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Thunderbolt's premium cable

Acer Aspire S5

Acer Aspire S5 Thunderbolt port

LaCie's Little Big Disk

Thunderbolt on Apple's MacBook Air

Seagate GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt drive

Blackmagic Design's Thunderbolt-enabled video system

Belkin's Thunderbolt Express Dock

USB v. Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt's repurposed DisplayPort connector

Seagate's cheaper Thunderbolt cable

Thunderbolt's Light Peak origins

Dual Thunderbolt ports for daisy-chaining

LaCie's 2big Thunderbolt dual-drive system

Seagate's Thunderbolt GoFlex Ultra-portable

IDC's Thunderbolt forecast for laptops

IDC's Thunderbolt forecast for desktops

Elgato's Thunderbolt SSD

OCZ's Lightfoot Thunderbolt-connected SSD

Intel's high-speed, versatile Thunderbolt interface arrived in 2011 with Apple's Macs -- and pricey $50 cables. The cables are active, meaning that they require small microchips at either end to help transmit the data. The design also paves the way for longer optical Thunderbolt cables later this year designed to plug into today's Thunderbolt ports just fine.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
Thunderbolt arrives in the Windows ultrabook market at the end of June with the 2.65-pound, $1,400 Acer Aspire S5. Expanding to the Windows world significantly increases Thunderbolt's appeal to peripheral makers.
Caption by / Photo by Acer
Acer's Aspire S5 tucks extra ports, including one for Thunderbolt, in a hatch that pops up out of the underside.
Caption by / Photo by Acer
LaCie's Little Big Disk, available with either a hard drive or faster flash-based SSD, was one of the earliest Thunderbolt products on the market.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
We first saw Thunderbolt on Apple's 2011 MacBooks, iMacs, and Mac Minis. In 2012, Apple added a second port to its top-end 15-inch MacBook Pro models with Retina displays. One of the reasons for Thunderbolt's existence is that it gives a single port the potential to serve multiple uses, and newer laptops have very little room on the side for ports.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
Seagate's GoFlex Desk product includes a Thunderbolt-connected dock and a detachable hard drive.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
Blackmagic Design's UltraStudio 3D is emblematic of the high-end video abilities of Thunderbolt. It's able to handle input and output of professional-grade video that hasn't been compressed heavily.
Caption by / Photo by Blackmagic Design
Belkin's Thunderbolt Express Dock shows some of the potential of a single Thunderbolt port to fan out to handle many more I/O chores for a laptop.
Caption by / Photo by Belkin
One of Thunderbolt's strongest competitors is the faster new USB 3.0, which isn't on this 2011 MacBook Air but which now is standard on new 2012 Macs. USB 3.0 can't match Thunderbolt for speed, but it'll be ubiquitous, and it's a huge step up from USB 2.0.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
Thunderbolt reuses Mini DisplayPort connectors, giving designers a head start with hardware and helping make it possible to plug DisplayPort monitors directly into Thunderbolt.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
Apple's white Thunderbolt cables debuted at a price of $50 each, and cables usually aren't included with peripherals. Seagate, however, supplies this functional but less refined black Thunderbolt cable with its GoFlex products for Macs.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
Thunderbolt got its start at Intel as Light Peak, which initially used fiber-optic lines straight off a computer's motherboard. Thunderbolt kept the fiber-optic option but relegated it to a cable that should arrive later this year. More mundane copper cables get the job done for now.
Caption by / Photo by Intel
The LaCie Little Big Disk has two Thunderbolt ports on the back, letting it serve as an intermediary on a daisy chain of Thunderbolt devices.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
LaCie's 2big Thunderbolt drive isn't as fast as its smaller SSD cousin, the Little Big Drive, but it does offer 4 terabytes of capacity with dual 3.5-inch drives.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
Seagate's Thunderbolt GoFlex Ultra-portable uses the same detachable hard drive idea as its big brother, but with 3.5-inch drives and only a single Thunderbolt port. It's powered by the Thunderbolt cable itself, but can't be a step on a daisy chain of devices.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
IDC forecasts that USB 3.0 will conquer the entire laptop market in 2016. Thunderbolt will only reach 15.6 of laptops, the analyst firm predicts.
Caption by / Photo by forecast,IDC, Thunderbolt, USB
Desktop adoption of Thunderbolt will be a slower than USB 3.0, and also slower than Thunderbolt on laptops, IDC forecasts.
Caption by / Photo by IDC
The new Elgato Thunderbolt SSD bus-powered portable drive.
Caption by / Photo by Dong Ngo/CNET
OCZ's Lightfoot will provide a Thunderbolt-connected SSD faster than today's SATA-connected mainstream models, with capacities of 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB later this year.
Caption by / Photo by Stephen Shankland
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