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Desktops

Retina display Macs on the cards as Thunderbolt goes 4K

Intel's Thunderbolt cable is doubling speed to 20Gbps with Falcon Ridge -- and it can handle 4K video at the same time.

Thunderbolt is bringing double the thunder. Apple's favourite cable is getting a speed boost to a whopping 20Gbps in magnificently titled update Falcon Ridge -- and what's more it can handle 4K video at the same time.

As the next generation of Intel's Thunderbolt data transfer technology, Falcon Ridge is capable of blasting 20 gigabits of data per second between devices, double the current rate of 10Gbps. And it can keep zapping 20Gbps back and forth in both directions between devices, even while shuttling eye-meltingly high-resolution 4K video to a display at the same time.

Intel's forthcoming fourth-generation Core processors will have a controller for Thunderbolt built-in, codenamed Redwood Ridge. Speeds like this deserve the implausibly macho names, which conjure up images that should be embroidered on the back of denim jackets.

The new version of Thunderbolt will also involve thinner cables. The pluggy bit remains unchanged, and new Falcon Ridge cables and kit will still work with the current generation of Thunderbolt-equipped gadgets -- although speed will stay at a maximum of 10Gbps.

The increase in processing power in chips with Redwood Ridge, and the data boost in Falcon Ridge ports, could mean higher-resolution Mac screens. Apple uses Intel's Thunderbolt connection as its plug of choice for MacBooks and iMacs to talk to peripherals such as monitors, hard drives and so on.

Apple's high-resolution retina display technology has made it from iPhone to iPad and as far as retina display MacBooks, but has yet to expand to the big screen of the iMac or external displays. With this new kit that could change in the not-too-distant future.

Thunderbolt Falcon Ridge is expected to land in 2014. Would you like to see a retina display Mac? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our ultra high-definition Facebook page.