Friday, January 13th 2012

AMD Lightning Bolt is USB 3.0 Over DisplayPort

AMD's competitive technology to Intel Thunderbolt, called "Lightning Bolt" (codename, marketing name may differ), surfaced at CES, where AMD was showing off its upcoming "Trinity" accelerated processing units. The technology was dissected by Anandtech, revealing exactly how AMD plans to achieve its goal of providing a much lower-cost alternative to Thunderbolt, over a similar-looking interface. While Thunderbolt is essentially PCI-Express x4 over DisplayPort, Lightning Bolt is the much more mature USB 3.0 SuperSpeed over DisplayPort. It is a single cable that combines a USB 3.0 with DisplayPort (display), and power (sourced directly from the PSU).

The part that makes it affordable is that AMD has already mastered GPU technologies that allow several displays connected to its GPUs using DisplayPort daisy-chaining; while USB 3.0 controllers are getting cheaper by the quarter. Connections of DisplayPort, USB 3.0 and power converge at a Lightning Bolt multiplex, from which the actual ports emerge. Lightning Bolt will stick to established mini-DisplayPort specifications.
AMD has a lot invested in the success of its next-generation mobile platform based on its "Trinity" accelerated processing unit, and has no plans to help Intel propagate Thunderbolt on its mobile platform. The "Trinity" APU combines next-generation "Piledriver" x86-64 computing modules with a powerful Radeon HD 7000 series embedded graphics core, which takes advantage of AMD's Graphics CoreNext architecture, supporting DirectX 11.1.Source: Anandtech
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39 Comments on AMD Lightning Bolt is USB 3.0 Over DisplayPort

#1
cadaveca
My name is Dave
I thought(I know, in fact, was USB and daisy-chaining devices, and AMD had a hub that they never released for the daisy-chaining side of things) DP 1.3 supported USB over DP anyway...what's the big deal here? Is it the hardware that joins the USB 3.0 with DP, or what? I am missing something here...
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#2
happita
Assimilator said:
Intel is the one who created the actual Thunderbolt specification and they own it and allow anyone to use it royalty-free.
While it is true that Intel is the one who actually created the Thunderbolt spec, if it is royalty-free and as good/fast as it is, why isn't everyone jumping on it yet instead of just Apple? Riddle me that.
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#3
Aether
Not positive on this

FordGT90Concept said:
USB uses 5V where most monitors and the like would like at least 12V.
Maybe 12V for powering but most likely not for actually communication. I am no video communication signaling expert but I am pretty sure no standard video communication uses 12V on the cable due to power/heat issues (for the silicon) and EMI/crosstalk. 5V/3.3V/2.5V/1.2V LVDS are the general signaling used in such systems as far as I know.

FordGT90Concept said:
From the sounds of it, they're talking two data packets and two power lines in one cable. That's not innovative; that's fumbling.
I will agree if this is the case. Hopefully though they are actually working on combining the technologies in some way. To my knowledge both USB3.0 and DP use 5V differential signaling using 8b10b encoding which seems to suggest that they could be reworked with a moderate amount of effort to allow both techs to exist on the same line.
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#4
EpicShweetness
It's like a lower cost Thunderbolt, with about half the speed, that's actually really cool. Thunderbolt has a fairly expensive controller, plus 10Gbps is more speed then what is needed, 5Gbps is more then what a standard external hard-drive can take advantage of. Yes in the future Thunderbolt with double the bandwidth is more future proof, but as a right now solution Lightning Bolt is the better alternative.
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#5
BeepBeep2
Everyone here is confused and broadcasting confusing information.

Intel/Apple Thunderbolt Codename "Light Peak": PCI-E 2.0 x4 + DisplayPort combined to make a high speed, versatile interface for all your peripherals. Devices are daisy chained and any device in the chain can access another. Peak bitrate is currently 10 GB/s. However, it's really only used for displays right now, which makes no sense as it takes up lanes on the PCI-E bus and we already have outputs from video cards themselves. Cables are active and cost $40-50...not exactly Intel or Apple's smartest ideas, however Apple can market even a turd to consumers. I usually call their MacBooks "polished turds".

AMD Lightning Bolt (they should watch they don't get sued for the name): USB3.0 + DisplayPort + Power over Lightning Bolt combined to make a high speed, versatile interface for all your peripherals. Devices are daisy chained. Peak bitrate is 5 GB/s (USB 3.0 standard). It does what Thunderbolt does and provides power however peak rate is 2-4x slower.

SSD's can barely saturate 5GB/s right now, why people are whining about peak speed I'm not sure. Half of us don't even have internet a fifth the speed of the rest of the world. Most I can buy here is 15/1 MB/s @ $65 a month while in other countries 50/20 MB/s can be had for 35 euro. I choose to complain about what's more important.
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#6
hardcore_gamer
Assimilator said:
.......of the most trusted computer hardware websites that's been around....
Yeah.Anand is one of the most TRUSTED websites , like Toms, SA, fudzilla,hardocp.....



There is a reason why I come here for news and reviews.
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#7
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Aether said:
Maybe 12V for powering but most likely not for actually communication. I am no video communication signaling expert but I am pretty sure no standard video communication uses 12V on the cable due to power/heat issues (for the silicon) and EMI/crosstalk. 5V/3.3V/2.5V/1.2V LVDS are the general signaling used in such systems as far as I know.
The 5v and 12v is to power devices off the cable without requiring a second cable. It's only power--no data.



Aether said:
I will agree if this is the case. Hopefully though they are actually working on combining the technologies in some way. To my knowledge both USB3.0 and DP use 5V differential signaling using 8b10b encoding which seems to suggest that they could be reworked with a moderate amount of effort to allow both techs to exist on the same line.
If they're both on the same wires, it further erodes the available bandwidth. Let's also not forget that Thunderbolt has far longer cable length capability than USB and DisplayPort.
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#8
Assimilator
happita said:
While it is true that Intel is the one who actually created the Thunderbolt spec, if it is royalty-free and as good/fast as it is, why isn't everyone jumping on it yet instead of just Apple? Riddle me that.
Because (as yet) few manufacturers see the need for it. It's expensive to implement and is very much a niche interface for high-bandwidth low-latency applications like external graphics cards. For everything else, USB 3.0 does what's needed at a fraction of the cost.

Apple has an advantage here because they can integrate Thunderbolt on all their machines and you get it whether you want it or not (that assumes you're dumb enough to buy overpriced Apple shit in the first place). Whereas notebooks, and particularly motherboard, manufacturers have to decide whether adding $50 (or whatever the Thunderbolt implementation cost is) to the price of their hardware will make for something the consumer wants to buy, or will simply put their product in a price range no consumer will pay for.

For example, if you can buy a motherboard for $299, or you can buy one for $349, and the only difference between them is that the latter one has Thunderbolt... which one are you gonna buy? If you don't need Thunderbolt - and most people won't - you'll go for the $299 board.

Simple economics.
Posted on Reply
#9
Bundy
hardcore_gamer said:
Yeah.Anand is one of the most TRUSTED websites , like Toms, SA, fudzilla,hardocp.....



There is a reason why I come here for news and reviews.
If you think that your opinion will gather more respect than Anand you are seriously mistaken.
Posted on Reply
#10
Syborfical
I love how everyone has there 2 cents about this technology but no one is using it :-)
Posted on Reply
#11
hardcore_gamer
Bundy said:
If you think that your opinion will gather more respect than Anand you are seriously mistaken.
I don't want to gather any respect.


Biased sites are biased.:shadedshu
Posted on Reply
#12
Aether
FordGT90Concept said:
The 5v and 12v is to power devices off the cable without requiring a second cable. It's only power--no data.
I must be misinterpreting your original post. I was under the impression you were saying 12V is supplied in the video cable. Guess I am guilty of trying to read between the lines. Anyways, it sounds like you're on the same page since what you are saying here is exactly what you quoted me on.


FordGT90Concept said:

If they're both on the same wires, it further erodes the available bandwidth. Let's also not forget that Thunderbolt has far longer cable length capability than USB and DisplayPort.
Bandwidth is only a concern if you are using it. Are you telling me that everyone uses their system to their maximum bandwidth...I don't think so. I think you should look at the technology as adding more flexibility and purpose to a graphics system. Mainstream users don't utilize most of their systems capabilities/bandwidth; if AMD can find new ways to allow endusers to use unused ports then kudos to them. Don't get me wrong...if I had a choice between this and Thunderbolt, I would choose thunderbolt (atleast at this point in time).
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#13
Wile E
Power User
happita said:
While it is true that Intel is the one who actually created the Thunderbolt spec, if it is royalty-free and as good/fast as it is, why isn't everyone jumping on it yet instead of just Apple? Riddle me that.
They had an exclusivity agreement with Intel. One that is now expired.
Aether said:
I must be misinterpreting your original post. I was under the impression you were saying 12V is supplied in the video cable. Guess I am guilty of trying to read between the lines. Anyways, it sounds like you're on the same page since what you are saying here is exactly what you quoted me on.




Bandwidth is only a concern if you are using it. Are you telling me that everyone uses their system to their maximum bandwidth...I don't think so. I think you should look at the technology as adding more flexibility and purpose to a graphics system. Mainstream users don't utilize most of their systems capabilities/bandwidth; if AMD can find new ways to allow endusers to use unused ports then kudos to them. Don't get me wrong...if I had a choice between this and Thunderbolt, I would choose thunderbolt (atleast at this point in time).
Bandwidth may not be an issue for a single device, but will add up to an issue as you add more devices to the chain. Hell, a single serious RAID array will easily saturate either interface.

While Thunderbolt is definitely a niche product with few mainstream uses, Lightning Bolt is nothing but a kludge.
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#14
R_1
Completely Bonkers said:
I hope your ;)
So, to avoid thunderbolt license fees (or less than a $) we now substitute those fees for USB3.0?
There is no licensing. Intel is the sole producer of Thunderbolt controller and it is pricing it at $25 per chip. USB 3 is incorporated in AMD A75 chipset, so it's free. They will do that new thingy as native support. Some additional feature of the chipset , like Intel Smart Response. No additional hardware needed, effectively free for the end user.
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