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.

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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?

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

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Source: Anandtech
January 13, 2012 | 11:28 PM - Posted by Wu Li (not verified)

With the steady decrease in the power demands of virtually all electrical devices this could easily become the new de facto standard and I've already seen usb seamlessly integrated into ordinary 120v household outlets. In the future small child may be puzzled by the size, inconvenient location, and inability of old fashioned wall sockets to transmit data as well as power. The idea that you can't plug any electronic device into any other or any wall socket and swap both data and power in both directions may seem entirely foreign to them.

January 14, 2012 | 06:31 AM - Posted by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

F4ck AMD and their stupid designs. Displayport, long pushed mainly by AMD, is a colossal failure. Not only has it failed to reach market critical mass, but it's riddled with technical bugs. Take if from someone with 3 monitors at 2560x1600 who needs to go through display port on his AMD crossfire setup.

Now when thunderbolt is becoming a thing, because intel has embraced it, these scrubs at AMD think they can do an amateur chinese-rip-off-style name steal and come up with their own damn standard? F4ck you AMD.

USB has shown us that we need ONE good standard for each interface, not a multitude of bullshit like we had before, when you could only plug in one controller per sound card, we had parallel and serial ports, etc.

The display standard battle will be fought between HDMI and Thunderbolt. My guess is HDMI will be the display standard the way USB is now, and Thunderbolt will replace USB because USB3 is not only stupid slow, but as of yet unimplemented in even high end Intel chipsets. And don't say SB-E, if it's not certified, it's not implemented as far as anyone cares.

In conclusion, f4ck you AMD, you scrubs.

January 14, 2012 | 08:17 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Obvious troll is obvious

January 15, 2012 | 07:47 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

you'd rather be using HDMI? haha

HDMI is a step backwards only existing for the MPAA/RIAA types. Enjoy your DRM interface.

January 15, 2012 | 07:47 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

you'd rather be using HDMI? haha

HDMI is a step backwards only existing for the MPAA/RIAA types. Enjoy your DRM interface.

January 15, 2012 | 05:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

HDMI has already defeated displayport, even though displayport is still around. Kind of how it was obvious at one point BluRay was going to be the standard but HD-DVDs were still around for a while.

Yes, I prefer HDMI. What you're talking about is HDCP, and if a display interface lacks HDCP means you can't enjoy legal content like BluRays because it will refuse to play over the interface, you fucking retard. Your downloaded mkv files will play regardless because they don't have DRM flags in it. What is wrong with you? Why post on the topic if you have no idea what you're talking about? Both displayport and HDMI support HDCP, and so does DVI, both single and dual link. FYI. The more you know.

HDMI is a better standard. It has WIDESPREAD acceptance, it's compatible with almost every semi-modern piece of consumer electronics, and has many technical merits over display port as well. It was engineered with a wider view in mind, by a consumer electronics consortium not a PC graphics card designer with narrow interests.

Its signal contains a clock reference (unlike displayport which needs a clock generator either in the display, or in a $100+ dongle - which FYI is full of bugs in personal experience). It has been updated beautifully to handle much higher bandwidth without breaking compatibility (supporting higher resolutions/higher refresh rates), it can now handle an ethernet channel, it can carry multi-channel UNCOMPRESSED audio over what is now a STANDARD interface, so yea, I think HDMI is pretty great.

Not to mention that if I take my laptop to a friend's house it's easy as shit to plug it into his TV and away we go. Unless I want to be an awkward nerd like you with some obscure displayport laptop and not be able to plug it into anything.

January 16, 2012 | 04:41 PM - Posted by Octavean (not verified)

If AMD “Lightning Bolt” is married to only AMD hardware (CPU / motherboard) on desktops and laptops then I’ll respectfully pass as I‘m not currently interested in any AMD solutions. If AMD “Lightning Bolt” were incorporated into Intel platforms even alongside Intel Thounderbolt then yes.

I’ve bought a fair amount of AMD hardware in the past so I’m not polarized. I’m just not impressed with the current AMD offerings with respect to Intel offerings.

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