Wednesday, November 23rd 2011

Intel Standardizing Thunderbolt Docking on Ultrabooks

The only way mainstream portable wintels are going the survive the onslaught of smaller, increasingly powerful and energy-efficient computing devices (such as ARM-driven tablets and smartphones), is by slimming down radically, and making themselves available to the mainstream. No, we're not talking about cheapo netbooks, but ultrabooks (ultra-slim notebooks), that provide mainstream notebook-like performance in a much more compact package. Intel will give this form-factor a big push next year with an Ivy Bridge architecture-based processor platform designed keeping it in mind, and technologies centric to it.

To begin with, slimmer form-factors could eat into wired connectivity, hence, Intel will push its Thunderbolt 10 Gb/s interconnect to the fore. But wired connectivity is the least of ultrabook's limitations. Battery life, data storage, and additional computing power will need to be accessible yet optional to it, and hence docking stations will be hot in the market, yet again. Intel will pitch for Thunderbolt to be a standard component of docking port clusters.

Typically, these are pairs of ports, consisting of one Thunderbolt, and a complex-port of non-Thunderbolt connections that will be drawn into either slots (slot-type docking) or ports (cabled docking). The Thunderbolt connector will be able to convey DisplayPort signals, as well as 10 Gb/s of raw bandwidth for any device that needs it. A single port can be daisy-chained across multiple devices to effectively make use of that bandwidth. The exact composition of the non-Thunderbolt could vary, but it could contain connections such as DC power (supplementary battery), USB, SATA, PCI Express (direct from the system's root-complex), and miscellaneous connectivity. Manufacturers of ultrabooks and docking stations will be expected to follow this specification.Source: VR-Zone
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13 Comments on Intel Standardizing Thunderbolt Docking on Ultrabooks

#1
TheLostSwede
Except if you read the original article, they're not standardising the dock connector, just on the fact that Thunderbolt should be used... meh...
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#2
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: TheLostSwede
Except if you read the original article, they're not standardising the dock connector, just on the fact that Thunderbolt should be used... meh...
Thanks. Fixed it.
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#3
Completely Bonkers
Figure 3, strange plug. Why? Either you have thunderbolt... and will use that directly, or you don't and you use the legacy display connector. No reason at all to use both at the same time. Unless of course, your crazy OEM laptop manufacturer makes display come out the legacy only, but still provides a thunderbolt connector for other peripherals. But then, you want two separate cables... since your legacy display wants the legacy connector... and your thunderbolt peripherals want a thunderbolt connector.

What is that figure 3? Trying to solve a transition-problem that doesnt exist?! In fact, they are MAKING a transition problem!
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#4
tigger
I'm the only one
Looks like it should be Intel Standardizing Thunderbolt Docking on Apple Ultrabooks, all the pictures are depicting a Macbook of some sort.
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#5
TheLostSwede
by: Completely Bonkers
Figure 3, strange plug. Why? Either you have thunderbolt... and will use that directly, or you don't and you use the legacy display connector. No reason at all to use both at the same time. Unless of course, your crazy OEM laptop manufacturer makes display come out the legacy only, but still provides a thunderbolt connector for other peripherals. But then, you want two separate cables... since your legacy display wants the legacy connector... and your thunderbolt peripherals want a thunderbolt connector.

What is that figure 3? Trying to solve a transition-problem that doesnt exist?! In fact, they are MAKING a transition problem!
Some stuff like Ethernet HAS to be directly connected, as otherwise vPro and what not doesn't work. There's also a need to run power through it, as you'd charge the notebook from the dock connector as well.
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#6
Completely Bonkers
^ oh yes, quite agree. But my comment was on that silly plug design, see the diagrams posted in OP and look at figure 3. Nonsense is what I say. Unnecessary complication of the issue. Keep em all separate. No need for "hybrid plug combinations"
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#7
TheLostSwede
Wasn't saying it was a good solution, just stating the facts.
In all honesty, Intel doesn't seem to have figured out how to use its own tech and this is a really messy solution.
And if the Ethernet port has to be wired directly to the notebook's controller, then why not just plug the network cable in directly? That said, I don't know a lot of notebook users that rely on wired connections these days, but I'm sure this is a must for the corporate market or something...
The connector design is awful and the whole solution feels dated before it's even been made, but there you go, Intel doesn't innovate all the time...
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#8
Damn_Smooth
Somewhat off topic, but not too far, does anybody know if Thunderbolt ports will be added to boards built specifically for Ivy?
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#9
TheLostSwede
Motherboards? Possibly, but due to the fact that Thunderbolt interfaces with the GPU, it will most likely only work with the Intel graphics enabled. Considering Thunderbolt is about 10-15x the price of USB 3.0, I doubt we'll see a lot of motherboards with it.
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#10
Damn_Smooth
by: TheLostSwede
Motherboards? Possibly, but due to the fact that Thunderbolt interfaces with the GPU, it will most likely only work with the Intel graphics enabled. Considering Thunderbolt is about 10-15x the price of USB 3.0, I doubt we'll see a lot of motherboards with it.
Screw it, I have no use for Intel graphics.
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#11
TheLostSwede
Well, think Z68, as none of the Ivy Bridge chipsets will be graphics-less...
So it should be possible to do graphics switching just like you can on Z68.
Still, as I said, with the high components cost, I can't see too many motherboard makers adding Thunderbolt support, although Intel should have some lower cost chips next year as well...
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#12
mediasorcerer
I just cant see a use for thunderbolt except in business/commercial applications, at the moment anyway, hi speed usb is quite good enough for the consumer, but then again, who knows i guess.
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#13
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
That's actually quite plausible (needing iGPU for Thunderbolt to be able to pass DP). A workaround would be using Lucid Virtu (to use discrete GPU when gaming)
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