Thunderbolt | Technical Characteristics |

Thunderbolt is a computer connection format designed by Intel, which began work in 2007 under the codename Light Peak.
Thunderbolt is a computer connection format designed by Intel, which began work in 2007 under the codename Light Peak.


Thunderbolt is a computer connection format designed by Intel, which began work in 2007 under the codename Light Peak.

This connection was to eventually use fibre optics, although its first implantations used standard copper wires. This interface allows the use of protocols DisplayPort and PCI Express in the same interface. The connector Mini DisplayPort,
which was already present on Apple's computers, was chosen as the standard interface for Thunderbolt.
Version 3 of the Thunderbolt switches to the TYPE C USB connector, and therefore allows the use of the standard USB protocol on the same interface.
This version endorses the use of copper, as the use of cable as a power supply is also an important part of this interface.

The first computers to use it are, in chronological order, MacBook Pros, iMacs, MacBook Airs and Mac minis from Apple. They use Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors running on Sandy-Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell and Skylake micro-architects.
Connectors Thunderbolt 1 and 2 are fully compatible with the standard Mini DisplayPort to be able to connect external monitors.


Thunderbolt 1.0 - 10 Gbps (1 channel) / Thunderbolt 2.0 - 20 Gbps (2 channels)2 / Thunderbolt 3.0 - 40 Gbps (2 channels); up to 100 Gbps by 2020;
Two-way transfer (1 ascending channel, 1 descending channel);
Two channels per port on Thunderbolt 2.0 and 3.0;
Connecting multiple devices simultaneously (6 per port, including 2 screens);
Hot connection

The Light Peak Research Project
Ambitious connectivity

Intel launched the Light Peak project to replace the entire array of connectors on a computer with a single multi-purpose fibre optic cable.
LightPeak is an opportunity to make the transition from electric to optics and simplify connectivity for the user. We want to increase its speed by 10 Gbps in the years to come : from the moment you move photons rather than electrons, there is no limit to bandwidth. ยป

Justin Gattner (Vice President of Intel and boss of its research labs), 2010 Research@Intel Europe Conference

The goal is to use fiber optics instead of copper to transfer information. Copper has capabilities that are now coming to the end of their lives, with the democratization of high-definition flows, multi terabyte storage spaces that require appropriate transfers, etc.
As fibre optics are known to be fragile, it appears to be inappropriate for domestic use as a multimedia cable; however, Intel has ensured that the Thunderbolt is sufficiently flexible and robust. It is announced that the connector can be reconnected 7,000 times and rolled up to a diameter of 2 cm without any problems3.

Light Peak is capable of supporting multiple protocols : on the same cable, it could replace FireWire, USB, DisplayPort, Jack, Ethernet, SATA and many others at a speed that will eventually reach 100 gigabits per second. With its multi-protocol qualities and flexibility,
This universal connection will be able to move any type of data according to the needs of the device. For example, a monitor will be able to use a rate of 8 Gbps, while a slower hard drive will be content with 1 Gbps.
Commercial launch

Its first appearance is on Macbook Pro in the form of the Mini DisplayPort connector. It was the latter that was selected for the final adoption of the Thunderbolt standard.
Partnership with Apple
MacBook Pro 2011 Thunderbolt Port

MacBook Pros released in February 2011 are the first computers with a Thunderbolt port.
The 21-inch and 27-inch iMacs, which have been on the market since May 3, 2010, also have one and two Thunderbolt ports.
MacBook Airs and Mac minis released on July 20, 2011 also have a Thunderbolt port.
The MacBook Pro with Retina display released in October 2013 has two Thunderbolt 2.0 ports.
The Macbook Pros introduced in 2016 take a new step equipped only with four Thunderbolt 3.0 ports.

Adoption of Thunderbolt by other manufacturers

Following Intel's opening of Thunderbolt technology to manufacturers other than Apple in early 2012, this connection has been adopted by several manufacturers :

Alienware uses it for its M17x R54 range of laptops and its variants
DELL uses it on its XPS5 laptops and dell Dock TB156 docking station
ASUS uses it on its ROG7 Notebook series
Lenovo adopted it on the ThinkPad W5408
GIGABYTE has created a series of motherboards featuring Thunderbolt
HP used it on the HP Envy 14
Razer now uses it on its Razer Blade and Razer Blade Stealth laptops, but also with the Razer Core, an external GPU

Thunderbolt 3 (Alpine Ridge)

USB Type-C socket

Thunderbolt 3 was developed by Intel Israel and uses USB Type-C connectors

This new version offers the following new features :

Doubled bandwidth (40 Gbps)
The ability to carry power up to 100 watts
A change of connector to USB type C
HdMI 2.0 and Displayport 1.2 (allowing 60 Hz 4K resolution).
PCIe 3.0 Support
Is interconnected with processor sockets via PCIe 3.0 lines in x2 or x4
Thanks to an alternative mode of USB Type-C, Thunderbolt 3 ports allow the device to power and thus eliminate the need for separate power cable.