Up to three times the bandwidth of Thunderbolt 4. Support for multiple 8K displays, as well as gaming monitors running at up to 540Hz. Charging power 240 watts. These aren’t just the highlights of my PC connectivity dreams: They’re the key features of Thunderbolt 5, Intel’s latest stab at creating… climax Computer cable. And this time, the chipmaker may actually succeed.
When Thunderbolt 4 dropped in 2020, it mostly looked like an improved version of Thunderbolt 3. It had the same 40Gbps maximum bandwidth, but its increased efficiency allowed Intel to standardize support for multiple 4K displays, as well as a dual-storage device. Speeds. At the very least, Intel needed at least one Thunderbolt 4 port to support USB-C charging.
Thunderbolt 5, on the other hand, is a big leap forward. It’s built on USB4 v2 specifications, which offers the same speed improvements, but Intel makes key features a requirement. This includes a base speed of 80 Gbps and support for 120 Gbps using a bandwidth boost (USB4 requires 20 Gbps); Support for dual 6K displays (Thunderbolt 4 requires two 4K displays); And at least 140W charging and a more powerful 240W mode.
Originally known as Light Peak, Intel’s goal with Thunderbolt was to develop a single cable that could handle all your data and power needs. This latest release should satisfy even the most demanding PC users. With up to 240W of charging, for example, some gaming laptops and workstations won’t need a separate power outlet. This means fewer cables to carry, plus the assurance that you can always borrow someone else’s USB-C cable and adapter to power it.
As Intel previously announced, Thunderbolt 5 will also support DisplayPort 2.1 and PCI Express Gen 4 standards. The latter should be particularly useful with external GPUs, which have been severely bandwidth limited until now. We can also expect the extra bandwidth to support new accessories like an external AI accelerator, as well as much faster external storage.
Intel says Thunderbolt 5 PC accessories and hardware will be available in 2024. It would be nice to have a clearer time frame, but perhaps Intel is trying to avoid scaring people away from buying new systems this year.
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