Thunderbolt 3 pushes 40Gbps through USB Type-C port

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Intel's next-gen Thunderbolt interface has adopted the reversible Type-C connector familiar from the latest USB spec.

The new hotness is called Thunderbolt 3, and the integration with USB 3.1 is tighter than one might expect. Intel's new "Alpine Ridge" hardware has a USB 3.1 controller built in. USB signals can be passed over the interface alongside PCI Express and DisplayPort.

With 40Gbps on tap, Thunderbolt 3 doubles the bandwidth of its predecessor. It can fuel dual 4K monitors at 60Hz or a single 5K monster. Four Gen3 lanes are available to PCIe devices, which has particularly interesting implications for external graphics modules. Previous versions of Thunderbolt have been limited to PCIe Gen2 speeds.

The new interface delivers up to 15W to bus-powered devices, so external GPUs will probably require dedicated power. Thunderbolt 3 can push up to 100W via the USB power spec, though.

Thunderbolt cables have always been a bit expensive, but the new generation promises a wider range of options. Passive cables provide a cheaper path for devices that can live with 20Gbps speeds, while active ones deliver the full-fat experience. Those copper-based solutions can stretch up to two meters, and Intel is working on 40Gbps optical cables go 30X farther. The optical cables are targeted for 2016.

Intel says the first Thunderbolt 3 devices should ship before the end of this year.

Comments closed
    • adisor19
    • 4 years ago

    Quite disappointing that DP 1.3 didn’t make it into the spec :s

    Hope Apple won’t delay their future 5K Thunderbolt display refresh because of this :s

    Adi

    • blastdoor
    • 4 years ago

    So I think this means future MacBooks Pro will have just one type of port. The question is — will there be more than one thunderbolt 3 port? I will guess yes — I’ll guess one port on each side

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      There’s a typo in your post:

      [quote<]So I think this means future MacBooks Pro will have just one type of port. [/quote<] LMFTFY: [quote<]So I think this means future MacBooks Pro will have just one [s<]type of[/s<] port. [/quote<]

    • Ninjitsu
    • 4 years ago

    So there’s one bit of detail related to external graphics over thunderbolt that TR’s missed: Intel’s partnering with AMD.
    [quote<] The company is initially partnering with AMD on this endeavor – though nothing excludes NVIDIA in the long-run – with concepts being floated for both a full power external Thunderbolt card chassis, and a smaller “graphics dock” which contains a smaller, cooler (but still more powerful than an iGPU) mobile discrete GPU. [/quote<] AT have much more detail in general: [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/9331/intel-announces-thunderbolt-3[/url<]

    • Laykun
    • 4 years ago

    Can we just have USB 3.2 with 20gbits of bandwidth and be done with it? I don’t think we need another protocol to shoehorn its way into USB to further confuse consumers.

    • UnfriendlyFire
    • 4 years ago

    While this is certainly better than having a separate TB port/cable that nobody will use, or a much more expensive USB implementation (if USB mandated that connection speed to be the new standard), imagine what the marketing will do with these two standards.

    Remember those “cables with gold-plated connectors”?

    Marketing guy: “This cable and memory stick supports 40Gbps on USB ports!”

    Average consumer: “Awesome!”

    *Consumer thinks their USB connection and flash drive is faster than their previous ones*

    OR:

    *Consumer posts on a forum complaining about USB connection not getting 40 Gbps.”

    • Generic
    • 4 years ago

    Glad to see optical cables are still on the horizon.

    (distant stare) …always on the horizon…

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 4 years ago

      I’m not sure optical is very practical for short range cables. Copper offers plenty of bandwidth (as demonstrated above), is cheaper, and more durable.

      • the
      • 4 years ago

      Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel?

      • adisor19
      • 4 years ago

      Umm, Thunderbolt optical cables have been out for a while now..

      Adi

        • Generic
        • 4 years ago

        Holy crap, I see ’em!

        I had no idea they were available. Everytime I read something about them it was in future tense.

        Thank you sir/ma’am.

    • cmrcmk
    • 4 years ago

    If Intel can use Thunderbolt to push 20Gbps (passive cabling) through the USB connector, would it take much for USB-IF to design USB 3.2 around the same bitrate? If so, I would hope such a speed would be available to consumers in the next year or two.

      • willmore
      • 4 years ago

      Considering Intel drives both specs, it does seem odd that they’re doing this.

    • UberGerbil
    • 4 years ago

    So we’ve finally got to the point where there is one connector to rule them all — the cable connects in either orientation, and both ends are the same… but now we’re going to have people buying regular USB cables and getting mad because they’re not getting 40Gbps, or spending big bucks on a Thunderbolt cable and then discovering there isn’t a little thunderbolt logo on the ports of [i<]both[/i<] devices they're trying to connect. It's [url=http://xkcd.com/927/<]http://xkcd.com/927/[/url<] all over again.

      • adisor19
      • 4 years ago

      Still, this is a better outcome than having multiple different ports.

      I rather like the one port to rule them all approach.

      Adi

    • Neutronbeam
    • 4 years ago

    So lightning CAN strike twice in the same place? We live in an age of wonders.

    • WillBach
    • 4 years ago

    Hopefully this change also closes the ridiculous nineties-style DMA security holes in Thunderbolt 1/2.

    That new MacBook is starting to make a lot more sense. V2 will probably be capable of driving high-DPI external displays (and be cheaper because it’s a V2 Apple product)

      • UberGerbil
      • 4 years ago

      You know, if Intel had just left VT-d enabled on all their chips, instead of selectively disabling it for market segmentation reasons, that problem would have already been solved (with some help from the OSes).

        • adisor19
        • 4 years ago

        Truer words have never been spoken.

        No matter what, DMA is needed for fast access to RAM in order to maintain high throughput. VT-D would have kept it safe on all devices. Alas..

        Adi

        • WillBach
        • 4 years ago

        I’ve worked on one of the solutions (actially using IOMMU) here at Microsoft 🙂 That “some help” from the OS either breaks lots of stuff or is incredibly hard. Since I moved I don’t even know if we’re shipping what I worked on and it’s been years since VT-d has been intruded. Thunderbolt chips should have had their own IOMMU and not relied on the host IMHO
        Edit: I crossed some streams in my brain. Parts of this are wrong. Derp.

    • adisor19
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]Intel says the first Thunderbolt 3 devices should ship before the end of this year.[/quote<] So expect new MacBook Pros and new Thunderbolt 3 displays from Apple before the end of the year. Excellent ! Adi

      • Deanjo
      • 4 years ago

      I would actually guess a spring 2016 refresh for the MBP. You are more likely to see it in a refresh of the MacPro before the MBP.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 4 years ago

        [quote<]refresh of the MacPro[/quote<] LOLOLOLOL

          • chuckula
          • 4 years ago

          True, the ARM chips aren’t quite ready yet. Once the A9 comes out, we’re going AAA: APPLE ALL ARM!!

            • derFunkenstein
            • 4 years ago

            ALL ARMS ON DECK, CAP’N

            • blastdoor
            • 4 years ago

            You’re way off. If Apple goes ARM in macs, it will be at the 10 nm node, which likely means 2017. I think that’s what I’ve always said.

            If Apple doesn’t go ARM, it will be due to making a very favorable deal with AMD.

          • Deanjo
          • 4 years ago

          I fail to see what is so hilarious.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 4 years ago

            Simple: they sold the same machine for nearly 5 years (early 2009 to late 2013). I expect the current incarnation to chug along into 2016 at the least.

            • the
            • 4 years ago

            Sadly, I went out and bought one of the 2010 models [i<]after[/i<] the 2013 model was announced. I wanted that GPU upgradability. Until Apple comes around and stops designing form over function, this could very well be the last Mac I purchase.

            • blastdoor
            • 4 years ago

            I’ll keep purchasing Macs, but my 2009 Mac Pro might be the last Mac Pro I purchase if the design choices in the 2013 Mac Pro continue to be the only option in the future.

            In my case it’s not upgradability that’s the issue. For me, it’s the balance between CPU and GPU. I don’t need that much GPU — I’d prefer much more CPU. Give me two Xeon sockets and one GPU and I’d buy the current form factor.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            You are sorely mistaken. The 1st Gen Mac Pro was refreshed after introduction in 2006 on January 2008, March 2009, August 2010 and the last refresh was June 2012.

            [url<]http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/#Mac_Pro[/url<]

            • derFunkenstein
            • 4 years ago

            The 2009, 2010,& 2012 versions all had the same motherboard. The last two are both identified as MacPro5,1 and the first one can have the boot ROM updated with the latter one’s firmware to run 6-core CPUs. It’s the same board with an arbitrary lick placed on it. Early 2009 to December 2013, almost 5 years. So like I said…

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            [quote<]So like I said...[/quote<] Do you know what a refresh is? I do not think you do. (And BTW, the 2009 board is different than the 2010 and 2012's).

            • the
            • 4 years ago

            Which board and what was the difference? That generation was a bit weird as the CPU socket(s) and north bridge chip were all on a daughter card. Various IO chips like the Ethernet and Firewire controllers were all on the main motherboard.

    • chuckula
    • 4 years ago

    Thunderbolt shall rise again.

      • Mourmain
      • 4 years ago

      For what is dead may never die!

        • rika13
        • 4 years ago

        It was never dead, just faking it’s own death in order to rise and destroy all.

        • the
        • 4 years ago

        Cthulhu cable, I summon you!

          • DreadCthulhu
          • 4 years ago

          You need to say “Ia Ia Cthulhu fhtagn!” 13 times first. Its only polite.

            • the
            • 4 years ago

            It worked! It did summon you!

      • BiffStroganoffsky
      • 4 years ago

      But…I’m not dead. Come back Thursday.

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