CES, Thunderbolt and Video hardware

January 14, 2012 — 7 Comments

Hey gang,

I’m finally back with a new post. This week as brought a wave of news out of CES, including some new Thunderbolt peripherals. Here are some of my thoughts on what’s ahead.

Update 1: AMD intros “Lightning Bolt”, creates confusion about true Thunderbolt

I became aware of this a day after I recorded the Thunderbolt round-up video above. Just as Thunderbolt is starting to get some traction, AMD has announced it is developing a cheaper, slower, less capable competitor that uses THE SAME CONNECTOR (Mini display port). They are conspicuously calling this tech “Lightning Bolt”. This tech is USB 3 based, but due to muxing this would run at “less than” full USB 3 speeds. Note: USB 3 is rated at 5Gbps (total). True Apple/Intel Thunderbolt is 10Gbps (bi-directional…i.e. 20Gbps total). Does this smack of “cheap knock-off” or what?

Ugh. I predict widespread confusion, especially outside of the geek-o-sphere.

Anandtech has the known details.

Update 2 : My follow up to this video

My follow-up to this video regarding Thunderbolt and the Mac Pro’s future

Carey Dissmore

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7 responses to CES, Thunderbolt and Video hardware

  1. Hey Carey, nice summary! I’ve found the silence around the release of Thunderbolt products a little disturbing… when it was announced (I think last spring?), it was hailed as an incredible new interface, and I got all excited about it. Only now am I starting to hear about more products on the platform. Here’s to hoping that Apple releases a Thunderbolt enabled Mac Pro in the next couple days… (I believe we are still waiting on Intel to release the chips? Really hoping they don’t do away with the Mac Pro line.)

    p.s. Love the cha-ching sound effect!

    • Thanks Brian,

      I certainly hope there is an updated Mac Pro on the horizon. I do not believe Thunderbolt is fast enough to address the GPU bandwidth needs unless we double up more channels or something. The next-generation of Thunderbolt (up to 10x faster) is probably 4-5 years or more away, so that too is not an option today.

      I just made another blog post regarding these and other thoughts. You can find it here: http://www.careydissmore.com/2012/01/16/the-future-of-the-mac-pro-in-video-post-and-why-thunderbolt-is-not-the-answer/

      • I guess after thinking through it a bit more, Thunderbolt probably isn’t as necessary on a Mac Pro as it is on a MBP or iMac. With a Mac Pro, you can add fibre to get the hard drive speed you need, and use the PCI slots for other devices. Certainly would help with any external portable drives you want to connect, though (ie. firewire drives, only now they are thunderbolt enabled drives) so you could take advantage of transfer speeds.

        Also note that even if Thunderbolt isn’t as necessary on a Mac Pro, a new Mac Pro is!!! I think it’s exciting what we will be able to do with our iMacs and MBPs to expand them if we want, but when it comes down to it, we really need the beast that is the Mac Pro. Let’s hope Apple doesn’t deem them unnecessary.

        • There are a couple of places data needs to travel in a computer system at speeds way faster than Thunderbolt provides. System RAM/Memory controller/CPU and of course GPU.

          Many of the online rumors, leaks or discussions of the future of the Mac Pro have focussed on the idea of reducing it’s size, and perhaps making it rack-mountable. Any discussion like that centers around the idea of taking components external. For the video pros, the one component that would suffer most in that scenario is(are) the GPU(s).

          Of course the other issue we are not really addressing here is one of the biggest reasons the Mac Pro may be on the bubble in the first place: Price.

          While I haven’t done exhaustive research, as more and more general-purpose users are sated with iMacs, Macbook Pros and Macbook Airs, the less Mac Pros they will sell. Also, the marketplace would seem to indicate that the more expensive the Mac Pro gets, the less of them they will sell.

          The price of the machines is largely influenced by CPU prices. Intel has been raising the prices of Xeon’s like crazy, perhaps in response to the shrinking size of the market demand, but whatever the case, this becomes self-fulfilling and they can end up pricing themselves right out of the market. The business case for any system is always balanced against cost.

          But Thunderbolt on a Mac Pro system – whether a refreshed clone of the existing towers we know so well – or a new smaller one should still be there simply to accept Thunderbolt peripherals (especially storage) just to be a good player within a growing Thunderbolt ecosystem.

  2. thanks for your insight. i am a mac pro owner. i dont use it for all the intense loads you seem to be using it for, but i really can not imagine having to go back to an imac. dont get me wrong, i love imacs. but i need way more options that only the mac pro offers.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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