thunderbolt Intel said to be letting Thunderbolt loose in April

There's no secret that Intel wasn't going to let Apple keep its Thunderbolt technology as an exclusive forever, but no reports are coming out stating that we can expect Thunderbolt equipped PCs, notebooks and motherboards in April of next year. We've been hearing rumours for a while, but this is the first solid lead on an actual launch date.

There's no secret that Intel wasn't going to let Apple keep its Thunderbolt technology as an exclusive forever, but no reports are coming out stating that we can expect Thunderbolt equipped PCs, notebooks and motherboards in April of next year. We've been hearing rumours for a while, but this is the first solid lead on an actual launch date.

As we already know, Intel is planning on launching Ivy Bridge around this point in time and it's not a co-incident that the company is also trying to get some Thunderbolt equipped devices out in the market at the same time. Digitimes is reporting that we'll see notebooks from Asus, various devices from Sony and motherboard from Gigabyte with Thunderbolt connectivity.

Somewhat erroneously Digitimes is quoting Thunderbolt chip cost of more than US$20 a pop, a price that as far as we're aware only applies to Intel's most expensive Thunderbolt chip know as Light Ridge. This should be replaced at some point next year by Cactus Ridge which should prove to be a fair bit more affordable. Cactus Ridge was meant to be ready in time for Ivy Bridge, but Intel appears to have run into a few snags and as such it has been delayed until sometime in Q2 of next year.

As such notebook manufacturers only has the choice of using Intel's Light Ridge or the version of Eagle Ridge that Apple uses for the MacBook Air, but this chip only has half the Thunderbolt channels of Light Ridge. For some reason Intel has discontinued its standard version of Eagle Ridge already, so on the host side there's little other choice for the time being.

The good news in terms of growth of Tunderbolt device is that Intel has finally finished off its Port Ridge peripheral chip, an affordable two PCI Express lane solution that draws a mere 0.7W (compared to 2-3.8W for its other Thunderbolt chips) and which will be far more affordable than previous options. This should hopefully see a growth in devices that use Thunderbolt as an interconnect, although we still doubt it'll be price competitive with USB 3.0 in many scenarios.

There are of course usage cases where Thunderbolt excels compared to USB 3.0, least not for adding desktop expansion cards to a notebook, be it via a notebook docking station or some kind of external enclosure. However, Thunderbolt is not the most affordable route and we doubt there will be the same growth in Thunderbolt peripherals as there have been with USB 3.0 peripherals, as the need for the kind of speeds offered by the interface just isn't there for the majority of computer users, yet.

Source: Digitimes