Intel Titan Ridge Thunderbolt controllers look to the future and the past


Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) can be pretty awesome, even if getting access to the 40 Gbps of bandwidth isn't as straightforward as Intel has advertised. The standard has yet to really spread across the entire PC market, as it's currently reserved primarily for relatively high-end laptops and Apple's premium products. Intel is hoping to spread the adoption of TB3 with its just-announced JHL7x40 "Titan Ridge" series of TB3 controller chips.

The new silicon doesn't crank up the peak available bandwidth when compared to the current-gen Alpine Ridge parts, but it does add support for the DisplayPort 1.4 standard, up from version 1.2. Perhaps more interestingly, peripherals made with the JHL7440 controller chip will have a new basic compatibility mode for use with host machines without TB3 ports. All three Titan Ridge chips are fully backwards-compatible with existing TB3 cables and peripherals.

The JHL7340 and JHL7540 controller chips are made for PCs and other TB3 host devices. We expect JHL7340 to be a single-port chip and the JHL7540 to offer up a pair of ports, based on the configurations of the parts they replace in the product stack. Titan Ridge still offers up to a claimed 40 Gbps of total bandwidth and PCIe 3.0 connectivity.

The JHL7440 chip is aimed at next-generation TB3 peripherals like displays with DisplayPort 1.4 compatibility and the ability to charge the host device over the signal cable. The new chip also also allows for daisy-chaining a pair of 4K displays, though support for this feature will likely vary by device.

More importantly, monitor makers will have the option to include a fallback mode for machines with non-TB3 USB Type-C ports, something that could potentially spur monitor manufacturers to expand their TB3 offerings. Compatible displays could offer the full suite of TB3 capability when connected to TB3-enabled laptops while still offering basic display output support on computers with standard USB Type-C jacks. Dock manufacturers can also use the JHL7440 chip in their products the same way.

Intel says it plans to work with manufacturing partners to bring PCs, peripherals, and other products with JHL7x40 Titan Ridge TB3 controllers to market later this year.

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