A Geek With Guns

Views from a geek gun nut

Thunderbolt I/O

I’m kind of a gadget whore. I love new and shiny devices and honestly the MacBook Pro line hasn’t really had anything shiny added in a few years. This year Apple finally lifted a few fingers and added something new, Thunderbolt. I should first note that Thunderbolt is the new marketing name for Intel’s LightPeak technology which doesn’t actually run on anything fiber (hence the need for a name change).

I want to talk a bit about Thunderbolt because it looks fucking awesome. Apple’s implementation uses the mini DisplayPort connector which I find a bit odd but at the same thing it’s a pretty nice sized connector so I’m not going to argue (unlike the giant plug for FireWire 800). I would say Thunderbolt is Intel’s answer to USB 3.0 but it’s really not. Thunderbolt has a maximum read and write speed of 10Gbps which is pretty damned impressive. Currently it’s only used to connect to monitors but any peripheral should be capable of plugging into a Thunderbolt port including USB 3.0 hubs and even graphics cards. How? Well underneath everything Thunderbolt uses good old PCI Express as it’s transport mechanism. This is what makes Thunderbolt more than a simple USB competitor, it can act like a faster PCI Express slot on any laptop built by somebody besides Apple.

The other nice feature of Thunderbolt is the fact devices can be plugged in sequence. This means even through this is only a single Thunderbolt port you can plug in another Thunderbolt device to the primary one much like SCSI or FireWire. This means you could have a Thunderbolt capable monitor at home with an external Thunderbolt hard drive plugged in. When you plug in the monitor both the monitor and the hard drive will start up and connect to your laptop.

Honestly Thunderbolt is pretty impressive technology to say the least. I can’t wait to have a computer with it equipped in a few years (as that’s how long it will take before any peripherals come out that use Thunderbolt anyways).

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Written by Christopher Burg

February 28, 2011 at 11:00 am

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