Thunderbolt 3 Takes of the Best of USB Type-C and Turns it up to 11

I have to admit, with the invention of USB 3.1 Type-C, I wondered where Apple and the rest of the professional PC market was going to go.  USB-C took a lot of Thunderbolt’s advantages and put them into a connector that’s not much better than a Micro-USB or Lightning connector.  Intel made a lot of the ambiguity go away with today’s announcement of Thunderbolt 3.  Its faster, more capable, and completely compatible with USB 3.1 Type-C.  Apple’s future got a lot clearer.

The Mini-DisplayPort connector used by Thunderbolt is tiny compared to even HDMI and USB Type-C makes it look like a pig.  Thunderbolt had some advantages especially with professional customers since its direct to the PCI-E bus, but for consumers, the reversible connector of USB-C, 10Gbps data, DisplayPort and HDMI over a single cable, and gives you 100w of power.  In other words it takes every great great about USB 3.1, doubles the speed, makes it smaller, and combines it with both your display cable and your power cable.  USB-C is both more capable and more flexible.  Because of this, sooner rather than later you’ll see Thunderbolt 3 replace USB Type-A ports on computers, MicroUSB ports on phones and tablets, 12v power ports, and if I were a betting man even Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector.  It makes too much sense not to.  As for Thunderbolt, it features a couple of features that USB-C does not such as a faster data rate and lower latency with its own dedicated chip and peer to peer communication.

Thunderbolt 3 uses a combination of all of the advantages above and adds PCI-E 3.0 to the mix for up to 40Mbps of data bandwidth.  That’s double Thunderbolt 2 and Quadruple that of USB 3.1.  Its fully backwards compatible with USB 3.1 Type-C devices and gives the same 100w of power for computers and up to 15w for bus powered accessories.  It doesn’t stop there.  Thunderbolt has built-in 10gig-E ethernet in addition to the existing Thunderbolt peer to peer protocols.  It has a full 8 DisplayPort lanes that can drive twin 4k displays at 60hz.  It gets even better, while external graphics solutions were toyed about unofficially with Thunderbolt 1 & 2, Thunderbolt 3 officially supports external graphics cards for giving your laptop a little more umph.  This is especially huge if you have a laptop with Intel or AMD integrated graphics.

When will you see Thunderbolt 3 laptops, I expect later this year or early 2016.  With the USB Type-C compatibility,  there isn’t a whole lot of reason not to add it to the next revision of desktops, desktop replacement laptops, and (mobile) workstations that already use Thunderbolt.  For Apple, fully expect it to show up in the next revision of their computers.  It could also make sense to move Thunderbolt more mainstream.  PC gamers will appreciate the external graphics capability and people that don’t want to use Thunderbolt just have another USB-C port on their computer.  We have seen the future.  USB-C is the future with Thunderbolt evolving to become a higher-end version of that standard.  Its a commonsense solution that combined with much improved capabilities will benefit everyone.  I, for one, am excited about the future.

Source: Intel

Apple Updates 15-inch MacBook Pro, 5k iMac

Apple today updated two of its top of the line Macs, the 5k iMac and 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display.  Both are relatively minor refreshes that tweak the already existing lines.

5k iMac

The new iMac, which was launched in its 12″ 5k incarnation last fall, comes in a much more affordable price.  The initial model debuted at $2499 and today a new lower end version with a 3.3ghz Quad Core i5 CPU can be had at $500 less at $1999.  It also comes with 8GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive as well the Radeon R9 M290 graphics.  The original top of the line model receives a $200 price drop to $2299.  That features a 3.5ghz Quad Core i5 CPU and R9 M290X graphics.  If you were looking for other changes like USB Type-C, you’ll have to wait for the next generation.

The 21.5″ which was last refreshed in June of 2014 and Non-5K 27″ iMac last touched in September of 2013 were not updated along with the 5k models.

15″ Macbook Pro Retina

The 15″ Retina MacBook Pro was also updated with some of the features found on the new MacBook and updated 13″ model.  The updated machines feature the new Force Touch trackpad, faster PCI-E x4 SSD drives, and new Radeon R9 M370X graphics chip in the higher end model.  The battery has been tweaked to be slightly larger.  This has the side effect of bumping the battery life from 8 hours to 9 hours.

What does not change are the CPUs.  While the new 13″ has 5th generation dual core Broadwell chips, the 15″ retains 4th generation Quad Cores at 2.2, 2.5ghz, and 2.8ghz.  These are the exact same chips as the 15″ updates launched 10 months ago.  Apple isn’t alone.  Intel hasn’t shipped 5th generation Quad Cores to anyone yet.  Since the Intel graphics are on-die, it also retains the Iris 5200 Pro integrated graphics.

General configurations and the $1999 and $2499 price points remained unchanged from last year.

Source: Apple