Thunderbolt 5 explained | ENBLE

Thunderbolt 5 explained | ENBLE

Thunderbolt 5: The Next Generation Connection Standard to Revolutionize Computing and Media

Thunderbolt 5

Intel has recently announced the arrival of Thunderbolt 5, the successor to Thunderbolt 4, and it’s set to bring a host of exciting improvements to the world of connectivity. With promises of triple the bandwidth in certain scenarios, support for ultra-high resolutions and refresh rates, and the potential for a resurgence in external graphics cards, Thunderbolt 5 is generating a lot of buzz.

Originally announced in September 2023, Thunderbolt 5 devices are expected to hit the market in 2024. This will likely begin with external drives and, importantly, Intel-based laptops. However, the specific platform for these laptops is yet to be disclosed, leaving us wondering whether they will be based on Intel’s upcoming 13th generation Raptor Lake CPUs, the potentially delayed Meteor Lake, or something entirely different.

In terms of performance, Thunderbolt 5 is set to impress. Intel claims that it will double and triple the bandwidth of its predecessor, offering up to 80Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth for tasks like file transfers and up to 120Gbps of uni-directional bandwidth when connected to an external display. This makes Thunderbolt 5 the most capable connection for video transmission, far surpassing HDMI 2.1’s maximum bandwidth of 48Gbps and DisplayPort 2.0/2.1’s offering of 80Gbps. Even USB4, with its potential bandwidth of 80Gbps, pales in comparison to Thunderbolt 5.

These impressive capabilities enable Thunderbolt 5 to support 8K monitors at high refresh rates and accommodate multiple 8K and 4K displays in various configurations. The connection also boasts the potential to support refresh rates of up to 540Hz at lower resolutions and even has the capacity to handle 10K and 16K displays, especially when combined with Display Stream Compression or Chroma Subsampling. Additionally, Thunderbolt 5’s increased bandwidth will significantly enhance the performance of external graphics cards and allow external SSDs to reach their full potential.

The technology behind Thunderbolt 5 is based on PAM-3 modulation, a novel method of transmitting data along the cable. Unlike traditional NRZ encoding, which allows for the transmission of a single bit (0 or 1), Thunderbolt 5’s use of 3-bit data signals permits a higher bandwidth than current connectivity technologies. However, this innovation also means that Thunderbolt 5 cables will need to be shorter, with passive Thunderbolt 5 cables limited to just one meter in length.

Like its predecessors, Thunderbolt 5 leverages other protocols to achieve its outstanding performance. It incorporates USB4 V2, DisplayPort 2.1, and PCI-Express 4, ensuring compatibility with a variety of external displays and devices through native cabling or adapters.

Intel will continue the use of the popular USB-C connector for Thunderbolt 5, ensuring backward compatibility with existing Thunderbolt 4 and 3 cables and devices, as well as all USB-C and USB4 connections and cables. However, to fully experience the performance and features of Thunderbolt 5, it is necessary for all devices and cables in the chain to be Thunderbolt 5 certified.

In conclusion, Thunderbolt 5 is set to be a game-changer in the world of computing and media connectivity. With its impressive bandwidth, support for high resolutions and refresh rates, and the potential for enhanced external graphics card and SSD performance, Thunderbolt 5 opens up a new realm of possibilities for users. Get ready to embrace the power of Thunderbolt 5 and unlock a whole new level of connectivity.