Computex 2012: Finally, Thunderbolt Connection for the PC Platform
By Gabriel Torres on June 5, 2012 - 10:51 AM

Thunderbolt, formerly known by its codename “Light Peak,” is a new transmission interface developed by Intel that has been available on the Mac computer line-up since the release of the Macbook Pro, in 2011. This is rather ironic, since for decades, Intel was a synonym for PCs. But finally, Intel officially announced the support for Thunderbolt on the PC, with the release of its second-generation Thunderbolt controllers, DSL3310 and DSL3510, codenamed “Cactus Ridge.” During this Computex, Intel showcased motherboards from ASUS, Gigabyte, and Foxconn and laptops from ASUS, Gigabyte, Lenovo, and others with an integrated Thunderbolt controller.

The Thunderbolt connection allows the transfer of data (using the PCI Express protocol) and video (using the DisplayPort protocol) through a single cable. The maximum theoretical transfer rate is 10 Gbps, which allows a full-length HD movie to be transferred in 30 seconds and backups 1 TB of data in less than five minutes, according to Intel.

Cables can be electrical, with a maximum length of 9.8 feet (3 meters), or optical, with a maximum length of 65.6 feet (20 meters). Thunderbolt makes use of a mini DisplayPort connector (mini DP), and the cables have circuitry at their ends, making them “active” cables. The connector is the same for both electric and optical cables. You can connect the Thunderbolt cable directly to a video monitor with a mini DP connector (or to a full-sized DisplayPort connector using an adapter) or to a Thunderbolt-enabled external storage device.

Since Thunderbolt is based on existing protocols, no additional drivers need to be installed.

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Figure 1: Thunderbolt controllers for 2012

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Figure 2: Thunderbolt port on a motherboard from ASUS

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Figure 3: Thunderbolt electrical cable

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