It’s not just the new MacBook Pro range that is fresh and official this morning; Apple has also officially unveiled Thunderbolt, billed as “the fastest, most versatile I/O ever in a notebook.” The commercial name for Intel’s Light Peak technology, Thunderbolt promises to be as much as twice the speed of USB 3.0 and up to 20x faster than USB 2.0.
Based on PCI Express and DisplayPort, Thunderbolt uses the same port as Mini DisplayPort and so requires no adapter to hook up to existing monitors, like Apple’s own LED Cinema Display line. However, with the right adapters it can connect to USB, FireWire, gigabit ethernet and Fibre Channel networks, as well as HDMI, DVI or VGA.
More importantly, though, it can be used with Thunderbolt-compliant devices like RAID arrays and video capture boxes, offering hugely increased throughput between your new MacBook Pro and the external device. You can daisy-chain up to six devices with no impact on speed (or five devices and an LED Cinema Display). Intel reckons you’ll be able to transfer a full-length HD movie in less than 30 seconds over Thunderbolt, or backup one year of continuous MP3 playback in just over 10 minutes.
Best of all, this isn’t some Apple-only walled garden. Intel is pushing Thunderbolt with all its might, and so we should hopefully see it gradually replace existing connectors with a blast of steaming hot speed.