Apple's 12-inch MacBook won't reach Thunderbolt 3 data transfer speeds

Thunderbolt 3 cables will plug into USB Type-C ports of Apple's 12-inch MacBook, but transfer data at USB 3.0 speeds of 5Gbps

Intel's Thunderbolt cable

Intel's Thunderbolt cable

The super-slim 12-inch Apple MacBook brought a radical design change to laptops with its USB Type-C port, but it won't support faster Thunderbolt 3 data transfers.

Intel at Computex announced Thunderbolt 3 that can transfer data between computers and external peripherals at speeds of 40Gbps, the fastest among connector technologies today. The technology is two times faster than its predecessor, Thunderbolt 2, which is in many Macs today.

The biggest changes in Thunderbolt 3 is support for the USB protocol and a move away from proprietary connectors to souped-up USB Type-C ports and cables. Computers could have similar looking USB Type-C and Thunderbolt ports, the latter distinguished by the Thunderbolt logo.

The Thunderbolt 3 cable will plug into the USB Type-C ports in the new MacBook and Pixel, but will operate on the USB 3.0 protocol and transfer data at speeds of 5Gbps. The laptops won't support faster Thunderbolt data transfers of 40Gbps, according to Jason Ziller, director of marketing at Intel, during an event at Computex to explain Thunderbolt 3 technology.

Faster controllers need to be installed in Macs and PCs to achieve Thunderbolt 3 speeds, and users will likely have to wait until the release of new laptops to get the technology. Thunderbolt 3 is designed for Intel's Skylake chips, which will ship in the second half, and 30 laptops and desktops supporting the connector technology are expected to ship by the end of the year. So users can expect Thunderbolt 3 ports to appear in Skylake-based Macs.

Apple has Thunderbolt in most of its Macs, but the company's decision to include only a USB Type-C port in the 12-inch MacBook raised questions about Thunderbolt's future. But Thunderbolt 3 has support for the best traits of USB, and Apple could bring back a Thunderbolt 3 port in the next 12-inch MacBook.

Users will be able to charge laptops with Thunderbolt 3, which will be able to carry up to 100 watts of power. The faster pipes in Thunderbolt 3 will allow two 4K monitors to be connected to a computer simultaneously. Users will be able to transfer a 4K movie from an external storage device to a PC in 30 seconds, Ziller said.

The base Thunderbolt 3 technology could support two DisplayPort 1.2 display connections. Additionally, it will also work with 10-Gigabit Ethernet, and support the PCI-Express data transfer protocol.

Previous versions of Thunderbolt were not successful because of the proprietary connector technology and high cost. Only about a hundred peripherals support older Thunderbolt technologies. But with support for USB -- which is dominant in PCs, mobile devices and electronics -- Thunderbolt 3.0 is now capable of supporting millions of peripherals. Intel is working on cables so older Thunderbolt peripherals can connect to new Thunderbolt 3 ports.

8K video could be a key potential application for Thunderbolt 3, as it will require a lot more bandwidth than available with USB 3.1 today.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intelhardware systems

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?