Intel officially reveals Thunderbolt 4 – A Universal Cable?

Intel officially reveals Thunderbolt 4 - A Universal Cable Standard?

Intel officially reveals Thunderbolt 4 – A Universal Cable?

Today, Intel has officially revealed its Thunderbolt 4 specification, offering users full compliance with both the USB4 and Thunderbolt 3 specifications, as well as “universal cables” that are up to two meters in length. 

While it is easy to see Thunderbolt 4 as a simple merger of USB4 and Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4 also offers several new additions. For example, Thunderbolt 4 ups the standard’s minimum requirements to require 32Gb/s data requirements, doubling that of Thunderbolt 3 while mandating PC charging over at least one port for compatible systems. 

Intel officially reveals Thunderbolt 4 - A Universal Cable Standard?

USB4 can be supported in a multitude of ways, and Thunderbolt 4 is designed to deliver full USB4 speeds, requiring both system and accessory and cable certifications to ensure adherence to Intel’s standards. USB4 demands a minimum of 20Gb/s speeds, whereas THunderbolt 4 demands 40Gb/s speeds.

With the simplicity of a single USB-C port, Intel will support up to two 4K screens, and data transfer rates of up to 3GB/s. Thin and light laptops will also be required to support device charging through Thunderbolt 4, but only of the device can be charged with a 100W connection. With Thunderbolt 4, Intel promises charging and uncompromised data/video connectivity through a single cable.  

Thunderbolt 4 will also mandate the use of VT-d-based Direct Memory Access Protections, which will prevent Thunderbolt 4 from being hit by the same DMA attacks as older Thunderbolt devices. An example of this type of attack is “Thunderspy“, an attack vector which came to light earlier this year. 

Intel officially reveals Thunderbolt 4 - A Universal Cable Standard?  

With Tiger Lake, Thunderbolt 4 support will be integrated into Intel’s processors for the first time, and later this year, Intel plans to release its JHL8540 and JHL8340 host controllers, and their JHL8440 device controller t enable Thunderbolt 4 support on both PC systems and accessories. 

Intel has stated that the first PCs with Thunderbolt 4 support will become available this year, including notebooks which were spawned from the company’s “Innovation Program” called Project Athena. 

Intel officially reveals Thunderbolt 4 - A Universal Cable Standard?  
In the future, Intel plans to enable the creation of longer Thunderbolt-compatible cables, extending the standard’s reach beyond the company’s newly established 2m limit and to lengths of between 5-50 meters. These lengths are what Intel is “targeting”, and no timeframe has been set for Intel to achieve this length target. 

While Thunderbolt 4 may not increase the maximum speeds of the company’s Thunderbolt standard, it will help deliver the maximum potential of the standard to a broader number of PC users. Bringing full USB4 compliance into the mix will also see Intel as the first platform provider to fully support the standard, allowing them to capitalise on USB4’s potential. 

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