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Lightning Bolt From AMD Is A Low-Cost Alternative To Thunderbolt For USB 3.0

by Killian Bell | January 13, 2012January 13, 2012 9:30 pm PDT

Lightening Bolt from AMD

Following its debut in Apple’s MacBook Pro back in February 2010, the high-speed Thunderbolt technology from Intel is quickly making its way into all sorts of products. Displays, external hard drives, desktops, notebooks, and even external GPUs are all using it to provide super speedy data transfers at up to 10Gbps.

But like any new technology, it’s not cheap. So don’t expect to see it in every notebook at your local Best Buy by the end of the year. However, there is a low-cost alternative from AMD called Lightning Bolt, which could be the next best thing for entry level PCs.

Like Thunderbolt, Lightning Bolt technology can deliver USB 3.0, DisplayPort and power over a single cable using mini DisplayPort connectors. It’s designed to be simple¬†and affordable, according to AnandTech,¬†who have had the pleasure of seeing the technology in action.

Their report explains how it works, and its benefits:

On the notebook side is a mux that combines power, DisplayPort and USB 3.0 into a single DP-like cable. The other end of the cable would connect to a Lightning Bolt breakout box that would provide USB 3.0, DisplayPort and power ports.

The cost of the mux and associated components on the notebook side would be minimal, around a dollar. The mux would eventually be integrated into a notebook (the AMD demo had them external for demo purposes) and all you’d see is a mini-DP interface with some sort of indication that it was a Lightning Bolt interface.

Unfortunately, AMD is yet to provide any of the specifics for Lighting Bolt, so we don’t know exactly how fast it is, or how much power is send over the interface. The company claims that USB 3.0 transfers will be faster that USB 2.0, but not full-speed.

According to AnandTech, the technology will be on the market by the end of this year.

Will you be looking forward to AMD’s Lightning Bolt technology?

[via AnandTech]


Killian Bell

Killian Bell is a 20-something technology journalist based in a tiny town in England. He has an obsession with that little company in Cupertino...

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