|Produced||Since February 24, 2011|
3 metres (9.8 ft) (copper)
100 metres (330 ft) (optical)
|Width||7.4 mm male (8.3 mm female)|
|Height||4.5 mm male (5.4 mm female)|
|Daisy chain||Yes, up to 6 devices|
|Audio signal||Via DisplayPort protocol or USB-based external audio cards. Supports audio through HDMI adapters.|
|Video signal||Via DisplayPort protocol|
|Max. voltage||18 V (bus power)|
|Max. current||550 mA (9.9 W max.)|
|Bitrate||Thunderbolt v1: 10 Gbit/s per channel (20 Gbit/s in total).
Thunderbolt v2: 20 Gbit/s aggregated channels (20 Gbit/s in total).
|Protocol||Thunderbolt v1: 4× PCI Express 2.0, DisplayPort 1.1a
Thunderbolt v2: 4× PCI Express 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2
|Pin 2||HPD||Hot plug detect|
|Pin 3||HS0TX(P)||HighSpeed transmit 0 (positive)|
|Pin 4||HS0RX(P)||HighSpeed receive 0 (positive)|
|Pin 5||HS0TX(N)||HighSpeed transmit 0 (negative)|
|Pin 6||HS0RX(N)||HighSpeed receive 0 (negative)|
|Pin 9||LSR2P TX||LowSpeed transmit|
|Pin 10||GND||Ground (reserved)|
|Pin 11||LSP2R RX||LowSpeed receive|
|Pin 12||GND||Ground (reserved)|
|Pin 15||HS1TX(P)||HighSpeed transmit 1 (positive)|
|Pin 16||HS1RX(P)||HighSpeed receive 1 (positive)|
|Pin 17||HS1TX(N)||HighSpeed transmit 1 (negative)|
|Pin 18||HS1RX(N)||HighSpeed receive 1 (negative)|
|This is the pinout for both sides of the connector, source side and sink side. The cable is actually a crossover cable, it swaps all receive and transmit lanes; e.g., HS1TX(P) of the source is connected to HS1RX(P) of the sink.|
Thunderbolt, developed under the name Light Peak, is a hardware interface that allows the connection of external peripherals to a computer. It uses the same connector as Mini DisplayPort (MDP). It was released in its finished state on February 24, 2011.
Thunderbolt combines PCI Express (PCIe) and DisplayPort (DP) into one serial signal alongside a DC connection for electric power, transmitted over one cable. Up to six peripherals may be supported by one connector through various topologies.
The interface was originally intended to run exclusively on an optical physical layer using components and flexible optical fiber cabling developed by Intel partners and at Intel's Silicon Photonics lab. It was initially marketed under the name Light Peak, and after 2011 as Silicon Photonics Link. However, it was discovered that conventional copper wiring could furnish the desired 10 Gbit/s per channel at lower cost.
This copper-based version of the Light Peak concept was co-developed by Apple and Intel. Apple registered Thunderbolt as a trademark, but later transferred the mark to Intel, which held overriding intellectual-property rights.
Thunderbolt controllers multiplex one or more individual data lanes from connected PCIe and DisplayPort devices for transmission via one duplex Thunderbolt lane, then de-multiplex them for use by PCIe and DisplayPort devices on the other end. A single Thunderbolt port supports up to six Thunderbolt devices via hubs or daisy chains; as many of these as the host has DP sources may be Thunderbolt monitors.
A single Mini DisplayPort monitor or other device of any kind may be connected directly or at the very end of the chain. Thunderbolt is interoperable with DP-1.1a compatible devices. When connected to a DP-compatible device, the Thunderbolt port can provide a native DisplayPort signal with four lanes of output data at no more than 5.4 Gbit/s per Thunderbolt lane. When connected to a Thunderbolt device, the per-lane data rate becomes 10 Gbit/s and the four Thunderbolt lanes are configured as two duplex lanes, each 10 Gbit/s comprising one lane of input and one lane of output.
Thunderbolt can be implemented on PCIe graphics cards, which have access to DisplayPort data and PCIe connectivity, or on the motherboard of new computers with onboard video, such as the MacBook Air.
Sumitomo Electric Industries started selling up to 30 metres (98 ft) optical Thunderbolt cables in Japan in January 2013, with US company Corning Inc. selling up to 100 metres (330 ft) optical cables from late September 2013.
Thunderbolt was commercially introduced on Apple's 2011 MacBook Pro, using the same Apple-developed connector as Mini DisplayPort, which is electrically identical to DisplayPort, but uses a smaller, non-locking connector.
Intel introduced Light Peak at the 2009 Intel Developer Forum (IDF), using a prototype Mac Pro logic board to run two 1080p video streams plus LAN and storage devices over a single 30-meter optical cable with modified USB ends. The system was driven by a prototype PCI Express card, with two optical buses powering four ports. Jason Ziller, head of Intel's Optical I/O Program Office showed the internal components of the technology under a microscope and the sending of data through an oscilloscope. The technology was described as having an initial speed of 10 Gbit/s over plastic optical cables, and promising a final speed of 100 Gbit/s. At the show, Intel said Light Peak-equipped systems would begin to appear in 2010, and posted to YouTube a video showed Light Peak-connected HD cameras, laptops, docking stations, and HD monitors.
On May 4, 2010, in Brussels, Intel demonstrated a laptop with a Light Peak connector, indicating that the technology had shrunk enough to fit inside such a device, and had the laptop send two simultaneous HD video streams down the connection, indicating that at least some fraction of the software/firmware stacks and protocols were functional. At the same demonstration, Intel officials said they expected hardware manufacturing to begin around the end of 2010.
Copper vs. optical
In 2009, Intel officials said the company was "working on bundling the optical fiber with copper wire so Light Peak can be used to power devices plugged into the PC". In 2010, Intel said the original intent was "to have one single connector technology" that would allow "electrical USB 3.0 [...] and piggyback on USB 3.0 or 4.0 DC power". Light Peak aimed to make great strides in consumer-ready optical technology, by then having achieved "[connectors rated] for 7,000 insertions, which matches or exceeds other PC connections, […] cables [that were tied] in multiple knots to make sure it didn't break and the loss is acceptable" and "you can almost get two people pulling on it at once and it won't break the fibre". predicting that "Light Peak cables will be no more expensive than HDMI".
In January 2011, Intel's David Perlmutter told Computerworld that initial Thunderbolt implementations would be based on copper wires. "The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought", he said. A major advantage of copper is the ability to carry power. The final Thunderbolt standard specifies 10 W DC on every port. See comparison section below.
Intel and industry partners are still developing optical Thunderbolt hardware and cables. The optical fiber cables are to run "tens of meters" but will not supply power, at least not initially. They are to have two 62.5-micron-wide fibers to transport an infrared signal up to 100 metres (330 ft). The conversion of electrical signal to optical will be embedded into the cable itself, allowing the current MDP connector to be forward compatible, but eventually Intel hopes for a purely optical transceiver assembly embedded in the PC.
The first such optical Thunderbolt cable was introduced by Sumitomo Electric Industries in January 2013. It is available in lengths of 10 metres (33 ft), 20 metres (66 ft), and 30 metres (98 ft). However, those cables are retailed almost exclusively in Japan, and the price is 20–30× higher than copper Thunderbolt cables.
German company DeLock also released optical Thunderbolt cables in lengths of 10 metres (33 ft), 20 metres (66 ft), and 30 metres (98 ft) in 2013, priced similarly to the Sumitomi ones, and retailed only in Germany.
In September 2013, US glass company Corning Inc. released the first range of optical Thunderbolt cables available in the Western marketplace outside of Japan, along with optical USB 3.0 cables, both under the brand name "Optical Cables". Half the diameter and 80% lighter than comparable copper Thunderbolt cables, they work with the current 10 Gbit/s Thunderbolt protocol and the 20 Gbit/s Thunderbolt 2 protocol, and thus are able to work with all self-powered Thunderbolt devices (unlike copper cables, optical cables cannot provide power). The cables extend the current 3 metres (9.8 ft) maximum length offered by copper to a new maximum of 100 metres (330 ft), allowing peripheral Thunderbolt devices to be attached farther away from their host device(s). A 10-metre (33-ft) cable was the first to be released, selling at around US$300, making the comparable per-length price around the same as that of ordinary copper Thunderbolt cables; the company planned to eventually releasing six sizes: 4 metres (13 ft), 5 metres (16 ft), 10 metres (33 ft), 30 metres (98 ft), 50 metres (160 ft), and 100 metres (330 ft) (the optical USB 3.0 cables will have a maximum length of 50 metres (160 ft)).
Early versions of Thunderbolt
It was rumoured that the early-2011 MacBook Pro update would include some sort of new data port, and most of the speculation suggested it would be Light Peak (Thunderbolt). At the time, there were no details on the physical implementation, and mock-ups appeared showing a system similar to the earlier Intel demos using a combined USB/Light Peak port. Shortly before the release of the new machines, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) announced they would not allow such a combination port, stating that USB was not open to modification in that way.
However, in July 2011 Sony released its Vaio Z21 line of notebook computers that had a "Power Media Dock", employing the optical iteration of Thunderbolt (Light Peak) to connect to an external graphics card using a combination port that behaves like USB electrically, but that also includes the optical interconnect required for Thunderbolt. Other implementations of the technology began in 2012, with desktop boards offering the interconnection now available.
In spite of comments and speculation, Apple's introduction came as a major surprise when it was revealed that the port was based on Mini DisplayPort, not USB. As the system was described, Intel's solution to the display connection problem became clear: Thunderbolt controllers multiplex data from existing DP systems with data from the PCIe port into a single cable. Older displays, using DP 1.1a or earlier, have to be located at the end of a Thunderbolt device chain, but native displays can be placed anywhere along the line. Thunderbolt devices can go anywhere on the chain. In that respect, Thunderbolt shares a relationship with the older ACCESS.bus system, which used the display connector to support a low-speed bus.
Apple explained that 6 daisy-chained peripherals are supported per Thunderbolt port, and that the display should come at the end of the chain.
In February 2011, Apple introduced its new line of MacBook Pro notebook computers and announced that the technology's commercial name would be Thunderbolt, with MacBook Pros being the first machines to feature the new I/O technology.
The Thunderbolt port on the new Macs is in the same location relative to other ports and maintains the same physical dimensions and pinout as the prior MDP connector. The main visible difference on Thunderbolt-equipped Macs is a Thunderbolt symbol next to the port.
The DisplayPort standard is partially compatible with Thunderbolt, as the two share Apple's physically compatible MDP connector. The Target Display mode on iMacs requires a Thunderbolt cable to accept a video-in signal from another Thunderbolt-capable computer. A DP monitor must be the last (or only) device in a chain of Thunderbolt devices.
Intel announced that a developer kit would be released in the second quarter of 2011, while manufacturers of hardware-development equipment have indicated they will add support for the testing and development of Thunderbolt devices. The developer kit is being provided only on request.[needs update]
In June 2013, Intel announced that the next generation of Thunderbolt, based on the controller code-named "Falcon Ridge" (running at 20 Gbit/s), is officially named "Thunderbolt 2" and is slated to enter production before the end of 2013. The data-rate of 20 Gbit/s is made possible by joining the two existing 10 Gbit/s-channels, which does not change the maximum bandwidth, but makes using it more flexible. Thunderbolt 2 was announced by Apple in June 2013 on their developer-conference WWDC to be shipped in the next generation of Mac Pro. Thunderbolt 2 is shipping in the 2013 MacBook Pro, released on October 22, 2013.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (June 2013)|
At the physical level, the bandwidth of Thunderbolt 1 and Thunderbolt 2 are identical, and Thunderbolt 1 cabling is thus compatible with Thunderbolt 2 interfaces. At the logical level, Thunderbolt 2 enables channel aggregation, whereby the two previously separate 10 Gbit/s channels can be combined into a single logical 20 Gbit/s channel.
Intel claims Thunderbolt 2 will be able to transfer a 4K video while simultaneously displaying it on a discrete monitor.
Thunderbolt 2 incorporates DisplayPort 1.2 support, which allows for video streaming to a single 4K video monitor or dual QHD monitors. Thunderbolt 2 is backwards compatible, which means that all Thunderbolt cables and connectors are compatible with Thunderbolt 1.
The first Thunderbolt 2 product for the consumer market was Asus's Z87-Deluxe/Quad motherboard, announced on August 19, 2013, but the first product with Thunderbolt 2 to be released was Apple's late 2013 Retina MacBook Pro, which was released on October 22, 2013.
Codenamed Alpine Ridge, Intel's new Thunderbolt 3 controller will double the bandwidth to 40 Gbit/s (around 5 GB/s), reduce power consumption by 50%, also offering support for PCIe 3.0, along with compatibility with other protocols, including HDMI 2.0 (allowing for 4K resolutions at 60 Hz), and DisplayPort 1.2 or 1.3 (depending on final implementation), which due to the doubling of the available bandwidth will enable next-generation Thunderbolt controllers to drive two 4K displays (or Apple's separate 5K displays) simultaneously, where current controllers can only drive one. Power capacities of up to 100 watts, will allow companies like Apple to build single-cable MacBook products, as there won’t be any need for a separate power connector for powering/charging the device.
Intel will offer two different versions of the controller, a version that uses 4x PCI Express lanes to drive 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports, and another "LP" (Low Power) version that uses 2x PCI Express lanes to drive a single Thunderbolt 3 port. This follows current practice, with high-end devices like the second generation Mac Pro and Retina MacBook Pro using two-port controllers, while lower-end lower-power devices like the Mac Mini and MacBook Air using the one-port version. Backwards compatibility will be maintained through the use of connector adapters, as the new Thunderbolt connector itself will be reduced in size to be 3mm shorter than current connectors. Support will be added with Intel's Skylake architecture chipsets, with shipping dates expected from late 2015 into early 2016.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (October 2014)|
While Apple released their first computer to feature the interface in early 2011, it took some time for peripheral devices supporting the Thunderbolt interface to enter the marketplace, with initial ones not appearing in retail stores until late 2011. Storage manufacturer Promise Technology was the first company to release large-sized RAID storage devices, with their Pegasus R4 (4 drive) and Pegasus R6 (6 drive) enclosures; however, they were relatively expensive for the average consumer. In addition, mass floods in Thailand — where much of the world's supply of HDDs is made — heavily reduced hard-drive production, so, following their initial release, retail prices increased in response, contributing to a slow take-up of the devices.
It also took some time for other storage manufacturers to release products — most focussing on smaller devices, with speed being the goal, rather than large-scale storage needs. Many of those devices were under 1 TB in size, with some also featuring an SSD for fast external-data access, rather than a standard HDD, and were aimed mainly at professional users. Backwards-compatibility with non-Thunderbolt-equipped computers was also a problem, as most storage devices featured only two Thunderbolt ports, for daisy-chaining up to six devices from each one.
As of late 2012, very few other storage devices offering larger, double-figure-TB capacity have appeared, with Sonnet Technologies, Inc. releasing high-end expensive professional units, and Drobo offering 4- and 5-drive enclosures, the latter featuring their own BeyondRAID proprietary data-handling system.
Other companies have focussed on offering interface products, allowing multiple older, usually slower, connections to be routed through a single Thunderbolt port. Similarly, early in July 2011, Apple released an updated monitor, Apple Thunderbolt Display, which featured many older connection types, including gigabit Ethernet, effectively making it the first product able to be used as a hub for that purpose.
In mid-2012, manufacturers — including LaCie and Drobo — started to include USB 3.0 connections in addition to the Thunderbolt one(s) on some of their devices, at the expense of removing the second Thunderbolt port.
Vulnerability to DMA attacks
If Thunderbolt is used to extend the PCI Express bus, which is the main expansion bus in current systems, it allows very low-level access to the system. System-bus devices usually have unlimited access to memory, and thus could be used to compromise security by performing DMA attacks. That vulnerability exists with many high-speed expansion buses, including PC Card, ExpressCard and FireWire. For example, an attacker could attach a malicious device, which, through its direct and unimpeded access to system memory and other devices, would be able to bypass almost all security measures of the OS and have the ability to install malware, or read system memory which may contain encryption keys. It is, of course, always a risk to give untrusted parties physical access to a sensitive machine. An IOMMU, if present, can be used by an operating system that supports it to close a computer's vulnerability to DMA attacks. Such attacks can be made rather inexpensively by modifying commodity Thunderbolt hardware.
However, where Thunderbolt is used as a system interconnection (IPoTB supported on Mavericks), then the IP implementation runs on the underlying Thunderbolt low-latency packet-switching fabric, and the PCI Express protocol is not present on the cable. That means that if IPoTB networking is used between a group of computers, there is no threat of such DMA attack between them.
In June 2011, the first two-meter Thunderbolt cable from Apple cost US$49. An active cable with circuitry in its connectors, the cable has five conductors: four 10Gbit/s links (two in and two out) plus one to handle management traffic.
In June 2012, Apple began selling a Thunderbolt-to-gigabit Ethernet adaptor cable for US$29. In the third quarter of 2012, other manufacturers started providing cables of varying lengths up to the maximum supported length of three meters, while some storage-enclosure builders began including a Thunderbolt cable with their devices.
In January 2013, Apple reduced the price of their 2-meter cable to US$39 and added a half-meter cable for US$29.
|82523EF||4||15 × 15||3.8||Light Ridge||Q4 2010|
|82523EFL||4||15 × 15||3.2||Light Ridge||Q4 2010|
|L2510||2||15 × 15||???||Eagle Ridge||Q1 2011|
|L2310||2||8 × 9||1.85||Eagle Ridge (SFF)||Q1 2011|
|L2210||1||5 × 6||0.7||Port Ridge||Q4 2011||Device only|
|L3510H||4||12 × 12||3.4||Cactus Ridge||Cancelled|
|L3510L||4||12 × 12||2.8||Cactus Ridge||Q2 2012|
|L3310||2||12 × 12||2.1||Cactus Ridge||Q2 2012||Host only|
|L4510||4||12 × 12||???||Redwood Ridge||2013|
|L4410||2||10 × 10||???||Redwood Ridge||2013||Host only|
|L5520||4||???||???||Falcon Ridge||Q3 2013||Thunderbolt 2, 20 Gbit/s speed+DP 1.2|
|L5320||2||???||???||Falcon Ridge||Q3 2013||Thunderbolt 2, 20 Gbit/s speed+DP 1.2|
|4||???||???||Alpine Ridge||~Q3 2015||40 Gbit/s speed, PCI-e 3.0, HDMI 2.0, DP 1.2, USB 3.0, 100 W power delivery (compatible with USB Power Delivery) presumably 18V, 5,5 A and some type of converter  all that while using 50% power in the simplest implementation|
- Computer bus
- Optical interconnect
- Parallel optical interface
- Optical communication
- Interconnect bottleneck
- Optical fiber cable
- DisplayPort / Mini DisplayPort
- IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
- USB 3.0
- Lightning Bolt
- Apple Thunderbolt Display
- List of computer peripheral bus bit rates
- List of Thunderbolt compatible devices
- List of device bit rates
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The five-wire assembly uses one wire each for the four 10 Gbit/s links (two in and two out) and the fifth for management traffic.
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- Chinese VR-Zone
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Thunderbolt (interface).|
- Thunderbolt Technology – official site