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Old Sep 15, 2011, 11:40 AM   #1
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Intel Details Thunderbolt Spec: New Chips Coming Next Year, But What About Fiber Optic Cables?




This is my next reports on an Intel presentation at IDF yesterday detailing specifications for the Thunderbolt connectivity standard, demonstrating the company's commitment to the platform. The presentation reveals a long list of details on the standard, including the use of a Mini DisplayPort-compatible plug as found on Apple's Thunderbolt-enabled Mac models, officially disapproving of Sony's plans to utilize USB as the connector for Thunderbolt.




The report notes that Thunderbolt cable lengths are currently limited to three meters due to their reliance on electrical connections. Thunderbolt, which began under the codename "Light Peak", was originally intended to offer fiber optic cables, but Intel is continuing to work on that technology to bring it to consumers. The company is apparently planning to make fiber optic Thunderbolt cables available beginning next year, but they will run at the same speeds as with the current copper wire cables.
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What about active optical Thunderbolt cables? Intel says that they will be released "sometime next year" and enable lengths of "tens of meters." Unfortunately, the first round of active optical cables will operate at the exact same speed as current cables, 10Gbps. Intel says that is necessary because it wants those cables to conform to the current spec, but that faster speeds are certainly possible into the further future. All cables have two channels and can work as a Displayport cable (but not, obviously, vice versa).
IDG News takes an opposing view based on an interview with Intel executive Dadi Perlmutter, seeing optical cables as still being years away from being competitive with the copper cables.
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The trend of using copper wires could continue, and it could be many years before fiber optics are used in Thunderbolt.

"It's going to be way out," Perlmutter said. "At the end of the day it's all about how much speed people need versus how much they would be willing to pay."

The cost of implementing fiber optics is significantly higher than copper, and copper can transfer data at adequate speeds at this stage, Perlmutter said. There is still more room for data transfers to jump on copper.

"Copper will continue to improve, which happens. There have been many technologies that had been predicted dead 20 years ago that are still making good progress. We'll see," Perlmutter said.
Meanwhile, Intel continues to advance the technology used in its controller chips for Thunderbolt, planning for the successors to its four-channel Light Ridge chip used in the MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac and its scaled-down two-channel Eagle Ridge chip used in the MacBook Air. According to AnandTech, Intel's 2012 Thunderbolt chip is known as Cactus Ridge, and will also be offered in four-channel and two-channel versions. No details on pricing or other improvements have yet been disclosed, but the Intel is said to be planning to offer Cactus Ridge in packages measuring in as 12 mm by 12 mm.

Article Link: Intel Details Thunderbolt Spec: New Chips Coming Next Year, But What About Fiber Optic Cables?
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 11:41 AM   #2
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Speed increase
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 11:49 AM   #3
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What I don't like about this whole thunderbolt idea is that the connection for a monitor is in the mix, and the macs (except the iMac) don't have more than 1 connection.

This presents a problem if you're trying to attach a hard drive or some other future device, and from what I read a display has to be last in the chain, so you need to plug it thru an external drive case if you have one...

IMO they should have left the displayport alone, and just created separate thunderbolt connector.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 11:50 AM   #4
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How come the official spec is for 1 display + 6 devices and the macbook pros and iMacs (maybe mac mini too?) can do 6 devices + 2 displays?
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 11:58 AM   #5
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Intel is said to be planning to offer Cactus Ridge in packages measuring in as 12 mm by 12 mm.
how big is the current?
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:01 PM   #6
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There's no need to have fiber at the same as copper, when copper can provide power.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:02 PM   #7
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This presents a problem if you're trying to attach a hard drive or some other future device, and from what I read a display has to be last in the chain, so you need to plug it thru an external drive case if you have one...
Display has to be last in the chain only in the case it is not a thunderbolt compatible display. Otherwise - you can daisy chain devices behind your display.

For this reason - I really do like the fact it is combined together with the display cable, because now display can be a docking station for a laptop.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:02 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by HiVolt View Post
What I don't like about this whole thunderbolt idea is that the connection for a monitor is in the mix, and the macs (except the iMac) don't have more than 1 connection.

This presents a problem if you're trying to attach a hard drive or some other future device, and from what I read a display has to be last in the chain, so you need to plug it thru an external drive case if you have one...

IMO they should have left the displayport alone, and just created separate thunderbolt connector.
Well then they should just add 2 thunderbolt ports. How is 1 thunderbolt + 1 display port better than that?
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:04 PM   #9
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Thank goodness they're ditching USB-style connections...

USB has got to be the worst design for a connector ever as far as the shape. There's no easy way to see which way the thing should be inserted. I don't even care if it's Apple's standard that's adopted so long as it's a standard where I can simply look and see which way the cable should be inserted.

(Oh, and Firewire 800 also deserves similar mention as a poorly designed connection type.)
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:05 PM   #10
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How come the official spec is for 1 display + 6 devices and the macbook pros and iMacs (maybe mac mini too?) can do 6 devices + 2 displays?
It's probably because it's dual channel. 6+1 per channel. The second channel is probably all DisplayPort.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:06 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by HiVolt View Post
What I don't like about this whole thunderbolt idea is that the connection for a monitor is in the mix, and the macs (except the iMac) don't have more than 1 connection.

This presents a problem if you're trying to attach a hard drive or some other future device, and from what I read a display has to be last in the chain, so you need to plug it thru an external drive case if you have one...

IMO they should have left the displayport alone, and just created separate thunderbolt connector.
A thunderbolt display can fit anywhere in the chain. However a non-thunderbolt display has to be at the end for one very good reason... there is no second thunderbolt port to chain from. So the input can go in, but how do you get the next device to connect.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:09 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by cult hero View Post
USB has got to be the worst design for a connector ever as far as the shape. There's no easy way to see which way the thing should be inserted. I don't even care if it's Apple's standard that's adopted so long as it's a standard where I can simply look and see which way the cable should be inserted.

(Oh, and Firewire 800 also deserves similar mention as a poorly designed connection type.)
I think Displayport/Thunderbolt is a bit too square, personally. I think we need a trapezoidal connector, something with pins, maybe 9 or so. They can be arranged in two rows, one with five pins, the other with four....
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:09 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by HiVolt View Post
What I don't like about this whole thunderbolt idea is that the connection for a monitor is in the mix, and the macs (except the iMac) don't have more than 1 connection.

This presents a problem if you're trying to attach a hard drive or some other future device, and from what I read a display has to be last in the chain, so you need to plug it thru an external drive case if you have one...

IMO they should have left the displayport alone, and just created separate thunderbolt connector.
I'm not seeing your problem... just daisy chain the devices you want together. If you are right and the display has to be last then what is wrong with that? The idea is that the performance won't be noticeably affected even with multiple devices connected to the same thunderbolt port. It's plug n' play so unplugging your monitor to add a device is not a problem.

Also, if you will notice the MBPs and iMacs still have firewire 800 ports. As thunderbolt becomes more widely adopted I can see apple phasing out firewire and adding another thunderbolt port in it's place.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:10 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiVolt View Post
What I don't like about this whole thunderbolt idea is that the connection for a monitor is in the mix, and the macs (except the iMac) don't have more than 1 connection.

This presents a problem if you're trying to attach a hard drive or some other future device, and from what I read a display has to be last in the chain, so you need to plug it thru an external drive case if you have one...

IMO they should have left the displayport alone, and just created separate thunderbolt connector.
Thunderbolt devices currently are fairly heavy desktop RAIDs. How many of those are you moving around?

Mac Mini has HDMI port + Thunderbolt
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:12 PM   #15
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Hopefully the big Thunderbolt push at IDF will dispel the myth that Thunderbolt is proprietary to Apple, and help it take off. The more PC manufacturers adopt this, the more likely we'll see some good products produced to take advantage of the port.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:20 PM   #16
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Nice. This confirms everything we already knew. I could have sworn Intel already told us all of this, but oh well.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:26 PM   #17
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.IDG News takes an opposing view based on an interview with Intel executive Dadi Perlmutter, seeing optical cables as still being years away from being competitive with the copper cables.
Competitive in short distance speed at low cost. Competitive in distance..... it is no contest. Copper isn't even in the game.

If primarily concerned with adding a docking station and an external drive on your desk. Copper has lots of advantages. However, if trying to displace usage of FW in longer haul distances ( 50-100m ) they'll need the optical options. I think the "opposition" comments are about when/if optical could replace copper as the default/mainstream cable. Yeah, that is many years out. But there really isn't a conflict when have different objectives.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:26 PM   #18
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I want to see Wireless Thunderbolt. I see it in nature all the time.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:30 PM   #19
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It's probably because it's dual channel. 6+1 per channel.
No, it is 6 TB devices total on all the chains (implicitly the primary host comptuer makes the 7th). You can have a DP dangling on the end.

TB is an aggregator. You're not gonig to have lots of aggregators on a chain. One, they tend to be more expensive so not going to buy many. Two, if are expensive high bandwidth devices you'll run out of bandwidth.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:31 PM   #20
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So will the Thunderbird chip be native with Ivy Bridge?
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:33 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiVolt View Post
What I don't like about this whole thunderbolt idea is that the connection for a monitor is in the mix, and the macs (except the iMac) don't have more than 1 connection.

This presents a problem if you're trying to attach a hard drive or some other future device, and from what I read a display has to be last in the chain, so you need to plug it thru an external drive case if you have one...

IMO they should have left the displayport alone, and just created separate thunderbolt connector.
Agree 100%. This opens the possibility of a user accidentally using a Mini DisplayPort cable instead of a Thunderbolt cable to try to connect a hard drive or whatever. Sure, there are markings on the cable, but markings often wear off. It's always best to change the physical connection (unless you are able to use the exact same physical wires, like from USB 1.1 to USB 2.0).
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:35 PM   #22
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Well then they should just add 2 thunderbolt ports. How is 1 thunderbolt + 1 display port better than that?
Probably will be Apple's explanation when they nuke FW ports in some future designs. See two is better than one. ( legacy problem? .. buy that $90 FW dongle. )
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:40 PM   #23
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This all sounds like smaller,faster SCSI.
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:40 PM   #24
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Old Sep 15, 2011, 12:43 PM   #25
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How is the 2 channel version going to work? No bi directional or no displayport?
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