chipsets until recently, and trying to push ThunderBolt instead.

          • destroy.all.monsters
          • 7 years ago

          I’m not sure who your manufacturer is – though I suspect it to be Apple. If it isn’t – and you’re on the Windows side – *and* you have a need to use Firewire it seems to solve those incompatibilities so prevalent on the PC side (which generally, if not always means having to know which chipset your firewire host adapter is using – for most but not all audio that means TI). An expensive – albeit brainless workaround.

          Though in my experience when it comes to working gear in any kind of crucial situation brainless is good.

          Doesn’t sound like it helps you much – and you have my sympathy. Still you did buy it presumably knowing what you were getting yourself in to. Personally I tend to avoid being an early adopter whenever possible.

    • JMccovery
    • 7 years ago

    I always wanted to know, would Thunderbolt support either a MST hub or daisy-chaining high-resolution displays? I was thinking about an external box that connects to TB, and has USB3.0, 3+ DP connectors, SATA and a mini PCI-E slot. Similar to a laptop dock, but would be used on a desktop to minimize the amount of wires.

      • Corrado
      • 7 years ago

      [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/5933/thunderbolt-docks-are-here-belkin-thunderbolt-express-dock-matrox-ds1[/url<] Like those? They don't have miniPCIe, but they have everything else.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        Crap, man. $300? I hope they come with a cable. :p

    • dpaus
    • 7 years ago

    I’d rather see a DisplayPort hub. Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?

      • jdaven
      • 7 years ago

      I thought you can daisy chain DisplayPort connected LCD displays with thunderbolt.

        • dpaus
        • 7 years ago

        Physically connected how? Unless the monitor has built-in hub ports, where do you plug in the 2nd monitor’s cable?

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