The new USB standards and the Thunderbolt interface go hand in hand, which is not only demonstrated by the shared USB-C connector. After recently announcing USB4 2.0 with 80 Gbit/s, Intel has now demonstrated “Thunderbolt 5” with the same data rate.
Recently the name “Thunderbolt 5” was mentioned on show Apparently not as part of the 2022 Intel Tech Tour in Haifa, Israel, but unless Intel switches to the curious naming of USB standards, Thunderbolt 5 is the next logical step after Thunderbolt 4.
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With 40 Gbit/s on two channels and thus 80 Gbit/s in total, the demo system, which is not described in detail, achieved twice the throughput of its predecessor. This also corresponds to the maximum that the USB Promoter Group has announced for the next USB4 2.0 update. Both standards are now closely related and Thunderbolt is no longer just the “baby” of Intel or Apple. Ever since inventor Intel licensed the USB-IF, manufacturers have been able to use Thunderbolt for free.
Thunderbolt raises the bar
While some features and top speed are optional with USB standards, Thunderbolt sets higher standards. For example, devices with only 20 Gbit/s may be advertised as “USB4”, while Thunderbolt 4 always requires the maximum of 40 Gbit/s. Bottom line: Thunderbolt 4 is USB 4 with all the trimmings.
This will probably also be the case with Thunderbolt 5, which will always deliver 80 Gbit/s, while 80 Gbit/s with USB4 will only be one of several options. In any case, it is clear that the USB-C connector will be used again in both.
Intel unintentionally flagged Thunderbolt 5 a year ago: A photo posted on Twitter and later deleted showed plans with 80 Gbit/s via three-stage pulse width modulation (PAM-3).
It is not clear when the new generation Thunderbolt will be introduced. The upgrade to USB4 2.0 with 80 Gbit/s should be completed within the year at least.
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