New MacBook Air Using Scaled-Down Thunderbolt Chip

macbook air 2011 eagle ridge
Portion of MacBook Air motherboard with Eagle Ridge chip outlined in teal (Source: iFixit)

AnandTech takes a look at the Thunderbolt controller used by Apple in the new MacBook Air, finding that the company has opted to use a scaled-down "Eagle Ridge" controller chip from Intel instead of the "Light Ridge" chip found in larger Thunderbolt-enabled machines.

[Light Ridge] features four Thunderbolt channels (4 x 10Gbps bidirectional = 80Gbps aggregate bandwidth) and up to two DisplayPort outputs. It's used in the 2011 iMac, MacBook Pro and Mac mini. ...

Eagle Ridge is available in two form factors (normal and SFF [small form factor]) and is effectively half of a Light Ridge chip. That means you only get two Thunderbolt channels and one DP output. Apple used the small form factor version of Eagle Ridge in its new MacBook Air to cut cost and save on motherboard real estate.

With Eagle Ridge only supporting a single DisplayPort output, MacBook Air users are only able to drive a single external display via the Thunderbolt port, although the machine's integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 would also preclude the use of two external monitors on the MacBook Air as it does on the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Thunderbolt adoption has thus far been limited to high-end devices in part due to high costs associated with inclusion of the technology. Use of the scaled-down Eagle Ridge controller could help push Thunderbolt into lower-end products, presuming that the smaller chip carries some cost savings for manufacturers.

Related Roundup: MacBook Air
Buyer's Guide: MacBook Air (Caution)
Related Forum: MacBook Air

Top Rated Comments

Vol7ron Avatar
134 months ago
Woah there.....

First off, this is about the Macbook Air, not the Macbook Pro. The Air has considerably less room inside of it then the Pro model does.

Second, this really doesn't mean that it is crippled. It just means that can only have one extra display hooked up to it. Kinda like how the previous Air models were and the previous iMac and MacBook Pro models were before Thunderbolt came a long.

This is first generation technology. It will get refined and i bet that we will see the quad channels eventually.

My question to you is, how are you going to use 4GB of bandwidth per second? Only my VMware ESXi servers use dual 10G fiber cards. I mean, that is a lot of data moving back and forth. Most people would never come even close to utilizing that much bandwidth. So to say that the device is crippled is ridiculous....
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ovrlrd Avatar
134 months ago
I was more enthusiastic about this Air refresh (I have the previous generation with the 320M GPU), but every day there's a piece of news about how it's not sooo amazing as expected: Different SSD models ("did you get the fast one?"), integrated GPU "almost as good" as nVidia offer, and now a thunderbolt port that's, let's face it, crippled down compared to other Macs.

To me it just sounds like you are trying to make yourself feel better about having a previous generation. There is nothing wrong with doing that mental justification if it helps you, but the reality it is still a fantastic update to the MBA line.

The GPU thing is unavoidable due to licensing, and while the HD 3000 isn't as impressive on paper, it still performs well enough. The simple fact is that nobody is going to be doing high-end GPU work on the MBA because of battery constraints. Gaming has always been a "bonus" achievement, and never a requirement.

The different SSD models is the most overrated debate ever, there is absolutely no practical difference between the two drives, and the only people upset are people who run benchmarks all day long to inflate their ego.

Finally, this news about the Thunderbolt chip, you need to understand that this is not a gimped Thunderbolt, or less powerful. It still does the 10Gbps requirement of Thunderbolt, and that is all that really matters. You aren't going to be daisy chaining 5 devices that can make use of 100% of the bandwidth on the MBA. It's simply just not a situation that would ever happen. Having 2 channels at 10Gbps means that you can drive one display, plus any number of devices that could use up to 20Gbps (thats a TON) of bandwidth. To put that into perspective, you would need ~2000 Blu-rays running at the exact same time to saturate that kind of bandwidth. That's an insane amount of bandwidth, and the fact that you think it's "gimped" is hilarious.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DrJohnnyN Avatar
134 months ago
Boom.

"Anandtech’s report also notes that the MacBook Air’s cheaper chip is likely to be the one used by PC makers who are making machines traditionally less expensive than those from Apple."
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
solgae Avatar
134 months ago
According to CultofMac.com: "The scaled down Thunderbolt chip used in the new MacBook Airs, however, is named Eagle Ridge, and features only two Thunderbolt channels — meaning it’s half as fast — with support for just one external display."

This doesn't mean you have half the bandwidth available for Eagle Ridge - you still have bidirectional 10Gbps interface for both Eagle Ridge (MBA version of thunderbolt) and Light Ridge (MBP/iMac version of thunderbolt). It only means Eagle Ridge has one displayport interface for external display as opposed to two on Light Ridge. If you look at the anandtech's test result with the Pegasus array, you'll see that both MBA and MBP perform practically the same.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
basesloaded190 Avatar
134 months ago
Thunderbolt is so overrated. Apple should adopt USB3.0 asap.
Thunderbolt is not supposed to replace USB 3.0, it's meant to supplement it. Thunderbolt has so many more capabilities compared to USB.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
justinfreid Avatar
134 months ago
This seems like reasonable product differentiation to me.
Besides, only a small minority of users will ever drive 2 external displays from their laptop.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
gradiente iphone white

Brazilian Electronics Company Revives Long-Running iPhone Trademark Dispute

Tuesday May 19, 2020 1:06 pm PDT by
Apple has been involved in a long-running iPhone trademark dispute in Brazil, which was revived today by IGB Electronica, a Brazilian consumer electronics company that originally registered the "iPhone" name in 2000. IGB Electronica fought a multi-year battle with Apple in an attempt to get exclusive rights to the "iPhone" trademark, but ultimately lost, and now the case has been brought to...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
YouTube Picture in Picture Feature

YouTube Premium Subscribers Can Now Use iOS Picture-in-Picture: Here's How

Wednesday August 25, 2021 3:55 am PDT by
Google has rolled out picture-in-picture support as an "experimental" feature for YouTube premium subscribers, allowing them to watch video in a small window when the app is closed. If you're a premium YouTube subscriber looking to try out picture-in-picture, follow these steps: Launch a web browser and sign into your YouTube account at YouTube.com. Navigate to www.youtube.com/new. Scroll...
2012macpro

Apple Outlines Metal-Capable Cards Compatible With macOS Mojave on 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro Models

Monday September 24, 2018 3:26 pm PDT by
Apple's new macOS Mojave update is not compatible with mid-2010 and mid-2012 Mac Pros with stock GPUs, but it is supported on 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro models that have been upgraded with graphics cards that support Metal. Apple today shared a new support document that provides a list of graphics cards that are Metal-capable, which will be useful for 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro owners who want to...
apple privacy

Apple Publishes FAQ to Address Concerns About CSAM Detection and Messages Scanning

Monday August 9, 2021 1:50 am PDT by
Apple has published a FAQ titled "Expanded Protections for Children" which aims to allay users' privacy concerns about the new CSAM detection in iCloud Photos and communication safety for Messages features that the company announced last week. "Since we announced these features, many stakeholders including privacy organizations and child safety organizations have expressed their support of...
iphone 13 teal with text

Apple Expecting iPhone and iPad Supply Constraints in September Quarter

Tuesday July 27, 2021 2:34 pm PDT by
During today's earnings call covering the third fiscal quarter of 2021 (second calendar quarter), Apple CFO Luca Maesteri said that Apple is expecting supply constraints to affect the iPhone and the iPad in the coming quarter. "The supply constraints that we've seen in the June quarter will be higher in the September quarter," said Maestri. The constraints will impact iPhone and iPad sales...
anker lightning cable mfi

Unwrap a New Apple Device? Stock Up on Extra Certified Lightning Cables for as Little as $6

Monday December 25, 2017 5:45 am PST by
If you unwrapped an Apple product today it likely came with one of the company's first-party Lightning cables, but having an extra on hand is always a good idea, so you can place it in other rooms in your house, in your car, or in a bag when you travel. For that reason, now's a good time to shop for third-party Lightning cables that are cheaper than Apple's own accessory, but still Made For...
apple screen time screen icons

Persistent Kids Finding Loopholes in Apple's Screen Time Limits

Tuesday October 15, 2019 9:44 am PDT by
Apple is currently engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with persistent kids looking to circumvent Screen Time restrictions, but the company has been receiving some criticism for not moving quickly enough to lock down some of the loopholes, reports The Washington Post. A few of the loopholes and ways for parents to shut them down are documented on the site Protect Young Eyes, while these and...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...