It might not have seemed like we needed another way to connect computer components, but when you take a look at Thunderbolt, which made its debut on MacBook Pros today, you’ll see it’s going to be a welcome addition.
Formerly called Light Peak, this new way of connecting displays and peripherals is so much faster than its predecessors, it will probably take over as the preferred way to hook up drives, monitors and many other devices to Macs and PCs for the next few years. Here’s everything you need to know:
- It’s a much faster conduit for file transfer and video: 10 Gbps (gigabits per second), which is about twice as fast as USB 3.0 and 20 times faster than USB 2.0.
- How fast? Intel says Thunderbolt can ‘transfer a full-length HD movie in less than 30 seconds and back up 1 year of continuous MP3 playback in just over 10 minutes.’
- The tech was developed by Intel alone; Apple collaborated to bring it to market.
- It started out as Light Peak, but the first iteration used copper wire, according to ComputerWorld.
- It’s here now for MacBook Pros and on its way to PCs. But at first, only a developer’s kit with an add-in card will be available for PCs.
- One wire handles both video and data, but it is ‘complementary technology to USB 3.0,’ according to Intel.
- Can work on data streams in both directions at the same time, using the full 10 Gbps bandwidth in each direction, according to Intel.
- PCI Express is built in, so Thunderbolt will now make external devices as fast as internal ones, according to Apple.
- It provides 10 watts of power to peripherals, compared with 8 watts for FireWire 800 and 5 watts for USB 3.0
- On the way: 10-meter optical cable, according to PC Perspective.
- Apple’s version uses a mini DisplayPort connector but can be daisy-chained for multiple connections, according to Engadget.
- Thunderbolt devices and peripherals will start being shipped in the spring.