Intel Working to Boost Thunderbolt Speeds with Move to PCI-Express 3.0
IDG News reports that Intel is currently working on shifting its Thunderbolt standard to the PCI-Express 3.0 protocol, a move that could allow the company to double data transfer speeds over existing implementations based on PCIe 2.0.
Intel in the future will support the PCI-Express 3.0 protocol to shuttle data faster between host devices and peripherals, an Intel spokesman said in an email. Computers with Thunderbolt interconnect currently communicate with external devices using the older PCI-Express 2.0 technology.
The company will incorporate PCI-Express 3.0 in Thunderbolt, but could not provide a time frame for when it will be accomplished.
PCIe 3.0 offers a 60% boost in raw data transfer speed compared to PCIe 2.0, going from 5 gigatransfers per second (GT/s) to 8 GT/s. But significantly lower overheard requirements in PCIe 3.0 mean that the effective bandwidth can be doubled by moving to the latest standard.
PCIe 3.0 is already making an appearance in Intel's chip products, including the just-launched Xeon E5 chips that could power updated Mac Pro models, as well as the forthcoming Ivy Bridge chips for notebooks and desktops. It will, however, take some time to move Thunderbolt over to PCIe 3.0 and get peripheral manufacturers onboard with the standard.
Apple and Intel debuted Thunderbolt technology with a MacBook Pro update in February 2011, and the standard has rolled out to Apple's entire Mac product line with the exception of the Mac Pro, which has not been updated since mid-2010.