What is Thunderbolt 3, why not to confuse it with USB-C and does it have a future

I think almost all of you know that there is an interface like Thunderbolt 3 (TB3). This is the latest version of Thunderbolt.

The first version of TB, developed by Intel and Apple, appeared in 2011. I’m not going to delve into the history of this interface, as the article is not about that. Just to let you know that the first laptop with the first version of TB appeared in 2011.

The first and the second version of the interface had unique connectors. They met infrequently and have not gained special popularity. The reason is the relative high cost. The fact is that to equip your device with port TB manufacturers were required not only to buy the cheap controller, but also to pay Intel license fees.

Interface TB3 appeared in laptops in 2016. Its main feature is that the port is now not unique, but quite ordinary USB-C. And here is, probably, to chew. Why? Because I’ve met people employed in IT industry and well versed in the gland, which confused Thunderbolt with USB 3-C.

So, for starters, it is worth noting the uniqueness of the USB port-C. the point is that he has a so-called alternative modes. If to simplify, it means that the USB type-C can transmit data through other interfaces. For example, DisplayPort, HDMI and Thunderbolt the same. If to simplify, imagine an analogy. There is a pipe through which water flows. But inside the pipe (it need not) be divided into two or more segments. One will leak water and the other milk on the third — wine. Can choose a drink to your taste.

That’s about how USB works-C. In most cases, support alternative modes is not unnecessary, but if necessary, manufacturers use the opportunity of the port.

So, if some device has a “port” Thunderbolt 3, it means that it actually has a USB port, which also supports the interface TB3. Do not confuse the concepts of interface and port.

What would generate a USB-C port, it does not necessarily support the TB3. Manufacturers always (or almost always) separately note the support of TB3, as this is a very important feature.

For this reason, the external video cards that connect only through TB3, now I can not become a mainstream product, and certainly can’t replace game mobile PC. Simply because suitable laptops do not so much. At the time there were rumors that Intel will add to their chipsets controller TB3, which seriously would simplify the situation and could make the interface as common as USB. However, until now this has not happened. Given the recent revelations about the transfer of the output of 10-nanometer CPU, I can assume that in the best case, the integration is expected in the next year, and maybe Intel and refused from this idea due to certain reasons, about which later.

Why now, even without the integration of the controllers into chipsets, TB3 is not common? The reasons are the same: the need to pay Intel and the need to buy expensive controllers. Unfortunately, I have not found actual data on price, but according to some leaks, a total that few tens of dollars per device. And if in the case of expensive laptops such a margin is essential, that in the budget segment, it’s not valid, given that TB3 is not all needed. By the way, is another reason. Devices that use this interface, very little. It is an external graphics card, all sorts of NAS and some other devices, which themselves need relatively speaking units.

And now an actual question. And is there a future Thunderbolt 3? A few months ago, I would have assumed that it is possible. But recently, as I said, Intel postponed the release of a new CPU for the next year. That is, at best chipsets with integrated controller TB3 will appear somewhere next year. And it is still just speculation in a vacuum. If this does not happen, another option is the cheaper controllers, and waiver of license fees from Intel. About a year and a half ago, Intel claimed that he was going to do it, but since I have not heard that the company still did it. Well, the fact that devices with TB3 particularly not more, indicating no changes in this matter.

Went on. In the autumn of last year, adopted the specifications of the USB standard 3.2. It implies an increase in maximum throughput with 10 Gbps (USB 3.1) up to 20 GB/s. to see the first devices with USB 3.2 about a year. From TB3 maximum throughput is 40 Gbps, but actually, there are several options of implementation of the interface that depend on the number of PCIe lanes. In the worst case, the speed is only 15 GB/s. Therefore, the USB 3.2 in some cases may be even faster than TB3. However, this interface is shareware, though, of course, the first time the controllers will be more expensive than USB controllers 3.1. The result is that after a year at TB3 will appear conditional alternative. Yes, USB 3.2 cannot be called a competitor to Thunderbolt 3, but in some scenarios, as I have already noted, it is possible to map. And why would Intel on this background, add TB3 controller in their chipsets?

I suppose that Intel or even refuse to develop their interface, or will make great efforts for its promotion after the appearance of TB4.

If any of you use Thunderbolt 3, write your scenarios.

0 Comments on “What is Thunderbolt 3, why not to confuse it with USB-C and does it have a future”

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