Intel promises Thunderbolt 4 with Tiger Lake – CES 2020

Intel promises Thunderbolt 4 with Tiger Lake

Intel promises Thunderbolt 4 with Tiger Lake – CES 2020

Update – The USB Implementors Forum has confirmed that Intel’s Thunderbolt 4 technology is a marketing name for full USB4 support. Thunderbolt 4 will offer users all of the features, both mandatory and optional, for USB4 and full backwards compatibility with Thunderbolt 3. 

This means that Thunderbolt 4’s maximum speeds will be 40Gbps, making its performance identical to Thunderbolt 3. This makes Intel’s “4x the throughput of USB 3” comment even more confusing than before, as they were not referring to either the fastest or slowest USB 3 standard. It’s almost like Intel was intentionally trying to confuse watchers of their CES 2020 keynote.  

Unfortunately, this means that Thunderbolt 4 is mostly a USB4 validated version of Thunderbolt 3 and that Thunderbolt 4 is not a true successor to Thunderbolt 3. 

——————————————————————————————-

At CES 2020, Intel has confirmed that its Tiger Lake series of mobile processors will deliver support for Thunderbolt 4, which will be integrated into the CPU. This is the first time that Intel has ever spoken about Thunderbolt 4, to our knowledge, confirming that the standard has a future beyond Thunderbolt 3. 

Intel’s statements regarding Thunderbolt 4 are vague, stating that the standard offers “4x the throughput of USB 3” (USB 3.0 = 5Gbps) even though Thunderbolt 2 (20Gbps) already achieves that goal. We can only assume that Intel meant USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, which offers 20Gbps transfer rates, making Thunderbolt 4 an 80Gbps standard. 

When discussing Tiger Lake, Intel has previously stated that the platform will offer “next-gen I/O technology”, which one can assume means PCIe 4.0 support. Using PCIe 4.0 would deliver the raw bandwidth needed to enable 80Gbps Thunderbolt 4 support on Tiger Lake. Given AMD’s head start on PCIe 4.0, one can guess that Intel plans to stay quiet regarding Tiger Lake’s PCIe 4.0 support until launch to save face. 

Thunderbolt 3 already sports 4x PCIe 3.0 connectivity, making the upgrade to PCIe 4.0 enough of a bandwidth uplift to create Thunderbolt 4. That said, this amount of bandwidth could make the creation of Thunderbolt 4 cables difficult. 

Intel will likely discuss Thunderbolt 4.0 further when Tiger Lake is prepared for launch. Intel has not committed on a specific release timeframe for Tiger Lake at this time. 

You can join the discussion on Intel’s Thunderbolt 4 technology on the OC3D Forums.