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
15 months 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
15 months 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
15 months 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
15 months 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
15 months 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
15 months 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

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...
apple studio display blue

Apple Updates Boot Camp to Support Studio Display

Sunday March 20, 2022 5:40 am PDT by
Apple this week released an update for Boot Camp, its solution for running Windows on Intel-based Macs, to support the newly-launched Studio Display. Boot Camp Update 6.1.17, released to the public earlier this week, adds support for the Studio Display and updates drivers for AMD and Intel GPUs. To update to the latest Boot Camp drivers, users need to navigate to the Start menu in Windows...
studio display

Studio Display Supports 5th-Gen iPad Air, But Not the 4th-Gen or the iPad Mini 6 [Updated]

Wednesday March 9, 2022 3:26 am PST by
Update: Apple has since confirmed to MacRumors that plugging in a fourth-generation iPad Air or iPad mini 6 into the Studio Display will result in a downscaled 1440p output. According to Apple, the new 27-inch 5K Studio Display supports a range of Macs going back to 2016 MacBook Pro models, but its compatibility with iPads is notably limited to the 11-inch iPad Pro, 12.9-inch iPad Pro...
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. ...
iP14 Lightning Portless Feature blue

Apple's Lightning Port is Nearing Its Expiration Date, So What's Next for the iPhone?

Monday February 28, 2022 7:12 am PST by
When Phil Schiller introduced the Lightning connector at the unveiling of the iPhone 5 in September 2012, he called it "a modern connector for the next decade," and with that 10-year mark coming up later this year, questions remain over what the future of the iPhone looks like and whether or not that future will include a Lightning port, or perhaps no port at all. Every iPhone since the...
mac mini intel gray

Mac Mini and Mac Pro are Apple's Last Two Remaining Intel Macs With Launch of Mac Studio

Tuesday March 8, 2022 11:31 am PST by
With the launch of the new Mac Studio that replaces the higher-end 27-inch Intel iMac, Apple has just two Intel Macs left in its lineup - the Mac Pro and the Mac mini. Though the Mac Studio appears to be something of a Mac mini and Mac Pro hybrid, Apple has not discontinued the high-end Intel Mac mini and it remains in the lineup. This suggests a new version of the high-end Mac mini is...
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...
anker february 2022

Deals: Anker's New Gold Box Sale Has Up to 40% Off USB-C and MagSafe-Compatible Accessories

Monday February 14, 2022 8:10 am PST by
Anker has returned today with a new Gold Box deal on Amazon, offering discounts on over a dozen of Anker's best charging accessories. This includes USB-C to Lightning cables, USB-C wall chargers, MagSafe-compatible wireless and portable chargers, and more. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small...

Popular Stories

USB C Over Lightning Feature

EU Passes Law to Switch iPhone to USB-C by End of 2024

Tuesday October 4, 2022 3:30 am PDT by
The European Parliament today voted overwhelmingly in favor of enforcing USB-C as a common charging port across a wide range of consumer electronic devices, including the iPhone and AirPods, by the end of 2024. The proposal, known as a directive, forces all consumer electronics manufacturers who sell their products in Europe to ensure that a wide range of devices feature a USB-C port. This...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

10 New iOS 16 Features Coming Later This Year

Monday October 3, 2022 2:41 pm PDT by
iOS 16 was released to the public three weeks ago with a customizable Lock Screen, the ability to edit iMessages, improvements to Focus modes, and much more. And in the coming months, iPhone and iPad users have even more new features to look forward to. We've rounded up 10 new features coming to the iPhone and iPad later this year, according to Apple. Many of the features are part of iOS...
ipad pro m1 feature

Gurman: Apple Event This October Remains Unlikely, No Touch ID for iPhone 15

Sunday October 2, 2022 6:41 am PDT by
Apple is developing new iPad Pro, Mac, and Apple TV models, and at least some of these products will be released in October, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. However, Gurman continues to believe that Apple is unlikely to hold an event this month. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman said "the big iPhone 14 unveiling last month was probably it for Apple in 2022 in...
iOS 16

Apple Preparing iOS 16.0.3 With More Bug Fixes Following iPhone 14 Launch

Monday October 3, 2022 7:53 am PDT by
iOS 16.0.2 was released last month with several bug fixes for iPhone 14 issues, excessive copy and paste permission prompts, and more. Now, evidence suggests that Apple is planning to release iOS 16.0.3 with additional bug fixes. Evidence of an upcoming iOS 16.0.3 software update has shown up in MacRumors analytics logs, which have been a reliable indicator in the past. There are several...
Apple SIM Card

Apple SIM No Longer Available for Activating New Cellular Data Plans on iPads

Sunday October 2, 2022 8:04 am PDT by
As of October 1, Apple SIM is no longer available for activating new cellular data plans on supported iPad models, according to an Apple support document. Introduced in 2014, the Apple SIM was designed to allow iPad users to activate cellular data plans from multiple carriers around the world. Initially, the Apple SIM was a physical nano-SIM card, but it was embedded inside later iPad Pro...
maxresdefault

Video: AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort II

Monday October 3, 2022 12:50 pm PDT by
Apple on September 23 officially launched the second-generation version of the AirPods Pro, introducing updated Active Noise Cancellation, Adaptive Transparency, improved sound, and more. Right around the same time, Bose introduced new QuietComfort II earbuds with many similar features, so we thought we'd compare the two to see which has the edge. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for ...
General YouTube Feature 1

You May Soon Need to Be a YouTube Premium Subscriber to Watch 4K Videos

Monday October 3, 2022 4:29 am PDT by
YouTube may make watching videos in 4K quality on the platform exclusive to only YouTube Premium subscribers, according to screenshots posted by users on Twitter and Reddit. On Reddit (1,2) and Twitter, some users have started to recently notice that on iOS, and presumably across other platforms also, YouTube is now saying that in order to watch videos in 4K, the user must be a paying...
dynamic island alan dye

Apple Executives Talk About iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island in New Interview

Sunday October 2, 2022 10:48 am PDT by
In a new interview, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, and Apple's vice president of human interface design, Alan Dye, sat down to discuss the thinking behind the iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island and how it was developed. During the interview with the Japanese magazine Axis, Federighi, who oversees the development of iOS, said Dynamic Island represents the...