You know the problem: your multi-megapixel SLR takes great pictures, the HD camcorder shoots outstanding video, and the smartphone in your hand goes “click!” a few million times a day. Mountains of data keep piling up, and pretty soon you’re pretty busy backing up, moving things around, and constantly waiting for your computer to finish up, because USB never seems fast enough for the demands of the modern media world.
While USB 3.0 is starting to offer some relief, Intel is entering the market with its even speedier “Thunderbolt” technology, developed in tandem with Apple and advertised as “the fastest data connection to your PC.” At an event in San Francisco on Thursday, Intel showed a new Macbook Pro copying a 4.5 gigabyte file to an external RAID in less than ten seconds. A virtual speedometer on the laptop’s screen indicated transfer rates varying between 400 and 700 megabytes per second while the file was being copied. Top speed for the new technology is 10 gigabits per second – more than 800 megabytes per second – according to Intel.
By integrating PCI Express and DisplayPort standards, Thunderbolt is also meant to reduce the need for various different cables. A Thunderbolt cable can be used to connect storage devices as well as monitors, for example. “Everybody has lots of media,” says Intel marketing director Jason Ziller. “The idea was, how do we make it easier to work across devices?” Thunderbolt essentially offers four fast lanes of data within one cable. Up to seven devices can be daisy-chained together without loss of speed, Intel promises. “You can add more devices in a simple way with full bandwidth,” says Ziller.
While Apple has just launched its new line of Macbook Pro laptops featuring the new technology, only handful of other manufacturers have joined the Thunderbolt alliance so far. Among them are Western Digital, LaCie and Promise for storage devices as well as Aja, Apogee, Avid, Blackmagic and Universal Audio. “We expect that over time we will see broader adoption,” says Ziller, pointing out, however, that Thunderbolt is not intended to replace USB 3.0 or other standards. “We see this as a complementary technology. USB will continue to be the mainstream.”