Can someone explain to an idiot like me what the Thurdebolt is for on 11" MBA(2013)?

arrowtree

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 30, 2013
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can someone explain to an idiot like me what the Thurdebolt is for on 11" MBA(2013)?

thanks!
 

Dweez

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Jun 13, 2011
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Down by the river
Use it to connect external storage or a Thunderbolt display. I use an SSD in a Thunderbolt adapter for very fast external storage.
 

arrowtree

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Original poster
Nov 30, 2013
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Use it to connect external storage or a Thunderbolt display. I use an SSD in a Thunderbolt adapter for very fast external storage.
Is it faster than using a SSD adapter with USB 3.0 connector?

Thanks! :)
 

Mrbobb

macrumors 601
Aug 27, 2012
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Is it faster than using a SSD adapter with USB 3.0 connector?
Technically the TB interface is faster than USB3, but in real life, don't know.

TB attached storage too used to be expensive, I haven't kept up with the pricing. But if $ is no object, the TB interface is, technically, the fastest port you can plug things into, AS LONG AS, already mention the adapter whatever can keep up with it.
 

Boyd01

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Feb 21, 2012
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I have used the thunderbolt port on my 11" MBA to connect a 46" HDTV, an old 23" Apple Cinema Display and thunderbolt disks. I got a Seagate dock for about $140 that accepts their backup plus desktop drives (about $80-$150 depending on size), so the cost is not so unreasonable. These drives actually have e-SATA interfaces and the dock converts it to Thunderbolt. It also has a pass-through port that I connect my Cinema Display to.

The lack of firewire was an adjustment for me, coming from a MBP. I have quite a large amount of video on firewire drives, and would need to move it to thunderbolt if I ever want to re-edit those old projects. I could get a firewire > thunderbolt adaptor, but then I wouldn't be able to use my external monitor. There are docks that provide a variety of ports, but they are expensive. Regardless, I'm quite pleased with my current setup on the MBA.

I also had to replace my old firewire audio interface with a new USB interface, but it was quite old and I needed an upgrade anyway. In the end, it's just cool to have such a powerful machine in such a tiny package. And it is much, much faster than the 2008 MBP that it replaced.
 

thebrobrah

macrumors regular
Jun 13, 2013
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Technically the TB interface is faster than USB3, but in real life, don't know.

TB attached storage too used to be expensive, I haven't kept up with the pricing. But if $ is no object, the TB interface is, technically, the fastest port you can plug things into, AS LONG AS, already mention the adapter whatever can keep up with it.
theoretically its faster...but your ssd cannot saturate usb 3...let alone TB..
 

BornAgainMac

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Feb 4, 2004
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For most people, the Thunderbolt connector on the MBA will be used to connect it to the Apple Thunderbolt display and allow you to use the slower USB 2.0 ports on the back of the display.
 

boast

macrumors 65816
Nov 12, 2007
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To hook to an awesome dock (read caldigit station) so that you can easily connect to ethernet, usb kb&m and display with just one cable to your MBA- and then easily disconnect it and take your MBA with you.

Still not as smooth as thinkpads with the dock connection at the bottom, but pretty close.
 

Boyd01

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For most people, the Thunderbolt connector on the MBA will be used to connect it to the Apple Thunderbolt display
Do you really think so? They're very nice, but also very expensive. I'd be willing to bet that most people use the port with non-thunderbolt displays such as HDMI, DVI or even VGA.
 

Orr

macrumors 6502
Oct 8, 2013
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Do you really think so? They're very nice, but also very expensive. I'd be willing to bet that most people use the port with non-thunderbolt displays such as HDMI, DVI or even VGA.
Definitely this.
 

Meister

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Oct 10, 2013
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Use it to connect external storage or a Thunderbolt display. I use an SSD in a Thunderbolt adapter for very fast external storage.
how is an ssd externally faster via thunderbolt?
the bottleneck is with the ssd not with the cable.
usb3 gets u several gb/s, but the ssd only gets maybe 500mb/s.

What difference would the thunderbolt make?
 

Dweez

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Jun 13, 2011
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how is an ssd externally faster via thunderbolt?
the bottleneck is with the ssd not with the cable.
usb3 gets u several gb/s, but the ssd only gets maybe 500mb/s.

What difference would the thunderbolt make?
The OP asked what thunderbolt could be used for, and I provided an example of what I use it for. "Very fast external storage" meaning substantially faster than, say, a 7200 rpm disk.
 

Meister

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The OP asked what thunderbolt could be used for, and I provided an example of what I use it for. "Very fast external storage" meaning substantially faster than, say, a 7200 rpm disk.
I was thinking about this too.
But then i realized that thunderbolt does not make your storage faster.

thunderbolt = cable
7200 rpm = disc
ssd = disc

the cable is fast but the disc is slow. might as well use a cheaper usb cable.

the only real world use for thunderbolt is 4k displays.
 

theSeb

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Aug 10, 2010
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Technically the TB interface is faster than USB3, but in real life, don't know.

TB attached storage too used to be expensive, I haven't kept up with the pricing. But if $ is no object, the TB interface is, technically, the fastest port you can plug things into, AS LONG AS, already mention the adapter whatever can keep up with it.

TB is faster than USB 3 in real life, even when just using a single 7200 external HDD. The difference is not large in this use case, but there is a difference. It really shows up when copying large numbers of small files as USB 3 does not support command queuing.
 
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Consultant

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Jun 27, 2007
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High resolution 1440p displays that can't be driven using HDMI or regular DVI (requires Dual-DVI).

Two external displays.

Firewire, Gigabit ethernet, external RAID, external PCI-E cards, etc.



how is an ssd externally faster via thunderbolt?
the bottleneck is with the ssd not with the cable.
usb3 gets u several gb/s, but the ssd only gets maybe 500mb/s.

What difference would the thunderbolt make?
USB requires CPU cycles when in use. Firewire / Thunderbolt have dedicated chips to ensure that it doesn't use CPU, that's why they seem more expensive than USB.
 

theSeb

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Aug 10, 2010
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how is an ssd externally faster via thunderbolt?
the bottleneck is with the ssd not with the cable.
usb3 gets u several gb/s, but the ssd only gets maybe 500mb/s.

What difference would the thunderbolt make?
You're mixing up bits and bytes. USB 3 is theoretically capable of 5 Gb/s. 5 Gb/s is less than 500 MB/s (when discussing USB 3's theoretical speed of 5 Gb/s)

b and B is not the same thing.
 
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hindmost

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Jan 14, 2009
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I was thinking about this too.
But then i realized that thunderbolt does not make your storage faster.

thunderbolt = cable
7200 rpm = disc
ssd = disc

the cable is fast but the disc is slow. might as well use a cheaper usb cable.

the only real world use for thunderbolt is 4k displays.

Well, in the 'real world' many of us have machines and external drives having FireWire 800 ports. The MacBook Air does NOT have any FireWire ports but does have a Thunderbolt port.

Thus, using my handy-dandy Thunderbolt to FireWire cable I can easily do stuff like using SuperDuper on the MBA to clone my files to my FireWire External hard drive.
 

theSeb

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Aug 10, 2010
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Actually, no it isn't.
You're right in a theoretical sense, but I was keeping it simple and within the context of USB 3 and its advertised speed of 5 Gb/s. You'll not achieve 5 Gb/s via USB 3 even if the device is capable of it. You'll not achieve 500 MB/s, even if the device is capable of it. I have edited my post to clarify what I meant.
 

pickaxe

macrumors 6502a
Nov 29, 2012
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You're right in a theoretical sense, but I was keeping it simple and within the context of USB 3 and its advertised speed of 5 Gb/s. You'll not achieve 5 Gb/s via USB 3 even if the device is capable of it. You'll not achieve 500 MB/s, even if the device is capable of it. I have edited my post to clarify what I meant.
Well yeah, I agree - my nitpicking was unnecessary :)