Interesting note on Thunderbolt expansion for Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by MacTower, Jul 16, 2011.

  1. MacTower macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2011
    I'm not sure if anyone has seen this yet, but in examining the System Profiler on several non Thunderbolt-equipped Mac systems, I've come across an interesting tidbit. It could simply be related to the difference in hardware, but I've decided to be optimistic and infer that it means that the expected Thunderbolt expansion cards for Mac Pro are forthcoming.

    On computers with no chance of ever getting Thunderbolt, such as Mac minis and older iMacs, the System Profiler reports "No hardware was found."

    On Mac Pro systems, which will hopefully see PCI-Express based Thunderbolt expansion cards as an option soon, the System Profiler reports "No drivers are loaded."

    Thunderbolt equipped systems of course report information about the available ports.

    Examples from a few systems I have:

    2009 Mac Pro 8-core

    2009 iMac 24"

    2009 Mac mini

    Example from a 2011 i7 iMac with (2) Thunderbolt ports.
  2. Aldaris macrumors 68000


    Sep 7, 2004
    Salt Lake
    Although I had, and many others hoped for light peak to introduced last year, it failed to do so, and we left hope that a card upgrade might be a possibility. It was later reveled that the thunderbolt chip needed to be with the logic board. I don't think there is a chance of gaining thunderbolt support without a factory thunderbolt machine.

    To date I have not heard anything of anyone working on a thunderbolt upgrade card. Only Drives, Card bays, and Raids.
  3. initialsBB macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2010
    It does look like there needs to be a special "channel" for the data to go through...
  4. Inconsequential macrumors 68000

    Sep 12, 2007
    Give the engineers time, they will find a way.

    Even if it is going to be a PCI-E card with a pass through to a GPU or something.
  5. MacTower thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2011
    The talk of 'special channels' is a bit exaggerated. Intel has stated that Thunderbolt won't even be integrated into Ivy Bridge; it is still a separate controller.

    Currently, the Thunderbolt controller is linked via PCIe to the Cougar Point PCH and by some internal magic to the GPU. This hardwired link to the GPU is what makes me believe that this will come in the form of a GPU upgrade with a slew of thunderbolt ports. I'm fine with that. I'm ready to upgrade from my 5770, anyway.

    You can see in Intel's diagram here that the Thunderbolt controller has a DisplayPort connection to either a Discrete GFX, or directly to the PCH when an integrated graphics solution is used.

    We won't know for sure until someone releases one. Based on the level of integration in this technology, I'm thinking that it may be difficult for anyone but Apple or Intel to actually bring this product to market in any reasonable timeframe, though. I could be wrong, though, and maybe LaCie or Promise are working on an expansion card.
  6. UnitedAlliance macrumors newbie

    Jul 13, 2011
    Not possible due to Intel's design.
  7. Lymmlad macrumors newbie

    Aug 2, 2011
    Recently bought a Mac Pro (without Thunderbolt). If I could pop in a pci card to add Thunderbolt, I'd buy a new T/b display immediately. If not, I won't upgrade for a few of years at least. So, Apple would lose one certain sale of the new display. How many other like me?
  8. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Click on the SAS inventory report. See a very similar response ? It is a general application to be used on all Macs. That means it gets categories that sometimes don't belong on certain Macs.

    The Thunderbolt controller is going to appear as a PCI-e switch. The Mac Pros have one, but it isn't TB.
    The different message may be just contingent on looking for any switch and then a more specific one.

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