Thunderbolt 3 will get an important boost in terms of its adoption in the market after Intel announced its native integration on the brand’s next generation chips, and, more importantly, the release of a protocol specification under “a non-exclusive and royalty-free license”.
Thunderbolt 3 is a third-generation high-speed connector used for data transfer on PCs and devices. Developed by Intel under the codename ‘Alpine Ridge’ and published three years ago, it is an input/output technology based on silicon photonics, but with optical communication, which provides better speed and capacity than other protocols, such as USB.
Its interface doubles the bandwidth obtained by Thunderbolt’s previous versions, achieving speeds of up to 40 Gbps, and it is capable of powering two Ultra HD monitors, for example. Thunderbolt 3 is capable of transferring data four times faster than a USB 3.1, can provide up to 100 W as a power connector using a single cable or supply 15 W for charging smartphones or tablets.
Its connectivity is as important as its performance, providing USB Type-C ports able of transferring data through its DisplayPort 1.2 native support. It also sports third-generation PCIe, HDMI 2, and USB 3.0 that it uses as Ethernet network emulator to achieve up to 10 Gbps data transfer speeds between PCs, which is ten times faster than the current industry’s commercial limit set at 1 Gbps.
That being said, you can now understand why we are big fans of Thunderbolt 3: great performance and versatility using a single port and a single cable for almost everything. The only issue so far has been its adoption, which has been very little considering its potential, even if Intel says that there are 120 available designs.
Intel decided not to include Thunderbolt 3 support on Kaby Lake processors, so it must get to the motherboard externally. Manufacturers have just simply avoided both overspending and the additional complexity linked to such support.
Thunderbolt 3 has free reign
Adding native support on the processors means getting rid of many of Thunderbolt’s adoption problems while reducing its price as well. Additionally, releasing a non-exclusive license will encourage motherboard manufacturers to install it on platforms using AMD processors, such as Ryzen, without paying any royalties.
In terms of OS support, Microsoft has improved Windows 10’s plug-and-play support for Thunderbolt 3 on its latest version, Creator Update, while Apple uses it on its Macs as it offers native support on OS X. There is not a single reason for Linux not to have full Thunderbolt 3 support following the announcement of the first compatible PCs and the drivers in the kernel, joining the other main platforms.
This, along with USB Type-C connectors, should equal in less technical complexity for Thunderbolt’s integration at no costs, meaning a greater adoption of what undoubtedly is the most advanced interface for connecting PCs and devices.