Intel's Thunderbolt Offers Superfast Transfer Rates

Apple is the first computer maker to adopt Intel's new superfast Thunderbolt data transfer technology, formerly known as Light Peak.
Posted February 24, 2011
By

David Needle


Intel took the wraps off its Thunderbolt high-speed data transfer product today that promises to greatly improve data transfer rates and more easily manage demanding applications like video editing.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) gets bragging rights as the first computer company to include Thunderbolt technology, which is included in new MacBook Pro laptops the company released today. Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) said it teamed with Apple on a technical collaboration to bring the technology to market.

"With ultra-fast transfer speeds, support for high-resolution displays and compatibility with existing I/O technologies, Thunderbolt is a breakthrough for the entire industry and we think developers are going to have a blast with it," Bob Mansfield, Apple's senior vice president of Mac Hardware Engineering, said in a statement.

The new Thunderbolt ports on the MacBook Pros look like the existing Mini DisplayPort connection on earlier MacBook Pros, with a new lightning bolt icon. But the 10 GB transfer rate will give Thunderbolt systems a huge speed boost; for example, Intel said users will be able to transfer a high-definition movie in less than 30 seconds.

Intel said the small Thunderbolt connector is suitable for mobile computers and devices. "With Thunderbolt you could have an ultrathin laptop and distribute functions to an external box or display and you'd have workstation performance" Ray Askew, a senior product marketing engineer, said at today's press briefing.

Thunderbolt combines high-speed data and HD video connections together onto a single cable via two communications methods, or protocols, PCI Express for data transfer and DisplayPort for displays. Intel noted that the widely-used PCI Express has the flexibility to connect to almost any type of device, while DisplayPort can drive greater than 1080p resolution displays and up to eight channels of audio simultaneously. Thunderbolt is compatible with existing DisplayPort displays and adapters.

"We're very excited about Thunderbolt and what it will enable in new products," Jason Ziller, marketing director for Thunderbolt technology at Intel, said at today's briefing. "We see it as complementary to other I/O technology like USB 3.0, giving you the ability to do things faster and easier."

Ziller said Thunderbolt's ability to speed HD media creation will be a key application. "MacBook Pros are first but we're making this technology available to the industry," he said.

A number of storage and media players, including Promise, LaCie, Western Digital, Apogee and Avid, announced plans to release products based on Thunderbolt.

"Thunderbolt technology is a breakthrough in I/O technology and represents the future of mobile computing," Philippe Spruch, chairman and general manager at LaCie, said in a statement. "Soon you will be able to carry all the power and functionality of desktop environments in compact devices."

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.




Tags: Apple, Intel, MacBook Pro, data transfer, PCI


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