Thunderbolt 5 Could Double Bandwidth to 80 Gbps, Intel Leak Suggests

An Intel executive appears to have unintentionally leaked details of Thunderbolt 5, the next-generation hardware interface protocol that is yet to have been officially announced by Intel.

intel tb5 leak anandtech

Image credit: AnandTech

The details appeared Sunday in a tweeted photo, since deleted, by EVP and GM of Intel's Client Computing Group, Gregory Bryant, who was documenting his visit to Intel's R&D labs in Israel.

As outlined by AnandTech, the photo from a Thunderbolt-related tour revealed a poster on a lab wall with the words "80G PHY Technology," suggesting TB5 connectivity will support up to 80 Gb/s throughput, or double the bandwidth of existing Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 connections.

The poster also includes the sentence "USB 80G is targeted to support the existing USB-C ecosystem," implying that Intel intends to run the extra bandwidth through the same USB-C interface connector.

A more technical reference in the poster appears to refer to a new PAM-3 (Pulse Amplitude Modulation) implementation that would make use of a 3-bit data signal, allowing TB5 to achieve a higher bandwidth than that allowed in the more standard non-return-to-zero (NRZ) and PAM-4 implementations seen in existing connectivity protocols.

Intel launched Thunderbolt 4 last year and several TB4 accessories have been available for some time, but Apple's latest Macs and iPad Pro models still only support Thunderbolt 3. However, while TB4 offers more power and utility and is backwards compatible, it doesn't deliver any bandwidth increase over the maximum 40 Gb/s of Thunderbolt 3, so the step up to Thunderbolt 5 with its doubled maximum throughput could be significant.

The practical upshot of these innovations could mean, for example, TB5 supporting higher refresh rates for 4K and 8K monitors while providing backward compatibility with older Thunderbolt and USB connections.

Whether Intel Thunderbolt 5 will be officially launched – and supported by future Apple devices – is unclear at this time, but the unintentional leak at least provides a peak into where Intel might take the interface protocol in the future.

Top Rated Comments

theluggage Avatar
24 weeks ago

I don’t know where the USB standard is heading.
It's ceased being a "standard" and become an umbrella term for a huge, messy heap ("stack" sounds too coherent and organised) of - sometimes competing - protocols.

Problem is, I think the "Universal" port is an idea who's time has come and gone. USB 2-3, great in its time - cheap to implement, cheap cables and good for everything from a keyboard to a regular external SSD, while video interfaces remained totally separate. Now, they're trying for a single port that can be used for everything from a keyboard/mouse (which still only need USB 1 speeds) through a fast SSD (even so, USB3.0 still covers the majority of applications) through to super-high-speed SSD arrays, and 8/16k displays... which are only used by a tiny fraction of customers (and which will therefore always cost a fortune). Meanwhile, the need for boring old USB2/3 devices isn't going away - because those protocols are more than good enough for things like keyboards, mice, MIDI, backup drives and the typical home/small office network.

The problem with catering for such a wide range of cases via a single universal port is that CPU and GPU resources don't grow on trees - CPUs supply a finite number of PCIe lanes, or equivalent, GPUs support a limited number of DisplayPort streams, so while they may be able to drive half a dozen USB2/3 ports they don't have the resources to drive more than a couple of high-bandwidth universal ports. Sure, manufacturers can add switching arrangements to share resources between ports but that adds expense and complexity (and obscure rules as to what permutations of devices you can plug in to the "universal" ports) so what we get is fewer holes in which to plug stuff.

The height of the stupidity is combining video, charging and data - forcing three independent sets of resources to compete for the same precious universal port... because, otherwise, when you put your laptop on the desk you might have to plug in two or three cables rather than one. Oh the humanity! (I mean, this was more of a point back in the good old days when you were talking about half a dozen honking great D-connectors that had to be screwed in place, but popping in 2-3 modern connectors takes seconds) - and using a display as a dock made sense back in ~2010 and the days of the 1440p Thunderbolt display, which left plenty of spare bandwidth to drive other ports. Nowadays, with 4k commonplace (so, 4x the bandwidth), 6k and 8k bubbling under along with HDR, higher refresh rates etc. it's the displays that are really driving the bandwidth requirement - so trying to share the same channel with other, unrelated data is just dumb.

The size of laptops is already fixed by the keyboard, display and battery - so there should be no shortage of space for ports (use mini-connectors if you really must... that's a separate issue from universal ports). The only demand for "universal" connectors is on mobiles where there really is limited space - but the future of mobile is probably totally wireless (because a mobile with a cable connected isn't... mobile).

...and while we don't want to be the "640K is enough for everybody" guy, the reality is that a huge number of use cases are more than adequately covered by USB3 and 4k displays, and will be for several years. SSD speed and capacity doesn't seem to be doubling every 18 months any more, and the resolution of the Mk1 Eyeball isn't increasing, either.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
joelhinch Avatar
24 weeks ago

I was hopeful USB4 would just mandate TB3 across the board after Intel donated TB3 to the USB consortium, but USB4 only mandates TB3 support in USB4 hubs.

The USB consortium made a new 40gbit standard based on TB3 for USB4… which along with their flailing on PowerDelivery has made me lose faith in that group. The USB consortium removed 12V from the standard Power Delivery fixed voltages, allowed companies to add any fixed voltage to their adapters, and have now added a variable voltage to the standard.

I don’t know where the USB standard is heading.
They should abandon the U in USB for starters. How USB is still Universal with all these decisions is a bit of a joke.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Radeon85 Avatar
24 weeks ago

So much for USB naming simplification. Why not just name it USB 5?
The naming scheme was fine until 3.0 when they decided to really confuse things with renaming it to USB 3.1 Gen 1, USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, unless you know what the speed of those standards are it's meaningless.

If the tech community gets confused the general public must be completely lost. To be honest I'd rather them use speed numbers instead of generic numbers, so at least the USB host is 5Gbps or 10Gbps etc and if the device is one of those that is what you get.

So much simper if the PC says USB 10Gbps and the device you want to use says USB 10Gbps, instantly you know that's the fastest you'll get, or if the device your plugging in only does 5Gbps into a 10Gbps port you know you will only get half the speed.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Gabebear Avatar
24 weeks ago

The naming scheming was fine until 3.0 when they decided to really confuse things with renaming it to USB 3.1 Gen 1, USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, unless you know what the speed of those standards are it's meaningless.

If the tech community gets confused the general public must be completely lost. To be honest I'd rather them use speed numbers instead of generic numbers, so at least the USB host is 5Gbit/s or 10Gbit/s etc and the device is one of those that is what you get.

So much simper if the PC says USB 10Gbit/s and the device you want to use says USB 10Gbit/s, instantly you know that's the fastest you'll get, or if the device your plugging in only does 5Gbit/s into a 10Gbit/s port you know you will only get half the speed.
No, they screwed up USB2 as well, and USB3 is a bigger mess than you think.

USB2.0 was announced as being 480mbit, but then the companies lobbied to allow USB1.1 devices(12mbit) to be marketed as USB2.0 so the USB consortium created “USB 2.0 Full Speed” which was identical to USB1.1 and “USB 2.0 Hi-Speed” which was the new 480mbit standard.

USB3 20gbit was launched and is entirely different and electrically incompatible from the USB4 20gbit standard. USB4 20gbit controllers are not mandated to work with USB3 20gbit. USB4 also has a 10gbit mode that is not backwards compatible with USB3.0 for some reason.
Example BS:
[LIST=1]
* It would be valid for a company to make a 10gbit USB4 device that doesn't work with USB3 10gbit.
* It is likely that a USB3 20gbit peripheral will not work at 20gbit on a USB4 port even though USB4 ports are mandated to have a 20gbit mode(40gbit isn't mandatory).
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bill44 Avatar
24 weeks ago
The current TB4 does not have enough bandwidth for the following:

M.2 PCIe 3 x 4 at full speed in an external TB4 enclosure. Never mind M.2 PCIe 4 x 4.
HDMI 2.1 Alt mode. (48Gbps)
DisplayPort 2.0 Alt mode. (80Gbps)

An Apple 6K HDR 10bit display requires a lot of bandwidth. Combining 2x DisplayPort 1.4 together has been done, but HDMI 2.1 or DP 2.0 Alt mode over USB-C is a much better solution.

Once you factor in overhead, a future TB5 @ 80Gbps can't even handle DP 2.0 at full speed.
TB6 anyone? 160Gbps! Will it be enough for M.2 PCIe 5 x 4 that's coming 2nd half of 2022?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Gabebear Avatar
24 weeks ago

The current TB4 does not have enough bandwidth for the following:

M.2 PCIe 3 x 4 at full speed in an external TB4 enclosure. Never mind M.2 PCIe 4 x 4.
HDMI 2.1 Alt mode. (48Gbps)
DisplayPort 2.0 Alt mode. (80Gbps)

An Apple 6K HDR 10bit display requires a lot of bandwidth. Combining 2x DisplayPort 1.4 together has been done, but HDMI 2.1 or DP 2.0 Alt mode over USB-C is a much better solution.

Once you factor in overhead, a future TB5 @ 80Gbps can't even handle DP 2.0 at full speed.
TB6 anyone? 160Gbps! Will it be enough for M.2 PCIe 5 x 4 that's coming 2nd half of 2022?
TB3, USB4, and TB4 support DisplayPort2.0 in one-way mode. They use both 40gbit connections(normally one up, one down) to make a 80gbit one-way connection.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

Intel GoPC Tweet Feature

Intel Tweet Asking Why Former Mac Users Switched to PC Backfires

Friday October 15, 2021 5:39 am PDT by
Ahead of Monday's Apple event, which is expected to include the much-awaited launch of brand new 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros, Intel is continuing its long-running campaign to try and convince Mac users to switch to Intel-based PCs. Last week, Intel released a video as part of its PC vs. Mac campaign that featured "Apple fans" introduced to different Intel computers and all of their features. ...
satechi thunderbolt dock

Satechi Launches Thunderbolt 4 Dock and USB-C Adapters for Apple Silicon Macs

Wednesday December 8, 2021 6:00 am PST by
Satechi today announced the launch of several new products, including a Thunderbolt 4 Dock, a USB-C Multiport MX Adapter, and a USB-C Multimedia Adapter M1, all of which have been designed with Apple silicon Macs in mind. According to Satechi, the $300 Thunderbolt 4 Dock was created for M1 Max MacBook Pro owners, offering up 11 ports that can be used through a single connection. There are...
14 vs 16 inch mbp feature

Despite M1 Pro and M1 Max Performance and Efficiency Gains, Intel Still Hopes Apple Will Do Business With It

Wednesday October 20, 2021 2:26 am PDT by
Just two days after Apple further advanced its Apple silicon portfolio with the M1 Pro and M1 Max, marking the first professional high-end chips designed for the Mac, Intel is reportedly making yet another attempt to win Apple back as a customer. A day before Apple's long-awaited "Unleashed" event, Intel's CEO, Pat Gelsinger, said despite Apple moving away from his company's processors, he st...
new m1 chip

Key M1 Mac Engineer Departs Apple for Intel

Thursday January 6, 2022 2:31 pm PST by
Apple's former Director of Mac System Architecture Jeff Wilcox this week announced that he has left Apple to take on a new role at Intel. As noted on LinkedIn (via Tom's Hardware), Wilcox was part of Apple's M1 team and he had a key role in the transition from Intel chips to Apple silicon. Wilcox's profile says that he "led the transition" for all Macs to Apple silicon, and prior to that, he ...
Intel Not Mac Pro Feature

Macs With Intel Processors Still Coming Amid Transition to Apple Silicon

Tuesday December 21, 2021 10:55 am PST by
While Apple is rapidly transitioning its Mac lineup from Intel processors to its own Apple silicon, it's worth highlighting as 2021 wraps up that the relationship between Apple and Intel hasn't been entirely severed as reports indicate Apple still has one more Intel-based Mac in its pipeline that's yet to be released. With the Mac Pro, Apple is not expected to entirely transition its most...
3nm apple silicon feature

Intel Eager to Avoid Clashes With Apple As It Looks to Secure TSMC's 3nm Chip Supply

Friday December 3, 2021 2:20 am PST by
Intel is looking to develop a closer relationship with TSMC, Apple's largest and most important chip supplier, to avoid possible clashes with the Cupertino tech giant over TSMC's 3nm chip production, according to DigiTimes. Yesterday, we reported on TSMC beginning pilot production of its 3nm process that will eventually be used in future Apple silicon Macs. Apple currently uses a 5nm process ...
caldigit thunderbolt 4

CalDigit and OWC Unveil Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 Cables

Thursday February 18, 2021 8:35 am PST by
Popular Mac accessory makers CalDigit and OWC have today announced new all-in-one Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 cables, promising maximum data and power transfer over a single cable, as well as full compatibility with older USB devices. Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 is the latest connectivity specification present in the newest Macs and high-end external hardware, offering performance up to 40Gb/s,...
maxresdefault

Intel's Latest PC vs. Mac Ad Involves a 'Social Experiment' With Apple Fans

Monday October 4, 2021 1:35 pm PDT by
Intel today shared a new ad titled Breaking the Spell: Social Experiment. In the four-minute video, Intel invites 12 supposed Apple fans to a focus group showcasing features of "upcoming devices" that were, in fact, PCs that are already on the market. The ad was spotted earlier by French website MacGeneration. The video starts out by saying that many Apple fans only care about Apple...

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole thumb

ProMotion Now Expected to Remain Exclusive to iPhone 14 Pro Models, Not Expand to Entire Lineup

Sunday January 16, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Continuing the tradition set with the iPhone 13 Pro, only the highest-end iPhone 14 models will feature Apple's ProMotion display technology, according to a respected display analyst. Ross Young, who on multiple occasions has detailed accurate information about Apple's future products, said in a tweet that ProMotion will not be expanded to the entire iPhone 14 lineup and will remain...
safari icon blue banner

Safari Bug Allows Websites to Track Your Recent Browsing Activity in Real Time [Updated]

Sunday January 16, 2022 3:37 pm PST by
A bug in WebKit's implementation of a JavaScript API called IndexedDB can reveal your recent browsing history and even your identity, according to a blog post shared on Friday by browser fingerprinting service FingerprintJS. In a nutshell, the bug allows any website that uses IndexedDB to access the names of IndexedDB databases generated by other websites during a user's browsing session....
ipad air 4 video

New iPad Air Rumored to Launch This Spring With A15 Chip, 5G, Center Stage Camera, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 8:05 pm PST by
Apple is planning to release a fifth-generation iPad Air with similar features as the sixth-generation iPad mini, including an A15 Bionic chip, 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage support, 5G for cellular models, and Quad-LED True Tone flash, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. Citing reliables sources in China, the report claims that the new iPad Air could be...
Unlikely Products 2022 Feature

Six Rumored Apple Products You're Unlikely to See This Year

Saturday January 15, 2022 2:06 pm PST by
Much has been said about what consumers could see from Apple in 2022, but the company is also working on a handful of rumored products that aren't expected to be unveiled for at least another 12 months, and in some cases a lot longer. Of course, that's assuming they get released at all. Apple works on many potential products some of which ultimately never see the light of day. With that in...
AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
tesla carplay solution

Developer Showcases Apple CarPlay Workaround for Teslas

Monday January 17, 2022 7:24 am PST by
A Tesla Model 3 owner has resorted to a workaround to implement Apple CarPlay in his vehicle, amid no sign of official support from Tesla (via Tesla North). Apple CarPlay and Apple Music support are among the most-requested Tesla features, but with no indication that Tesla is willing to implement Apple CarPlay in its vehicles, Polish developer Michał Gapiński took matters into his own...
top stories 20220115

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, iCloud Private Relay Controversy, iOS 15.2.1 Released, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Hole-punch? Pill? Hole-punch and pill? Rumors about what the front camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro will look like are evolving rapidly, and it now appears we might be getting a novel but potentially controversial design later this year. Other major stories this week included some confusion and controversy about iCloud Private Relay being disabled for some T-Mobile customers, increasing...