Optical cables that connect peripherals to Thunderbolt 2 ports in Apple Macs are getting longer, but also more expensive.
Other World Computing on Friday started selling a 30-meter Thunderbolt 2 optical cable for $899. It will be able to stretch 4K video streams from a Mac to a 4K monitor for the full length.
Corning this week at International CES demonstrated optical cables stretching 200 feet, or 61 meters, that are also Thunderbolt 2 compatible. The technology transfers data at speeds of up to 20Gbps (bits per second).
Corning has already shown optical cables that extend to 100 meters on the original Thunderbolt technology, in which data transfers happen at 10Gbps. Prices and availability on the new Corning cables were not provided.
OWC is selling a new 10-meter optical cable for $319, which is comparable on price to Corning’s 10-meter optical cable, which sells for $325 on Amazon.com. OWC is also selling a new 20-meter cable for $619.
Thunderbolt technology is available in both optical and copper cables. For longer distances, optical technology offers faster data transfers, but is considered more expensive than copper. Copper cables offer adequate speeds in most cases, but the products on sale are for much shorter lengths. Optical cables also require a power source, while copper cables carry power.
Apple sells a two-meter copper cable for $39. Accell sells a three-meter cable for $45 on Amazon.com.
Because optical cables are expensive to implement, adoption will depend on usability versus willingness to pay. Buyers of the long optical cable may include creative professionals using Mac Pro desktops to create 4K content. Over time, the price of optical cables will fall. Intel is also developing faster Thunderbolt technologies that could touch 50Gbps, which is when more users will likely transition over from copper to optical cables.
Thunderbolt supports the PCI-Express and DisplayPort protocols. It helps reduce the number of connectors needed to attach peripherals to computers. A large number of Thunderbolt compatible peripherals are storage devices, but Apple sells a compatible monitor, and other video and audio equipment are also available.