Next-gen Thunderbolt can sometimes reach 120Gbps, just like USB4 2.0

Daniel Sims

Posts: 762   +30
Staff
Bottom line: Hot on the heels of the recently-published USB4 2.0 specification, the next generation of Thunderbolt promises similar capabilities. Thunderbolt and USB4 have been in lock-step for a while in terms of bandwidth due to their close relationship.

Intel shed more light on the successor to Thunderbolt 4 on Wednesday. Like USB4 2.0, the new standard offers a connection bandwidth of up to 80Gbps, while in some cases in can reach up to 120Gbps.

Next-generation Thunderbolt – Intel hasn't properly named it yet, so Thunderbolt 5 is not a given – supports bidirectional bandwidth up to 80GBps, which Intel first demonstrated in Israel last month. However, this week, the company also presented the new Thunderbolt's ability to transmit at 120Gbps while receiving at 40Gbps.

The USB Promoter Group, which includes the likes of Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Renesas Electronics, STMicroelectronics, and Texas Instruments, briefly mentioned the same capability for USB4 2.0 when it published its specs earlier this week. The asymmetrical connection may be handy for USB4-based high-performance displays and other video intensive workloads. Intel specifically points out Thunderbolt's usefulness for gamers and content creators who need to move large files around.

According to Intel's charts, one difference between USB4 and next-gen Thunderbolt is that the latter requires 80Gbps bidirectional and 120Gbps asymmetric connections. In contrast, the chart shows the USB4 specification only optionally supports bandwidths above 20Gbps but doesn't distinguish between USB4 1.0 or 2.0.

The two technologies seem similar because USB4 1.0 is based on Thunderbolt 3. Both enabled 40Gbps connections, and their successors are upgrading to 80Gbps and 120Gbps almost simultaneously (Thunderbolt 4 maintained the same bandwidth as TB 3, but added more display and security capabilities).

Like USB4 2.0, next-gen Thunderbolt is compatible with previous versions of USB and Thunderbolt. With new signaling technology, it supports existing passive cables under 1m.

Next-gen Thunderbolt also works with DisplayPort 2.1, another connection specification released this week. VESA updated all DisplayPort 2.0 products to the new standard, which uses the same physical layer specification as USB4.

Intel plans to reveal the official name of next-gen Thunderbolt, along with more of its features, next year. The company could call it Thunderbolt 5 or label it a subdivision of Thunderbolt 4, similar to USB4 2.0's naming. However, some consider USB4's branding confusing.

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Nanochip

Posts: 118   +160
Thunderbolt implements all the optional usb4 features. So think of it as usb4 but with the kitchen sink thrown in.
 

Bamda

Posts: 420   +225
I have been using PCs since 1979. Have yet to find a use for Thunderbolt, but USB is everywhere in my house and car.
 

merikafyeah

Posts: 359   +345
The only appealing thing about Thunderbolt to me is the Type-C to 10gb ethernet adapters. All of them are Thunderbolt. USB adapters only go up to 5gb ethernet (for now).
 

Nanochip

Posts: 118   +160
I have been using PCs since 1979. Have yet to find a use for Thunderbolt, but USB is everywhere in my house and car.
Thunderbolt tunnels the PCIe protocol, so some use cases involve external NVME storage (currently topping out at 2800 MB/sec), external 10 gbps LAN adapters (I use one every day). Some people use thunderbolt-based audio interfaces from Universal Audio (their Apollo line).

With usb4, intel donated the thunderbolt3 spec to the USB-IF, so now thunderbolt4 and usb4 are now very similar, the main difference is that thunderbolt implements features that are optional for USB.
 

Bamda

Posts: 420   +225
Thunderbolt tunnels the PCIe protocol, so some use cases involve external NVME storage (currently topping out at 2800 MB/sec), external 10 gbps LAN adapters (I use one every day). Some people use thunderbolt-based audio interfaces from Universal Audio (their Apollo line).

With usb4, intel donated the thunderbolt3 spec to the USB-IF, so now thunderbolt4 and usb4 are now very similar, the main difference is that thunderbolt implements features that are optional for USB.
The funny thing is I just never seen hardware being sold that uses Thunderbolt, but I don't search it out.