AMD Lightning Bolt Strikes At Intel's Thunderbolt

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2012 - 06:40 PM |
Tagged: thunderbolt, miniDP, lightning bolt, cable

We saw AMD at CES, and they showed off some hardware; however, it seems they forgot to mention something. Anand managed to get a sneak peek at a certain Thunderbolt competitor that AMD is calling "Lightning Bolt." At first resembling a cable with mini-Display Port connectors, the AMD technology is able pass Display Port video, power, and USB 3.0 over a single cable.

MD-MD-cablC.jpg

Image the Lightning Bolt cable looking like this miniDP to miniDP cable.

The company is currently working to integrate the Lightning Bolt technology into laptops and ultrathins as a cheap, single cable dock connection. The current implementation involves using a muxer to combine the USB, Display Port output, and power from the PSU electrical signals and pass it over a single miniDP cable. This miniDP cable will resemble current cables but will be electrically different by having two pins on the connectors altered. The dock that the Lightning Bolt cable connects to then splits out or demuxes the signals into a MiniDP connection and a USB 3.0 port(s). AMD is planning for the Lightning Bolt docks to cost about as much as current USB 3.0 hubs, which run about $40 USD at the time of writing. Unfortunately, there are some caveats to the technology including (possibly) limited power delivery and limits on the USB 3.0 connection. The company stated that Lightning Bolt transfers between the computer and USB 3.0 devices would be faster than USB 2.0 speeds, the connection would not support the full 5 Gbits maximum speed.

More information can be found here. Personally, I'm happy that AMD is stepping in despite the tacky name. At the very least, I can see Lightning Bolt connectors being features on AMD notebooks and providing useful competition to bring down the cost of Intel's Thunderbolt cables and hardware. It may also cause Intel to reduce any licensing fees that may be involved with OEMs building Thunderbolt into computers. Although the AMD technology is all electrical (no fancy optics), and thus inherently slower than Intel's theoretical maximum speeds, the cheaper hardware means OEMs will be more likely to integrate it into computers and consumers will be more likely to buy into it. Assuming, of course, that they can pull it off, "Lightning Bolt" sounds like a connection technology that is "fast enough" at a price I wouldn't mind paying a bit extra for in a laptop.

Apart from the name, which is a bit... let's say unoriginal, what do you think of the AMD tech?

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Source: Anandtech