FireFold Blog

What Is Thunderbolt and How Is It Used?

Thunderbolt is a relatively new technology that supports high-resolution displays and high-performance data through one single port, but the connectivity allows you to add several devices to your computer through a daisy chain of cords. Thunderbolt gives users a chance to use one cable to access high-speed and high-resolution media using one port with a cable that can access both DisplayPort and PCI Express.

Thunderbolt has technology built into it that allows PCI Express speed to come in a simple and convenient way. External devices like video capture solutions are now hot-pluggable and can be moved between more than one Mac computer. The access to more and better video and audio experiences are available through one Thunderbolt cord. Quality will not suffer from connecting more devices, either.

Some people may know Thunderbolt better through its former name, Light Peak. Thunderbolt (and Light Peak before it) is a fairly new peripheral connection technology that was made with Intel and Apple working together. This new technology combines audio, data, power, and video through one connection. Peripherals can also be connected so that high def video using display port protocol is also available.

Thunderbolt Connectivity

The connectivity of Thunderbolt is very fast and can provide up to 10 Gigabits per second worth of data throughput. Each port on Thunderbolt includes two channels. What makes the speed and connectivity of Thunderbolt even more impressive is that it is bi-direction—it can transmit data, and receive data at the same time. Thunderbolt is much faster than previous technology such as FireWire 800 and 3Gbps.

The biggest advantage of using Thunderbolt is that the performance is much better. However, convenience is also important since Thunderbolt can support audio, data, power, and video all through one single port. This makes taking your computer on the road much easier, and it can make adding connections to different devices and different media much easier. Moreover, the speed combined with the convenience will make the average Apple user wonder how they were able to survive before the Thunderbolt, at least without pulling out their hair.

It is also important that Thunderbolt’s port can handle audio and video just like the DisplayPort port that most Apple users have been using in the past. The video is also high resolution, and, of course, convenient because you only have to use one port to connect the video and the audio instead of using a separate port for each. This spring there will even be adaptors that will allow users to connect USB, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800 to Thunderbolt ports.

It is possible to connect up to six different devices to one Thunderbolt port as long as they are connected off of the first Thunderbolt port, then various cables connected to each other. The advantage of using Thunderbolt ports over USB ports is the design is not intended to see the quality of the video or audio (or speed) impacted by having cables connect one to the next. When connected to the Thunderbolt port, then subsequent cables connected to each other, the quality of the connection will not be adversely affected. On the other hand, if you want to connect non-Thunderbolt cables into your chain, it should be connected to the last cable or it can slow down or otherwise negatively affect performance. Some users report having to experiment and put non-Thunderbolt cables in different places in the chain to find out where it can be connected with the least impact on quality and the display.

Of course, where there is one right thing, it does not usually take Apple long to create two. The Thunderbolt 2 has all of the advantages of multiple connectivities, but it does it twice. The Thunderbolt 2 can support a direct connection of up to 10 different devices thanks to 20Gbps. The Thunderbolt 2 offers five fully powered USB 3 ports to help power hard drives, SSDs, or optical drives. It can even be used to charge an iPhone, iPad, tablet, or other USB charged devices.

Users should remember that although originally built for Macs, Thunderbolt ports can also be used with PC’s. At first, Thunderbolt ports were more or less ignored by PC’s, but now more companies are building their new machines with these accessories in mind, or at least with the option of using the Thunderbolt port.

Regular Uses for Thunderbolt

  1. It can add more power and speed to graphics.  Some have said that adding Thunderbolt is like changing from dial-up internet to DSL. They report that Thunderbolt is that fast and that good.
  2. Compression:  Encoding is faster; almost near real time, so speed and convenience are right there for users to take advantage of.
  3. Burning disks faster than previously conceivable (well, almost).  Even Blue-ray discs can be burned incredibly fast on external drives. For many users, this alone makes Thunderbolt worth it.

What The Uninitiated Need to Know About Thunderbolt?

The word that computer reviews have used when evaluating the Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 is revolutionary. This I/O technology supports high-resolution displays, as well as high-performance data devices and it all happens through one compact port. In the past, if there had been a way for these connections to take place, the quality of content would have suffered, and probably suffered dramatically. The Thunderbolt gives you 10 Gbps to make use of and knows that you will have significant access and power and that the quality of your connections and the quality of the final result will not suffer. Thunderbolt 2 does everything Thunderbolt does, but it is twice as fast. Not too shabby.

You can count on being able to connect more peripheral devices to your computer than ever before, and when you do, quality will not suffer. For almost any purpose that you have to connect more machines, use the Thunderbolt or the Thunderbolt 2 and what you will not see is any decrease in performance.