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Intel launches high speed Thunderbolt connector

2011-04-01 18:14
Intel has announced it is to roll out a new technology for connecting computers and peripherals.

The system, known as Thunderbolt, promises transfer speeds twice as fast as USB 3.0.

However it won't reach its theoretical maximum because Intel has opted to use copper wires rather than fibre optic cables.

The company said it would gradually move to higher speeds over time.

Apple will become the first manufacturer to use Thunderbolt, on its Macbook Pro computers.

The Cupertino firm is said to have been a major driver of its development, although it remains to be seen how may other manufacturers will adopt the new standard.

Light Peak
Intel has been working on the technology for several years.

It was first announced, under the codename Light Peak in 2009.

At launch, its top speed will be limited to 10 Gigabits per second - twice as fast as USB 3.0, but still well below the theoretical maximum using optical cables.

Light Peak
Intel has been working on the technology for several years.

It was first announced, under the codename Light Peak in 2009.

At launch, its top speed will be limited to 10 Gigabits per second - twice as fast as USB 3.0, but still well below the theoretical maximum using optical cables.

Intel claims that future versions will be able to reach 100 Gb/sec.

The faster data transfer rates are likely to be welcomed by those consumers who use high-definition video, said Sarah Rottman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"This isn't an innovation that consumers have been asking for, but it's one they'll appreciate," she said.

"Especially when transferring video, as that's when [USB] starts to feel slow."

The system also promises to reduce the number of cables a user has connecting their computer setup.

It is able to carry multiple signal types at the same time, enabling power, display and peripherals to use a single cable.

However, in the short term, users may need to invest in special adaptors to connect their older devices onto Thunderbolt sockets.

Its arrival on the consumer market also raises questions about the future of other connector standards, such as USB and Firewire.

Thunderbolt's most high profile supporter, Apple, is expected to gradually transition to a single connector, according to Karen Haslam, editor of Macworld UK.

"In the long run there will be no need for Apple to support these multiple formats with individual ports - existing products can run through an adaptor," she said.

Not everyone is convinced that Thunderbolt will become the lone standard.

Ian Chiu, editor of the website Everythingusb.com told BBC News that the cost of components could put off some manufacturers.

"I don't really know how Intel will make Thunderbolt appealing to all the other first-tier PC manufacturers," he said.

"HP, Sony, Dell, Acer, Asus make most of their money from the low-end and medium-end notebooks.

"On the other hand, Apple's Macbook Pro line-up is targeted at the prosumers, professionals and other people who aren't so price conscious," said Mr Chiu.

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