One of the most interesting use cases for Thunderbolt is as a connection to an external GPU for thin and light notebook users, especially Ultrabook/MacBook Air users that are left with nothing more than integrated graphics. We've had concerns about the latency and bandwidth offered by Thunderbolt for use with an external GPU (1.25GB/s in each direction). Despite the concerns, MSI demonstrated a functional external GPU solution at CES this week (the GUS II).
The GUS II is limited to PCIe cards that don't require additional power beyond what's delivered by the slot itself, which ensures that you won't run into the bandwidth limitations that you'd see with higher end GPUs.
While the idea of paring a notebook with a mainstream external GPU is interesting, what's really exciting is the potential to use a high end GPU (think $300+). To enable higher end external GPU support that makes sense we'll need more bandwidth from Thunderbolt. Intel's focus on Thunderbolt is to drive adoption and it doesn't want to quickly rev the spec before the initial release has a chance to gain popularity. As a result, Intel told me that we won't see any increase in Thunderbolt speeds for the next two years. If the technology ramps well (adoption is still very slow as the number of systems with Thunderbolt support are limited and TB devices are expensive) then the market will be ripe for an updated version in 2014.
Expect to hear about a faster version of Thunderbolt in late 2013 and going into 2014.
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • Dug - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    That's what I would want!

    If you could add graphics power and use the same screen you already have on a laptop.
  • flux_capacitor - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    An updated Thunderbolt (with DisplayPort 1.2 instead of DisplayPort 1.1a) is urgent and needed for "Retina" monitors: current Thunderbolt maxes out at 2560 x 1600 pixels (1280x800 @2x, that would be only a 13" Retina panel). 2014 is too far. So Intel should release an intermediate revision of Thunderbolt in 2013 with some DP 1.2 passthrough (Redwood Ridge). Two Thunderbolt ports may be used together to drive the insane resolution of a 27" Retina display.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now