What can we say, we adore iFixit and its teardowns of all things, well, electronic. However, we were a little bit surprised that they decided to tear open a cable, as we wouldn't have thought there was much to a cable. How wrong we were, as it seems like Apple's Thunderbolt cables are quite special after all, although there was no trace of magic or unicorns.

What can we say, we adore iFixit and its teardowns of all things, well, electronic. However, we were a little bit surprised that they decided to tear open a cable, as we wouldn't have thought there was much to a cable. How wrong we were, as it seems like Apple's Thunderbolt cables are quite special after all, although there was no trace of magic or unicorns.

At US$49.99 a pop, Thunderbolt cables aren't cheap and you'd be forgiven for thinking it's just a mini DisplayPort cable, as that's what we thought at first. It turns out that things are a little bit more complicated than that, as 10Gbit/s bi-directional data transfers over a handful of copper wires isn't done as easily as you'd think. In fact, Apple's Thunderbolt cables are active cables stuffed full of little chips.

As such the Thunderbolt cables contain among other things a pair of Gennum GN2033 active-cable transceivers, one in each end. These transceivers have been designed to cope hand the high data speeds over what the company call “thin-gauge” cables, although the actual wires insdie the cables are extremely thin. The transceivers are there to maintain low-latency and prevent transmission errors.

One potential downside here – beyond cost – is that the cable length is hampered and Gennum mentions 2-5 meters as the limitation. That said, as you can (hopefully) daisy-chain Thunderbolt devices, this shouldn't be an issue for most users of the interface. Now we just have to wait and see what the various Thunderbolt devices will cost and of course see if anyone comes up with a clever adaptor to interface them with Sony's new VAIO Z.

Source: iFixit