Apple’s new Thunderbolt ports are already the fastest connection ports on the market, but if Intel has their way they’ll be even faster in the near future. In order to boost the performance of Thunderbolt, Intel is working to support PCI-Express 3.0 protocols which will significantly boost data transfer rates.
Thunderbolt has barely been on the market for a year, but the fact that Intel is already looking to make improvements may signify the technology will become a mainstay on all computers. Computers with Thunderbolt communicate with devices using PCI-Express 2.0 technology. While PCIe 2.0 is remarkably fast with its 5 gigatransfers per second, the move to PCIe 3.0 would bring speeds up to 8 gigatransfers per second.
Intel’s aim with Thunderbolt is to unite many data-transfer, networking and display protocols through a single, unified connector. Thunderbolt also supports DisplayPort, and Intel has said it could bring USB 3.0 support to Thunderbolt. All Thunderbolt devices share a common connector, and individuals can simply daisy-chain their devices one after another, connected by electrical or optical cables.
PCIe 3.0 is just starting to hit the market. Intel announced their new Xeon E5 chip which integrates PCIe 3.0 in the processor. Because it’s a new technology, it will take some time before other manufacturers create accessories that support the technology. Thunderbolt was introduced in 2011 by Apple and Intel when Apple included it in their MacBook Pro line. The technology has since gone on to be implemented in the iMac and MacBook Air lines as well.