by Anton Shilov
05/23/2012 | 07:07 PM
Although Intel Corp. introduced its Thunderbolt technology about fifteen months ago, until very recently it was only utilized on notebooks from Apple and Sony Corp. as well as on some external storage devices. Apparently, it will be a while before it will get adopted by the masses. The rumour has it that makers of mainboards will launch an array new motherboards with Thunderbolt only in the second half of 2012.
Asustek Computer, Gigabyte Technology and Intel itself will shortly introduce a number of new motherboards supporting the Thunderbolt interconnection and will show them live at the Computex Taipei 2012 trade-show in the coming weeks. But the true green light to Thunderbolt will be given only in the second half of the year, when smaller and second-tier makers of mainboards start to bring platforms featuring Thunderbolt tech to the market.
According to a market rumour distributed by DigiTimes web-site, Thunderbolt "is expected to become one of the key" selling points for new motherboards in the second half of 2012.
Given the fact that Thunderbolt requires a chip that is solely sold by Intel at the moment, Thunderbolt-equipped platforms will likely be substantially more expensive than those without the new-generation interconnection technology. Still, since the competition between mainboard makers is pretty fierce, it is likely that the price of Thunderbolt-enabled mainboards will lose part of its premium within several months after the release. Unfortunately, it will not go away before mass external storage devices gain Thunderbolt and Intel integrates the tech into chipsets.
Thunderbolt technology supports two low-latency communications protocols - PCI Express for data transfer and DisplayPort for displays. Thunderbolt technology works on data streams in both directions, at the same time, so users get the benefit of full bandwidth in both directions, over a single cable. With the two independent channels, a full 10Gb/s of bandwidth can be provided for the first device in the chain of the devices. All Thunderbolt technology devices share a common Mini DisplayPort connector. Intel's Thunderbolt controllers interconnect a PC and other devices, transmitting and receiving packetized traffic for both PCIe and DisplayPort protocols and thus makers need to develop or use additional controllers to make their products compatible with the TB I/O interface.
Not a lot of devices these days can take advantage of Thunderbolt. Only external graphics cards, external solid-state drives as well as RAID-based storage solutions, professional equipment and some other applications need 10Gb/s demand. As a result, USB 3.0, which can theoretically provide up to 5Gb/s bandwidth, will continue to serve the majority of devices that exist today.