Intel outs speedy Thunderbolt 2 interface with 20-gbps transfer speeds

Intel’s just announced more details about its upcoming Thunderbolt 2 interface technology, and the news might just make high-definition video buffs start drooling.

Thunderbolt 2 combines the two previously independent 10-gbps data and display channels of the original Thunderbolt interface into a single 20-gbps bi-directional channel that supports both data and display. That, Intel claims, means Thunderbolt 2 will be able to transfer a 4K video while simultaneously displaying it on a discrete monitor—something today’s Thunderbolt can’t manage.


Thunderbolt 2 also incorporates DisplayPort 1.2 support, which allows for video streaming to a single 4K video monitor or dual QHD monitors. Thunderbolt 2 is also backwards compatible, which means that any current-gen Thunderbolt cables and connectors you’ve already purchased will work just fine with the new interface.

First teased by Intel back in April, the company said Thunderbolt 2 will become available by the end of this year, with more supported peripherals arriving in 2014.

Intel’s Thunderbolt was originally a Mac exclusive, as Intel brought the technology to the market together with Apple in a bid to outdo USB 3.0. While Thunderbolt is now standard on new Macs, PC manufacturers have been slower to adopt the technology, choosing to support the more widespread USB 3.0 interface instead. Intel says some 30 PCs and motherboards shipped with Thunderbolt in the past year, however, and there are some 80 Thunderbolt-enabled peripherals—mainly storage drives, expansions docks and displays.


Intel is also working on a version of low-power version of Thunderbolt for tablets and smartphones. However, a mobile version of Thunderbolt might not succeed in the face of WiGig, another Intel-backed specification that can transfer data wirelessly at up to 7 gbps. That’s nowhere near as speedy as Thunderbolt proper, but it’s wire-free, and much, much faster than standard Wi-Fi.

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