Debuting early in 2011, the dual protocol Thunderbolt standard promised dramatically improved transfer performance between peripheral devices and even the ability to daisy chain up to six devices form one port. So why, two years later, is it still considered a marginal technology? Andy Stout reports
As the name suggests, Thunderbolt is fast, very fast, boasting transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps, enough to transfer an entire HD movie in 30 seconds or 1TB of data in under five minutes. There is, inevitably, a lot of extremely technical info about it all on the web, so if you want to dig down there are plenty of resources is a good place to start). Essentially though, as you will have already noticed, it essentially unites video and data protocols and uses a Thunderbolt controller to cram the PCI Express and DisplayPort signals into one signal, squirts them both down a cable along with DC power, and then unpacks the signal again via another chipset at the other end.
Up to six devices can be connected via a single Thunderbolt port (essentially a rebadged Mini DisplayPort). And, for anyone reading this looking mournfully at multiple devices connected to their desktops and laptops via overburdened USB connections, on paper it reads like the answer to an awful lot of problems.
So, with Intel (the rights holder) and Apple both instrumental in its development, and indeed every computer Apple makes bar the MacBook Pro shipping with a Thunderbolt port just waiting to be activated, why is is still essentially a niche product nigh on two years after launch?
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