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One of the main criticisms of the new Thunderbolt connectivity standard embraced by Apple has been its cost, which adds a considerable premium to the prices of compatible peripherals. Even Thunderbolt cables are expensive, with Apple's 2-meter cable priced at $49, a price on par with offerings from the few other companies selling Thunderbolt cables so far.

In a report published earlier this week, Ars Technica took a look at why the cables are so expensive and investigated some of the upcoming advances that could help bring prices down beginning late this year or early next year.

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Inside an Apple Thunderbolt Cable connector (Source: iFixit)
As revealed in iFixit's teardown last year, Apple's Thunderbolt cable is expensive because it contains a significant number of chips and other circuitry, starting with the transceiver as noted by Ars Technica:
The chip is built using silicon germanium, "an expensive semiconductor process typically used for telecom applications," [Intersil marketing manager John] Mitchell told Ars. [...]

In addition to the transceiver, the current reference design also requires a separate microcontroller, as well as power management and voltage regulation chips to deliver the 3V data signals and 15V optional power supply for bus-powered devices. Essentially, there are four integrated circuits (IC) at either end of a Thunderbolt cable.
But Intersil appears set to simplify the design for Thunderbolt circuitry later this year with its own products that will reduce the number of chips and allow for cheaper cable to be used.
What Intersil calls an "Active Cable IC Solution for Thunderbolt Technology" appears to be the only complete turnkey solution we could find among manufacturers selling ICs for Thunderbolt. It combines the microcontroller and transceiver into a single signal processing chip, and combines power management and voltage regulators into a single power management chip. This cuts the number of required ICs from four to two.
With the new chips being manufactured using a 40-nanometer process, yield and cost efficiency are improved and heat generation is decreased, leading to further cost savings on the cable design. Combined with other improvements, Intersil's solution will bring substantial improvements in component costs, size, and power usage, which together should yield significant cost savings for consumers.

Article Link: Prices of Thunderbolt Cables Likely to Drop in 2013
 

Dr McKay

macrumors 68040
Aug 11, 2010
3,434
62
Kirkland
PC manufacters have been very slow to adopt, however perhaps it will gain traction. Although it's superior I can see it taking FireWires place as 2nd to USB3.
 

Yvan256

macrumors 603
Jul 5, 2004
5,084
1,017
Canada
Nope. Still a dinosaur.

Hands up how many of you own a Thunderbolt peripheral >2 years since launch?

My 2010 Mac mini doesn't have a Thunderbolt port, so I have zero incentive to buy any.

In fact, even the FireWire 800 port is unused, although it's very nice to have it as an option. However the only FireWire hardware I had was my 3rd generation iPod and its hard drive died a few months ago.
 

dagamer34

macrumors 65816
May 1, 2007
1,359
101
Houston, TX
PC manufacters have been very slow to adopt, however perhaps it will gain traction. Although it's superior I can see it taking FireWires place as 2nd to USB3.

PC manufacturers have only had access to it since this year. And it only gets it's true benefits on laptops which have no internal expansion ports. Problem is that unless you're dealing with professional equipment, the thing I think most people would want to use Thunderbolt with is a dock that had USB 3.0, eSATA, card reader, etc so that you only need to plug in 2 cables into your laptop: power and Thunderbolt.
 

usptact

macrumors regular
Apr 2, 2011
157
0
Some time ago we would laugh loud if offered a really expensive cable. Now they are trying to sell as an product by itself. Where that world is going? :rolleyes:
 

bungiefan89

macrumors 6502a
Apr 5, 2011
565
76
PC manufacters have been very slow to adopt, however perhaps it will gain traction. Although it's superior I can see it taking FireWires place as 2nd to USB3.
Actually, given how strong Thunderbolt seems to be, I think it could easily be an industry standard if they could drop the price.
Picture this: in the year 2015, the ONLY ports on most computers are USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt. You no longer have a need for VGA, DVI, HDMI, FireWire, or even Ethernet. All of those could be run through Thunderbolt and suddenly it's much easier to connect devices to computers. Yes, it would certainly take a long time to adopt the technology like that, but it sounds like a convenient world once fully adopted, doesn't it?
 

WindWaker

macrumors regular
Oct 13, 2011
182
0
USA
The prices of the actual hardware are so expensive this won't really make any difference in the popularity of such products...
 

SDAVE

macrumors 68040
Jun 16, 2007
3,578
601
Nowhere
TB is going to become super cheap soon once there is affordable peripherals out there.

You can get above SATA III speeds with it and soon enough enclosures will be here so we can pop in SSDs and get full speed.

Places like Monoprice will start to get TB cables soon enough.

USB3.0 is a nice upgrade to USB2.0, but still not as fast as TB.

FW800 is dead. I am still using them, though, glad that TB can work with multitude of ports.
 

kingtj

macrumors 68030
Oct 23, 2003
2,606
749
Brunswick, MD
Really needed in new Mac Pros first ....

The thing with Thunderbolt is, it's a high-end standard, suitable for power user/pro user needs more than anything else.

I could easily see this getting utilized by video editors, for example, who might want to pump uncompressed 1080p resolution video through it in large quantities. For them, the projects they're working on, not to mention the cameras they'd attach such a cable to, make the price of the cable rather irrelevant.

Problem is ... we don't even have a Mac Pro tower with the connector on it yet!


PC manufacters have been very slow to adopt, however perhaps it will gain traction. Although it's superior I can see it taking FireWires place as 2nd to USB3.
 

jclardy

macrumors 601
Oct 6, 2008
4,194
4,500
Nope. Still a dinosaur.

Hands up how many of you own a Thunderbolt peripheral >2 years since launch?

I will be owning a TB->Firewire adapter once it is released.

Anyways, Thunderbolt is not meant to be a mainstream consumer port.

USB is cheaper for manufacturers to implement, is supported in more machines (Other than just macs at the moment) and has sufficient data speeds for most consumer applications.

Basically, there is no point in using a super fast and expensive connection when you aren't going to use the bandwidth, which is why there are only RAID drives available for TB and not any $90 2TB 7200 RPM disks.

When SSD prices drop to a reasonable level, normal consumers will finally be able to use all the available bandwidth that thunderbolt provides.
 

Dan--

macrumors regular
Jul 30, 2008
237
23
Prices of cables have to come down by at least a factor of 2.

Peripherals need to drop by over $100.
 

ghostface147

macrumors 601
May 28, 2008
4,213
5,212
The cables do get rather toasty when transferring a high amount of data. I bought one of those goplex thunderbolt drives for my time machine backup and didn't notice a tremendous speed increase compared to firewire 800. Of course the biggest issue is the speed of mechanical hard drives. Now make it an SSD drive and it would fly, but a terabyte one would be rather expensive.
 

LimeiBook86

macrumors G3
May 4, 2002
8,001
45
Go Vegan
Very good news, now bring on some more price-friendly Thunderbolt adapters and hubs! :D I'd love to add a USB 3.0 port to my 2011 iMac via Thunderbolt.
 

radiogoober

macrumors 6502a
Jun 7, 2011
972
1
Nope. Still a dinosaur.

Hands up how many of you own a Thunderbolt peripheral >2 years since launch?

I own over a thousand dollars worth of TB peripherals.

----------

Actually, given how strong Thunderbolt seems to be, I think it could easily be an industry standard if they could drop the price.
Picture this: in the year 2015, the ONLY ports on most computers are USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt. You no longer have a need for VGA, DVI, HDMI, FireWire, or even Ethernet. All of those could be run through Thunderbolt and suddenly it's much easier to connect devices to computers. Yes, it would certainly take a long time to adopt the technology like that, but it sounds like a convenient world once fully adopted, doesn't it?

Whole-heartedly agree, except just have multiple Thunderbolt ports. Screw USB :)
 

baryon

macrumors 68040
Oct 3, 2009
3,887
2,946
What about when Thunderbolt goes optical? How will that work, will we need new Macs again? Isn't an optical cable basically just a piece of translucent plastic? Wouldn't it then be tons cheaper? Would that finally get rid of the freaking supercomputer built into the cable?

I miss the days when a cable was literally a piece of wire, and cost the same as a piece of wire. I'll switch to Thunderbolt if and when the price of a cable will be the same as the price of a USB cable. Until then, I have no problems with USB whatsoever.
 

AidenShaw

macrumors P6
Feb 8, 2003
18,667
4,676
The Peninsula
Neanderthal technology

Problem is that unless you're dealing with professional equipment, the thing I think most people would want to use Thunderbolt with is a dock that had USB 3.0, eSATA, card reader, etc so that you only need to plug in 2 cables into your laptop: power and Thunderbolt.

Why would you need more than one cable?

Why not zero cables, like most OEM laptop docks?

Think differently, for gord's sake. (as in "differently from Apple", since other vendors have had very nice solutions for at least a decade)
 

Fortimir

macrumors 6502a
Sep 5, 2007
669
435
Indianapolis, IN
Thunderbolt is amazing and, in the near future, it lives wonderfully side-by-side with USB. There's really nothing to dislike about Thunderbold aside from the price.

  • Ultra-high multi-path bandwidth anywhere from 10-20Gbps with copper and 100Gbps with fiber.
  • Forward-compatible with optical transceivers.
  • 3.3v to 18v capability on the line.
  • Small ports because the transceivers are on the cable.
  • Daisy-chainable.
  • For Mac users, DisplayPort and Thunderbolt play nicely.
As it supports data, video, audio, and power, you can use a single Thunderbolt port and single cable to connect everything. With adapters you can use virtually any protocol with it. It's essentially a huge pipe and you can throw anything you want at it.
 
Last edited:

chirpie

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2010
646
183
"Prices of Thunderbolt Cables Likely to Drop in 2013"

I don't mean to be a bit negative but...

"Prices of Anything Related to Technology Likely to Drop in 2013"

would most likely also work.
 
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