Upcoming low-cost Thunderbolt controller could broaden reach of spec

Thunderbolt logoIntel announced at IDF earlier in September that it has two next-generation Thunderbolt controllers, codenamed Cactus Ridge, set to launch with its Ivy Bridge platform next year. However, the company apparently also has a third small, low-end, low-cost controller it expects to launch ahead of Cactus Ridge to spur Thunderbolt adoption among a wider range of peripheral makers.

The current Thunderbolt controllers from Intel include the four-channel Light Ridge, which comes in standard and low-power versions, and the two-channel Eagle Ridge, which comes in standard and small form-factor sizes. Next year, Intel will replace those chips with 12x12mm Cactus Ridge controllers, which will come in four- and two-channel versions. Like Light Ridge, the four-channel Cactus Ridge will be offered in standard and low-power options. Intel hasn't announced a direct replacement for the 8x9mm SFF Eagle Ridge, so that chip may stick around for the time being.

According to VR Zone, however, Intel also has third Thunderbolt controller design dubbed "Port Ridge." This chip features a single 10Gbps bi-directional channel in a 5x6mm package size. Due to its limited design, it won't allow for pass through of Thunderbolt signals to a downstream port. However, its small size, lower power requirements, and expected low cost should make it a good candidate for incorporating in smaller mobile devices that could benefit from Thunderbolt connectivity: small mobile devices like card readers, and perhaps port adapters that would most likely sit at the end of a Thunderbolt chain.

Port Ridge is reportedly going into production before the end of the year, so it should be available to device makers in the first part of next year. The low cost should hopefully entice more vendors to support the standard in upcoming products, thought it won't get rid of the requirement to buy a $50 cable from Apple. Hopefully other cable vendors will get into the game as more vendors sign on to support the standard.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Intel, Thunderbolt

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