What’s the ThunderBolt Interface?

We’ve been hearing about the new interface known as ThunderBolt quite recently in all MacBook Pros and the new iMacs. In this post, we’ll try to give you a brief overview of what is that and how it works.

So, What is ThunderBolt?

ThunderBolt is the brand name for the interface previously codenamed as the LightPeek Technology by Intel Corporation. It’s an interface to transfer data upto 10 Gbits per second in a bi-directional way.  It also serves as a DisplayPort at the rate of 10 Gbit/s and it might support upto 100 Gbit/s in the years to come.  Aimed to replace the USB 3.0 which supports upto 5 Gbit/s, the ThunderBolt was developed by Intel with close collaboration with Apple Inc., thereby the first products to have a Thunderbolt port built-in are the Macs.

Intel first demoed the LightPeek Technology in its Intel Developer Forum in 2009 where it used a prototype of a Mac Pro motherboard to run two 1080p video streams plus LAN and storage devices over a single 30-meter optical cable with modified USB ends. On May 4 2010, Intel demonstrated the connector pins and finally in September 2010, commercial products using the Thunderbolt interface were demonstrated at the IDF 2010.

Design & Connectivity:

The Thunderbolt interface connector looks like a DisplayPort which is based on the port developed by Apple. This helps the port to have a much wider support with existing hardware such as monitors, graphics cards and external hard drives. Since the port is very small, it is easier to fit in laptops too. Thunderbolt can be implemented on graphics cards, which have access to DisplayPort data and PCI express connectivity.

But security will be compromised since the thunderbolt is allowed very low-level access to the system as it is implemented as an extension of the PCI Express bus. This issue exists with all high-speed expansion buses, including PC Card, ExpressCard and IEEE 1394 interface (FireWire).

The ThunderBolt supports upto 6 devices at once in a daisy chain connectivity.


The ThunderBolt was first implemented in the Macbook Pros and followed by iMacs and we can expect more thunderbolt devices in the days to come. Here are few others :


  • Promise Pegasus R4 and Pegasus R6
  • LaCie Little Big Disk
  • Sonnet Fusion RAID

Video Capture

  • Blackmagic UltraStudio 3D
  • Matrox MX02


  • Promise SAN Link Fibre Channel adapter
  • Sonnet Allegro FireWire 800 adapter
  • Sonnet Presto Gigabit Ethernet adapter


ElamParithi Arul is Editor At Large and the Owner of Tech Twinklers. He is the founder of the Parithi Network. Basically being a 23 year old Whizkid, He's A Mac User. An Adventurer. A Tech Enthusiast, An Avid PC and PlayStation Gamer, A Hobbyist Photographer and a Nature Lover. His basic interests are developing Websites, Apps and coming up with various creative ideas for a better vibrant tomorrow. He is a professional blogger for about 4 years and writes blogs regarding technology, gaming, and about his own personal life. You can follow him on Twitter at @Parithi

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1 Comment

  • seyromfr45
    June 24, 2011 at 5:36 PM

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