Hot news from the world of Ap­ple

Thun­der­bolt 3, with its ver­sa­tile USB-C con­nec­tor, will go like greased light­ning

Mac Format - - CONTENTS -

“For the first time, one port con­nects to Thun­der­bolt de­vices, ev­ery dis­play and bil­lions of USB de­vices”

Chip gi­ant In­tel has con­firmed that its latest high-speed data trans­fer stan­dard, Thun­der­bolt 3, will use the same USB-C con­nec­tor as used by USB 3.1, but will be much, much faster.

“For the first time, one com­puter port con­nects to Thun­der­bolt de­vices, ev­ery dis­play and bil­lions of USB de­vices,” Jason Ziller, In­tel’s di­rec­tor of Thun­der­bolt mar­ket­ing, said.

Thun­der­bolt 3 can trans­fer data at a whop­ping 40Gbps (gi­ga­bits per sec­ond), twice as fast as Thun­der­bolt 2, which was in­tro­duced in 2014 and eight times faster than the MacBook’s sole first-gen USB 3.1 port. This means you can trans­fer a 4K movie in just 30 sec­onds us­ing Thun­der­bolt 3. The ports also in­cor­po­rate sup­port for cheaper ‘pas­sive’ Thun­der­bolt ca­bles that op­er­ate at a re­duced rate of 20Gbps.

Jointly de­vel­oped by Ap­ple and In­tel, Thun­der­bolt was first in­tro­duced in the 2011 MacBook Pro. Ap­ple’s re­cent in­tro­duc­tion of a MacBook equipped with a sin­gle USB-C port gen­er­ated con­cern that the com­pany was aban­don­ing the faster stan­dard. “As long as we were go­ing to in­clude a port for charg­ing the new MacBook, we wanted to make sure it was the most ad­vanced and ver­sa­tile one avail­able,” Ap­ple said at the time.

The true ver­sa­til­ity of this was eas­ier to un­der­stand fol­low­ing In­tel’s an­nounce­ment of plans to adopt USB-C con­nec­tions for Thun­der­bolt 3. You’ll be able to dis­tin­guish a Thun­der­bolt 3 ca­ble from a stan­dard USB-C ca­ble by the lit­tle light­ning logo on the con­nec­tor. As the uni­fied Thun­der­bolt 3 port stan­dard won’t ar­rive un­til later this year, the al­ready-re­leased 12-inch MacBook is un­likely to sup­port the new spec­i­fi­ca­tion – although what an an­nounce­ment that would be.

Other than sig­nif­i­cantly faster speed, Thun­der­bolt 3 al­lows for two 4K 60 Hz dis­plays and quick notebook charg­ing us­ing a sin­gle ca­ble. In­tel calls this, “the most ad­vanced and ver­sa­tile USB-C dock­ing so­lu­tion avail­able”. Of course, to at­tain Thun­der­bolt 3 per­for­mance you’ll need to be us­ing com­pat­i­ble de­vices

plugged into the right Thun­der­bolt ports us­ing the right Thun­der­bolt ca­bles. You will be able to plug USB Type-C ca­bles di­rectly into the Thun­der­bolt 3 port, or a Thun­der­bolt 3 ca­ble into a USB port, though data will be trans­ferred only at USB speeds in these sit­u­a­tions.

For most Mac users USB 3.1 is good enough to sup­port most com­mon pe­riph­er­als, such as print­ers, scan­ners or hard drives. Thun­der­bolt is an ex­cel­lent choice for data in­ten­sive ac­tiv­ity. Cheaper to de­ploy, USB al­ready has a strong mar­ket – June’s Com­pu­tex show in Taipei saw dozens of USB-C prod­ucts in­tro­duced. In con­trast, even four years on only around 250 Thun­der­bolt­com­pat­i­ble pe­riph­er­als ex­ist. The move to stan­dard­ise around the new in­ter­con­nect should help boost adop­tion, In­tel spokesper­son Dan Sny­der said, telling Wired: “We ex­pect the Thun­der­bolt 3 so­lu­tion cost to sup­port broader adop­tion in the in­dus­try”.

Mac users who might have re­cently in­vested in Thun­der­bolt and Thun­der­bolt 2 pe­riph­er­als and ca­bles aren’t be­ing left out to dry as In­tel is de­vel­op­ing ca­bles and adapters so old Thun­der­bolt pe­riph­er­als can use Thun­der­bolt 3.0 ports. Na­tive Thun­der­bolt 3 de­vices are ex­pected to start ship­ping later this year.

It’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore we see USB-C ports ap­pear on more Macs, and In­tel’s move to stan­dard­ise around USB-C in­ter­con­nects means new Macs will be ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing both USB-C and Thun­der­bolt 3 us­ing a sin­gle ca­ble – and can look for­ward to fewer ca­bles clut­ter­ing their desks.

With up to 100w of power avail­able (the cur­rent MacBook Pro draws 85w from its charger) USB-C is poised to sup­ply more energy to more Ap­ple prod­ucts than just the 29w drawn by the 12-inch MacBook

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