Intel’s Thunderbolt technology came to the Windows PC side of the computer market in a big way with high end desktop motherboards and add-in cards. The current generation “Cactus Ridge” Thunderbolt controller is able to offer up to 10Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth with either two or four PCI Express lanes as well as a DisplayPort connection that does not interfere with file transfer bandwidth. In 2014, that bandwidth may double to 20Gbps with a new Falcon Ridge controller.
With current-gen tech, Thunderbolt is based on using copper cables and electronics on either end of the cable. Right now, the cables are still fairly expensive at $50, but with new vendors the prices will hopefully go down soon. Next year we should see the Cactus Ridge successor Redwood Ridge. According to DigiTimes, this Thunderbolt controller will add support for DisplayPort 1.2 but will otherwise be very similar with 10Gbps and copper cables. It is slated for a 2013 release, and a release coinciding with Intel’s Haswell processors and motherboards sounds logical.
Will Falcon Ridge finally give us optical-based Thunderbolt at retail?
In 2014 we will reportedly see the release of a fourth-generation Thunderbolt controller called Falcon Ridge that will offer up to 20Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth. While the cables will likely be even more expensive, I’m excited to see Thunderbolt progressing as it is a high performance transfer medium for professionals and enthusiasts. One thing that is not clear is whether Intel will be able to get DisplayPort + 20Gbps bi-directional bandwidth from copper cables. With Falcon Ridge we may well see the company finally make the move to optical cabling, which would return Thunderbolt to its initially-planned roots.
What would you do with the extra bandwidth provided by Falcon Ridge?
If you haven’t already, please check out our Thunderbolt coverage.