Intel Tries Again With Thunderbolt 2
June 5, 2013

Intel Looks To Strike Again With Thunderbolt 2

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

Formerly known by the codename Falcon Ridge, Intel announced on Tuesday that the latest version of its Thunderbolt video transfer interface would be called Thunderbolt 2. Originally unveiled at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in April, the Intel interface this week also garnered support from hardware makers LaCie and Blackmagic Design, which have come forward with the promise to design products utilizing Thunderbolt 2.

The technology offers the promise of enabling faster streaming of video content and helping on the content creation side as well. This could also allow for the backing up of petabytes-worth of data in minutes instead of hours.

“Everybody seems to be sharing video these days — at higher resolutions than ever,” Dan Snyder of Intel wrote in a blog post. “This always-increasing demand has helped expand growth and adoption of Intel´s Thunderbolt technology in 2013, especially for the video editors creating the best and richest content.”

While the original Thunderbolt didn´t exactly electrify the computer market when it arrived, the new Thunderbolt 2 will provide a high-speed data-transfer interface that could offer the promise of lightning-fast video streaming. Thunderbolt 2 will run at 20GB per second — about twice as fast as its predecessor — and it reportedly works by combining the two 10GB per second channels together to provide for the simultaneous transfer and display of 4K “Ultra HD” video.

The doubling of the speed was accomplished using a new Intel controller chip that combines the first-generation Thunderbolt 10GB per second uni-directional channels into a single 20GB per second bi-directional channel. Thunderbolt 2 will also provide support for DisplayPort 1.2, which will enable video streaming to one 4K monitor or dual QHD displays.

“By combining 20Gbs bandwidth with DisplayPort 1.2 support, Thunderbolt 2 creates an entirely new way of thinking about 4K workflows, specifically the ability to support raw 4K video transfer and data delivery concurrently,” wrote Jason Ziller, marketing director for Thunderbolt. “And our labs aren´t stopping there, as demand for video and rich data transfer just continues to rise exponentially.”

However, the adoption of this technology for the PC hasn´t occurred nearly as quickly as the transfer speeds. The original Thunderbolt technology — which was marketed as an optical-only interface — had become one of the standard ports on current-generation Apple computers, but it has seen much slower adoption on the PC. Ars Technica speculated that this was a much an issue of licensing as it was of the technology´s capabilities, but it is clear that Intel is hoping that adoption of 4K video technologies — which offer four times the resolution of current HD — could attract more interest this time around.

Intel is already betting that those in video production will like what they see.

“Professionals and enthusiasts alike will be able to create, edit, and view live 4K video streams delivered from a computer to a monitor over a single cable, while backing up the same file on an external drive, or series of drives, simultaneously along the same device daisy-chain,” Snyder added.

“Backing up terabytes of data will be a question of minutes, not hours. And finally, since Thunderbolt 2 is backwards compatible, original investments in cables and connectors continue to pay off while supporting dramatically improved performance. Thunderbolt 2 is currently slated to begin production before the end of this year, and ramp into 2014.”