Now that speedy ports are par for the course on computers, how is Intel going to make Thunderbolt more enticing? By courting enthusiasts who demand a wall of monitors, apparently. The company has previewed a next-generation Thunderbolt standard that will offer more bandwidth for multi-monitor setups and other “visually intensive usages.” While the port will normally offer 80 gigabits per second of bandwidth like the USB 4 Version 2.0 spec it’s built on, it auto-switches to a special mode with 120Gbps upstream and 40Gbps downstream when your screens’ resolution or refresh rate demands greater performance.
You can also expect DisplayPort 2.1 support, twice the PCI Express data (important for external GPUs) and backward compatibility with earlier formats as well as passive cables up to 3.3ft long.
That’s not far off from the new USB 4 standard. As The Verge points out, though, Intel is betting that consistency will persuade PC makers to adopt the new technology. “Many” of USB 4’s new features are optional where they’re required with the new Thunderbolt, Intel’s Jason Ziller says. While the USB Implementers Forum is improving labeling, you may want Thunderbolt to be sure your gaming rig or creative studio can handle all the monitors you want.
Intel plans to share the updated Thunderbolt standard’s final name and capabilities sometime in 2023. This might give some users a reason to buy Intel-powered computers (or Macs, if Apple adopts the port) next year. However, it’s clear the gap between Thunderbolt and USB has narrowed considerably. You might not have much reason to buy an Intel Core-based PC when a USB 4-equipped AMD system may offer nearly identical connectivity.
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