Thunderbolt is a computer connection format designed by Intel, which started in 2007, under the name of code Light Peak.
This connection was to use term optical fiber, although its first locations use standard copper wires. This interface allows the use of the protocols DisplayPort and PCI Express in the same interface. The Mini DisplayPort connector,
that was already present on Apple computers, was chosen as the standard interface for Thunderbolt.
Version 3 of the Thunderbolt switches to the USB type C connector, and therefore allows the use of standard USB protocol on the same interface.
This version endorses the use of copper, because the use of the power supply cable is also an important part of this interface.
The first computers that use it are, in chronological order, the MacBook Pro, iMac, the MacBook Air as well as the mini Mac in the Apple manufacturer. They use processors Intel Core i5 or Core i7 running on Sandy-Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell and Skylake microarchitectures.
The connectors Thunderbolt 1 and 2 are fully compatible with standard Mini DisplayPort to connect external monitors.
Thunderbolt 1.0-10 Gbit/s (1 channel) / 2.0-20 Gbps (2 channels) 2 Thunderbolt / Thunderbolt 3.0-40 Gbit/s (2 channels); up to 100 Gbit/s by the year 2020.
Two-way transfer (amount 1 channel, 1 down channel);
Two channels per port on Thunderbolt 2.0 and 3.0;
Connection of several devices simultaneously (6 per port, including 2 screens);
The research project Light Peak
An ambitious connectivity
Intel has launched the project Light Peak in order to replace the whole present connectors on a computer through a single cable to fiber optics multi-purpose.
LightPeak, this is an opportunity to make the transition from electric to optics and simplify connectivity for the user. We want to increase his speed of 10 Gbps in the years to come : from the moment you move photons instead of electrons, there is no limit to the bandwidth. »
Justin Gattner (vice-president of Intel and patron of its research labs), the Research@Intel Europe 2010 Conference
The goal is to use fiber optics instead of copper to transfer information. Copper has abilities that today reach the end of life, with the democratization of the stream in high-definition, storage of several terabytes that require appropriate transfers, etc.
Optical fiber is known to be fragile, it seems that it is inappropriate for domestic use as a multimedia cable; However Intel has ensured that the Thunderbolt is sufficiently flexible and robust. It was announced that the connector can be reconnected 7,000 times and wrapped up to a diameter of 2 cm without issue3.
Light Peak is able to support several protocols : on a single cable, it could replace the connectors of FireWire, USB, DisplayPort, Jack, Ethernet, SATA, and many others at a speed which will reach 100 gigabits per second term. Strong qualities WebClient and its flexibility,
This universal connectivity can pass any type of data based on the needs of the device. A monitor will be able to use a flow rate of 8 Gbps while a hard drive less swift settle for 1 Gbps.
His first appearance is on a Macbook Pro in the form of the Mini DisplayPort connector. It is this which was retained for the final adoption of the standard Thunderbolt.
Partnership with Apple
MacBook Pro 2011 Thunderbolt Port
The MacBook Pro sold from February 2011 are the first computers equipped with a Thunderbolt port.
The iMac 21 and 27 inch marketed since May 3, 2010 are also equipped with one and two Thunderbolt ports.
The MacBook Air and Mac mini computers marketed since July 20, 2011 are also equipped with a Thunderbolt port.
The MacBook Pro with marketed in October 2013 Retina display are equipped with two Thunderbolt 2.0 ports.
The present Macbook Pro in 2016 cross a new not equipped with only four Thunderbolt 3.0 ports.
Adoption of Thunderbolt by other manufacturers
Following the opening early 2012 by Intel of Thunderbolt technology to manufacturers other than Apple, this connectivity has been adopted by several manufacturers :
Alienware uses it for its range of laptops M17x R54 and its variants
DELL uses it on his XPS5 laptops and its Dell Dock TB156 docking station
ASUS use on its series of Notebooks ROG7
Lenovo adopted it on the ThinkPad W5408
GIGABYTE has created a series of motherboards with Thunderbolt
HP has used it on the HP Envy 14
Razer it now uses on its laptops Razer Blade and Razer Blade Stealth, but also with the Razer Core, an external GPU
Thunderbolt 3 was developed by Intel Israel and uses connectors USB Type-C
This new version includes the following new features :
Bandwidth doubled (40 Gbps)
The ability to carry a power up to 100 watts
A change to the C type USB connector
Support of the standard HDMI 2.0 and Displayport 1.2 (allowing the display in 4K resolution at 60 Hz).
The standard PCIe 3.0 support
Is interconnected with sockets processor via PCIe 3.0 x 2 or x 4 lines
Thanks to an alternative mode of USB Type-C, Thunderbolt 3 ports allow the power supply to the device and so to eliminate the need for separate power cable.