What you need to know about Thunderbolt

LaCie and Promise are the first Light Peak partners that announced to have on tock a Thunderbolt drive coming with their Little Big Disk SSDs. The Thunderbolt technology promises to deliver absurd data speeds. Let’s answer to some of the most common questions regarding Thunderbolt:

 

  • What is Thunderbolt?

 

Thunderbolt was called previously Light Peak. It is a new peripheral connection technology made by Intel and Apple, which will let you combine data, video, audio and power in a single connection. It is based on the DisplayPort and PCI Express architectures and will let you have a high speed connection between different peripherals like RAID arrays, hard drives or network interfaces. You can get speeds of over 10 GB/s.

 

  • There is any difference between Thunderbolt and Light Peak?

 

No, there isn’t. Light Peak was the code name gave by Intel to Thunderbolt. Apple’s current implementations make Thunderbolt to use only electrical circuitry, while the initial Intel design used either electrical or optical connection.

 

  • What is the purpose of PCI Express in all this equation?

 

PCI Express architecture is used to connect components from a Mac. It is connecting the processor, the hard drive or the graphic card. Thunderbolt will offer you a direct connection to the PCI Express bus, this being the principal reason of the high-speeds that you can gain.

 

  • What are the speeds that you can obtain with Thunderbolt?

 

Theoretically, a Thunderbolt channel can provide up to 10 Gbps.  Each thunderbolt port has 2 channels. You can transmit and receive data in the same time, option known as bi-directional. In reality, I think you will obtain a speed of 8 Gbps, which is much faster than any other existing technology, like FireWire 800, eSATA and USB 3.0.

 

  • What advantages you will have if you will use Thunderbolt?

 

The most important advantage is obviously the high speed connection that you can get. Also, another advantage is that Thunderbolt will support data, video, audio and power trough a single port and a single cable. Once you have got enough Thunderbolt devices and adapters you will be able to connect between them as many peripherals you want.

 

  • What type of physical connection Thunderbolt uses?

The Thunderbolt connector fits to the Mini DisplayPort that is founded on all recent Macs. On the newest MacBook devices you can find only a Thunderbolt port, without to have a separate DisplayPort. If you don’t have a Mini DisplayPort on your notebook, you can connect it trough any DisplayPort. Third party vendors will sell also some adapters so that you will be able to connect USB, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800 devices to Thunderbolt ports.

 

Connecting multiple devices, unlike USB 2.0, won’t affect any of the performance. Thunderbolt is specially designed to handle multiple devices.

 

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