Thunderbolt Technology Finally Arrives on PC But Not All Devices Supported

Thunderbolt Technology Finally Arrives on PC But Not All Devices Supported

Earlier today, Intel provided us with an update on Thunderbolt technology's latest developments. If you have not been following technology news lately, Thunderbolt is a new high-speed, dual protocol I/O that provides up to 10Gbps of bi-directional transfer speeds. What this simply means is that with Thunderbolt technology integrated into today's PC and notebooks (and upcoming Ultrabooks), you'll get extreme transfer speeds between a Thunderbolt-supported device (like an external SSD) and a Thunderbolt-equipped PC over a single cable connection. On the same connection that can be daisy-chained to as many as 6 other devices, both data (PCI Express) and video (DisplayPort) can be transferred to various devices that support it.

Although Thunderbolt Technology has been made available on Apple iMacs and MacBooks for more than a year now, users will soon begin to see more of such technology embedded in upcoming PCs and laptops. As of today, Intel says that there are over 60 Thunderbolt-enabled products from PC OEMs like Acer, Lenovo, Asus, Gigabyte and MSI and storage brands like Seagate, Promise Technology, ADATA, LaCie and Western Digital.

All kinds of Thunderbolt-enabled devices were on display during the event.

A handful of upcoming motherboards based on the Intel Z77 chipset will come equipped with a Thunderbolt controller.

Logically, all Thunderbolt devices should not have issues connecting to various host devices, be it on a Mac or an upcoming PCs. However, we were told that it would not be the case with Thunderbolt technology. Similar to USB's early days, Thunderbolt devices would require proper drivers to function. As such, not all Thunderbolt-enabled devices created for the Mac will automatically work on the PC. Users would require to ensure that drivers are available for their operating system before purchasing or using any of such devices. Even displays that run on the Thunderbolt port would require some form of driver support on the PC. A good example would be Apple's 27-inch Thunderbolt display which currently do not support PC. According to Intel, there are about 20 Thunderbolt devices available for the Mac today do not yet have a Windows certified driver.

Even though early adopters of Thunderbolt would be faced with some driver issues, it is expected that when more of such devices make their way into the market, driver support for PC would eventually be sorted out and users will find more devices made for either the PC or Mac.

Besides drivers, Intel also mentioned that more cable manufacturers are supporting Thunderbolt technology and users can expect to find cheaper cables in the future (as much as 25% lower in cost as compared to what you can find in the stores today). Longer optical cables are also in the works, with lengths of up to 20m will be made available in the second half of this year. 

For now, Thunderbolt is here to stay and may eventually grow to become a mainstream high-speed I/O technology for all PCs and laptops.

If you're interested to find out more about Thunderbolt and look for products that support this technology, head on over to Intel's Thunderbolt site for more details.

Optical Thunderbolt cables can deliver signals to devices located as far as 20m away from the PC. Shown here is a prototype optical cable that measures 30m in length.

Thunderbolt chips are no larger than a NT$10 coin. From left: Intel 82524EF first generation host/device controller, DSL3510/DSL3310 second generation host/device controller, and DSL2210 second generation single-port device controller.

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