Thunderbolt On PC: Will it follow in its predecessor’s footsteps?

September 17, 2011 4:07 am
posted by Benjamin Edwards

As you may be aware, Thunderbolt was first released as a new hardware technology for the new Apple MACs. It offers twice the theoretical speeds of USB3 and it’s ‘daisy chainable’, meaning you can connect them one after the other supposedly without losing a significant speed performance.

Intel recently stated that they plan to move this technology to PC’s, as Firewire was moved to PC’s during the USB2 era. Thunderbolt is Firewire’s successor as USB3 was USB2’s successor.

The two technologies aren’t manufacture bound, they can be switched if licenses are agreed upon, it just so happens that USB3 hit PC’s first, just like Thunderbolt hit Macs first. We’ve yet to see USB3 on MACs and we’re not even sure it ever will be (iPhones/iPods and MAC computers still use USB2 technology so no need to worry about compatibility just yet).

Cost of implementation for USB3 is cheaper than Thunderbolt and in reality, most end users aren’t going to want lightning fast transfer speeds for average use, this will only be a requirement of enthusiasts and workstation users. Therefore, USB3 is going to be a clear candidate for common usage in PC’s.

USB3 appears to be in the motion of a more universal connection standard, ie connecting external HDDs, peripherals and similar devices. The difference with Thunderbolt (besides the speed) is that Apple have decided to use it as their mini display connection too (similar to ATI’s Multi Display Port) allowing you to link Apple’s Cinema Display to your new Macbook via Thunderbolt and because there is another Thunderbolt port on these monitors, you can still connect external HDDs in the ‘daisy-chain’ concept I described earlier.

Now….for the speed comparison. USB3 is rated at 5Gbps that’s b for (BITS) NOT B for (BYTES), so you’re looking at 0.6GB/s (600MB/s) transfer and 1.25GB/s (1250MB/s) respectively. The increased speed from Thunderbolt does allow extra features such as external monitor support.

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