After USB 3.1's new connector, comes Thunderbolt 3's

Thunderbolt 3 is coming with a smaller connector -- but not for a while. It's tied to Intel's Skylake chips, and those aren't due until 2015.

The next-generation Thunderbolt promises a new connector and twice the speed. Apple

Just as all the excitement over the next-gen USB connector is dying down, we have word of the Thunderbolt 3 update too.

Oh, and Thunderbolt 3 will double the throughput speed, according to Chinese-language site VR-Zone, which posted a slide with details of the next-gen connector technology, code-named Alpine Ridge.

Here's a summary of what to expect. Note that the next-gen Thunderbolt is tied to Intel's Skylake chip architecture, which isn't due until 2015.

--2X jump in speed. Bandwidth increase to 40 gigabits per second from 20Gbps.

--Displays. Can drive two 4K displays over a single cable, as The Tech Report points out.

--Support. PCIe Gen3, USB 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.0, and HDMI 2.0

--Charging. Support for devices up to 100 watts.

Getting back to the plug: the height will apparently be slimmed down to just 3mm from the current 4.5mm. That makes it a much better fit for ultraslim devices, which could conceivably include tablets.

Thunderbolt is familiar to MacBook users because it doubles as a DisplayPort connector. Hewlett-Packard uses the port on devices selectively, as does Lenovo and Asus.

But on consumer devices it's certainly not as universal as the USB. Will that change with a slimmer connector? Who knows?

Remember, changes in connector technology are generally glacial. Look no further than USB 3.0. It took roughly 10 years for the computer industry to migrate from USB 2.0 to 3.0 -- and it still hasn't happened on many devices, because it's just not necessary.

Intel declined to comment.

USB 3.1 Type-C connector: the next-gen Thunderbolt also promises slimmer connectors. USB Implementors Forum

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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