Intel has been working on for some time Thunderbolt 5, new version of connectivity technology developed in collaboration with Apple. First introduced in 2011, Thunderbolt has undergone several evolutions over the years. Combine the high data transfer speed with the versatility of the connection ports, offering itself as a technology for professional connections on a wide range of devices and for a wide range of applications.
The features of Thunderbolt 5 and the differences compared to previous versions
With Thunderbolt 5, coming in 2024, the communication channel immediately supports data transfers with bandwidth equal to 80 Gbps. This is a value that opens doors for use, for example, as a communication interface PCIe 4.0 x4, useful for connecting super-fast SSD drives. Alternatively, Thunderbolt 5 could also be used to support PCIe 3.0 x8 data transfers in order to use external graphics cards. For comparison, the current Thunderbolt 4 It only allows PCIe 3.0 x4, which limits the use of almost all eGPU that sit above an RTX 4060.
The 80 Gbps ensured by Thunderbolt 5 are bidirectional: this means that you have two channels 40 Gbps in one direction and two channels of 40 Gbps in the other. However, the interface allows a flexible distribution in the use of channels: for example, you can have 120 Gbps in one direction and 40 Gbps in the other, using for example three and one channel.
This feature is very useful for connecting external monitors high resolution and high refresh rate. In theory it becomes possible to setup a PCIe 3.0 x15 or PCIe 4.0 x7 connection in one direction for an eGPU. This type of operation, however, will be definable through Intel, NVIDIA and AMD drivers.
As regards the Alternative Thunderbolt 5 modes supported, you can use Power Delivery from 240 WDisplayPort 2.1 and USB 3 and USB 4 support. Courtesy of Intel (the Santa Clara company no longer requires royalties), USB4 it is based precisely on the Thunderbolt 3 specifications to transfer up to 40 Gbps while the most recent USB4 2.0 version aims to reach 80 Gbps.
Opening image credit: iStock.com/ion 11