Thunderbolt By Josh Blagden | JB - Mac Help | JBlagden

Thunderbolt By Josh Blagden

Thunderbolt is a relatively new interface. It was invented by Intel and first implemented on a mass scale by Apple. It was originally named Light Peak, but was renamed Thunderbolt. It was also intended to use fiber optic cables, but copper cables were devised due to cost. Copper Thunderbolt cables cost $30 for a 1.5 foot-cable and $40 for a 6-foot cable while fiber optic Thunderbolt cables start out at $300. 

Thunderbolt is a huge breakthrough in external data interfaces because it transfers data at a rate of 10 gigabits(1.25 gigabytes) per second in each of the two directions and can also be used to connect a monitor, hard drive or PCIe device(with an enclosure/adapter). A Thunderbolt port can daisy-chain up to six devices, which is pretty good for an interface which has a total bandwidth of 20 gigabits(2.5 gigabytes) per second. Thunderbolt 2 has the ability to combine the two channels for a combined bandwidth of 20 gigabits per second in a single direction. 

Apple was the first company to use Thunderbolt in its computers. Apple began putting Thunderbolt in its computers in 2011. The problem is that Apple pushed Thunderbolt so much that it didn’t bother adding USB 3 to the 2011 MacBook Pros. Although, that can be taken care of with an adapter. Belkin’s Thunderbolt dock was the first device to do that, though rather expensive at $300. Kanex has recently released an $80 Thunderbolt to USB 3 adapter which has two variations, one with Ethernet and one with eSATA: http://www.kanexlive.com/thunderbolt-esata

Originally, Apple and Intel touted Thunderbolt as a means of connecting external hard drives and solid state drives. However, it can also be used to connect an external graphics card, which is a big deal because all MacBook Airs, Mac Minis, 21.1 inch iMacs and 13 inch MacBook Pros lack dedicated graphics cards. However, an Akitio Thunder2 can remedy that problem by providing a PCIe slot which you can use for a graphics card. External graphics cards are pretty much the only good use for Thunderbolt.



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