Thunderbolt: I/O Speed-Demon

January 10, 2012, By George Lang

Your home computer communicates with its exterior peripherals (e.g., monitor, portable hard drive, DVD player, digital camera, etc.) through its input/output (I/O) interfaces. The latest technology, now being placed in both Apple and PC products is called Thunderbolt. The interface succeeds USB 3.0 and more than doubles its speed. In light of the fact that most computers being used today still have the twenty-times slower USB 2.0 as their fastest universal I/O, Thunderbolt is worth looking at.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), currently being held in Las Vegas is all over this relatively new technology; we say relatively because it has been installed in Apple and Mac products since last year. Also, Intel and Apple partnered on its development. But, the buzz at the show is all about its upcoming availability in PC products as well (see previous DeviceMAG article on Acer Aspire S5 Ultra-thin Ultrabook).

The hardware interface not only replaces the USB interface in your computer, but can take the place of older HDMI, DVI, and IEEE 1394/Firewire as well by using available adapters. Thunderbolt requires a special cable, rated for the new speed (10 Gbps), with special connectors at each end. As many as six Thunderbolt devices can be daisy-chained to a single I/O. Gamers and movie buffs will love the power of the new interface once it becomes available in big-screen HDTVs. It is already being used in high-end Apple products such as the Thunderbolt Display, and Pegasus R4 and R6 storage devices; miscellaneous Apple adapters are listed below as well.

Hitachi and Seagate both have, or will have, 4 TB, Thunderbolt-enabled portable hard drives. Get used to the need-for-speed; it is here to stay!

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