Intel Thunderbolt 4: Universal cable connection makes charging cables unnecessary

Intel is increasing the requirements for Thunderbolt 4, but now supports 32 Gbit / s via PCIe, a pair of 4K monitors and charging PCs for thin laptops.

Intel Thunderbolt 4, the next generation of the universal cable connection solution, requires higher minimum performance requirements, but offers extended functions and meets the USB4 specification.

Intel explained on Thursday the minimum standards that accessories and cables must meet in order to receive Thunderbolt 4 certification.

In terms of overall bandwidth, the latest version of Thunderbolt supports the same 40 Gbps speeds that were introduced with Thunderbolt 3, but Intel has now set a number of conditions.

The development history of Thunderbolt 4 with its predecessors (Image: Intel)The development history of Thunderbolt 4 with its predecessors (Image: Intel)

Thunderbolt 4 will support a pair of 4K displays, PCIe speeds have been doubled to 32 Gbps, cables can be up to two meters long, and Intel requires that its VT-d direct memory access protection be used to prevent that peripheral devices have unauthorized access to the system memory.

The chip giant announced that it would be considering cables with lengths between five and 50 meters in the future. While Thunderbolt 4 cables will have the lightning logo with a small number 4 underneath, ports will still only have the logo.

Intel classifies “thin and light” laptops so that these devices must be able to draw enough power to be charged via Thunderbolt 4. This eliminates the need for traditional charging cables. If the laptops are connected to a dock, they must be switched on for charging.

Intel said it would also launch docks with four Thunderbolt 4 ports that were able to transfer data, operate a screen, and power a computer through a single cable that led back to a thin laptop . If Thunderbolt 4 cables are connected to a 4k monitor, they can transmit a one-hour video within ten seconds.

Thunderbolt 4 compared to the predecessor Thunderbolt 3 as well as USB4 and USB3 (Fig. Intel)Thunderbolt 4 compared to the predecessor Thunderbolt 3 as well as USB4 and USB3 (Fig. Intel)

While Intel only classified Thunderbolt 3 as compatible with USB 4, the latest Thunderbolt iteration is now classified as compliant. Intel has contributed to the development of USB 4 with Thunderbolt 3.

For the first time, Thunderbolt will offer four docks with up to four Thunderbolt ports and universal cables up to two meters in length. Intel’s upcoming mobile PC processors, code-named “Tiger Lake”, will be the first to integrate Thunderbolt 4. “Tiger Lake” devices will include a number of Project Athena laptops.

Intel also announced the Thunderbolt 4 Controller 8000 series, which is compatible with the hundreds of millions of Thunderbolt 3 PCs and accessories already available. Thunderbolt 4 developer kits and certification tests are now available.

“Thunderbolt 4 will offer the most complete version of USB-C with a required set of capabilities that are not required by USB 4,” said Intel.

In April it was reported that Microsoft is concerned about security and direct memory access issues against using Thunderbolt 3 in its SurfaceDevices.

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