Thunderbolt is the brand name of a hardware interface developed by Intel (in collaboration with Apple) that allows the connection of external peripherals to a computer. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 use the same connector as Mini DisplayPort (MDP), whereas Thunderbolt 3 re-uses the USB-C connector from USB. It was initially developed and marketed under the name Light Peak, and first sold as part of a consumer product on 24 February 2011.
Thunderbolt controllers multiplex one or more individual data lanes from connected PCIe and DisplayPort devices for transmission via two duplex Thunderbolt lanes, then de-multiplex them for use by PCIe and DisplayPort devices on the other end. A single Thunderbolt port supports up to six Thunderbolt devices via hubs or daisy chains; as many of these as the host has DP sources may be Thunderbolt monitors.
A single Mini DisplayPort monitor or other device of any kind may be connected directly or at the very end of the chain. Thunderbolt is interoperable with DP-1.1a compatible devices. When connected to a DP-compatible device, the Thunderbolt port can provide a native DisplayPort signal with four lanes of output data at no more than 5.4 Gbit/s per Thunderbolt lane. When connected to a Thunderbolt device, the per-lane data rate becomes 10 Gbit/s and the four Thunderbolt lanes are configured as two duplex lanes, each 10 Gbit/s comprising one lane of input and one lane of output.
Thunderbolt can be implemented on PCIe graphics cards, which have access to DisplayPort data and PCIe connectivity, or on the motherboard of new computers with onboard video, such as the MacBook Air.
- Thunderbolt V1: 2 channels, 10 Gbit/s each (20 Gbit/s in total)
- Thunderbolt V2: 20 Gbit/s in total
- Thunderbolt V3: 40 Gbit/s
- Thunderbolt V1: 4× PCI Express 2.0, DisplayPort 1.1a
- Thunderbolt V2: 4× PCI Express 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2
- Thunderbolt V3: 4× PCI Express 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2 (2 streams), USB 3.1 gen. 2