Intel unveils next-gen Thunderbolt 5 delivering speeds as high as 120Gbps
Note: This article was first published on 13th September 2023.
When Intel quietly officiated their Thunderbolt 5 connectivity standard promising up to 120Gbps transfer rates, on the same day Apple launched their iPhone 15 that boasts a USB-C connection with 480Mbps transfer rates,you can understand why this seems like a light jab at them.
To be fair, Apple does support up to 10Gbps USB 3.0 transfer rates over USB-C on theiPhone 15 Promodels. However, the standard iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are stuck with USB 2.0 transfer rates, which is a little ludicrousconsidering the cost of the phone.
Getting back to Intel's announcement, this is what you'll get on the new Thunderbolt 5:-
80Gbpsof bi-directional bandwidth (double that of Thunderbolt 3 and 4)Thunderbolt Bandwidth Boost:- Three times the throughput for video-intensive usage, up to 120Gbps in a single directionDouble the PCI Express data throughput for faster storage and external graphicsDouble the bandwidth of Thunderbolt Networking for high-speed PC-to-PC connectionsSupport for USB4 V2, DisplayPort 2.1 and PCIeGen 4New signalling technology, PAM-3, to deliver thesignificant increases in performanceBackward compatible to Thunderbolt 3 and 4, including USB4 standards.
So, while Thunderbolt 5 officially supports 80Gbps of bidirectional bandwidth, it's designed to be more flexible, allowing more lanes to work in the downstream direction to boost the bandwidth up to 120Gbps for high display traffic volume situations. This video exemplifies how Thunderbolt Bandwidth Boost works as simple as possible:-
So why is Intel upping the game of their already reliable, dependable and fast connectivity standard, theThunderbolt 4? Now, as good as it is with its 40Gb/s bidirectional data throughput, supply 100W of charging power to your laptop and supports up to 15W of of power output per port to charge devices like your phone or power bank, it doesn't quite cut it anymore with 'only' up to two 4K resolution display support. Indeed, it's plenty for most consumers. Still, for professionals and creators looking for 5K resolution displays or greater with high refresh rates, such as thisSamsung ViewFinity S9 5K screen, there needs to be more bandwidth to go around.
Intel actually outlined their next-gen Thunderbolt capabilities nearly a year ago, but it's only now that they've christened it as Thunderbolt 5 and have also showcased in a video demo ofthe first prototype laptop with Thunderbolt 5 connected to a prototype Thunderbolt 5 dock, connected to a 6K and a 4K display concurrently and having the dock equipped with PCIe Gen 4 storage built-in.
In the image above, you'll note the storage read/write test speeds were recorded to be over 6,200MB/s and 5,300MB/s respectively. That's crazy fast for just a PCIe 4.0 storage over an external Thunderbolt interface, while the same cable is also running the high resolution screens.
When can we expect Thunderbolt 5? Intel says computers and accessories based on Intel's Thunderbolt 5 controller, code-named Barlow Ridge, are expected to be available starting in 2024. So stay tuned.
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