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02/24/2011

Thunderbolts are go! Meet the next USB/DV plug

Lightpeak-cables Just when we were starting to get up and running with the next-generation of USB technology (you know, the plugs you use to charge your phone or get pictures off your digital camera), we've been introduced to a possible successor, Thunderbolt.

The first devices we'll see on the market with this new tech are actually from Apple. The company's new MacBook Pro lineup features laptops with Thunderbolt.

It's just a matter of time before we see Thunderbolt pop up in desktop PCs and laptops running Windows.

But what the heck is Thunderbolt?

It has nothing to do with the Thunderbids or International Rescue - Thunderbolt is an I/O (input/output) technology developed by Intel.

They'll be used to connect practically any peripheral device, from your screen to your external hard drive - with super fast performance and speeds.

For starters, it looks like a DisplayPort plug - and it supports the fast and powerful PCI Express platform.

In plain English - it's fast connectivity for intensive media applications, like watching HD content or transferring enough large files that would take a lunch break over USB 2.0 to move.

How fast? Transfer rates are billed to be 10 GB/second. Intel says you'd be able to move a full-length HD movie in under 30 seconds. Or enough MP3 files to last a year on your music player in just over 10 minutes. A Gizmodo report says it's up to 20 times faster than USB 2.0.

The flow of data is bi-directional (works both ways) and multiple devices can be daisy-chained so you can have more than one gadget working off one plug.

Speaking of one plug, Tunderbolt also packs power - literally - with about 10 watts of electricity on each connection.

Other than Apple, a few other companies have already pledged to be on board with Thunderbolt - including Western Digital, LaCie and Avid.

Between USB 3.0, Firewire and eSata, Thunderbolt is entering a packed party. Good luck trying to be the centre of attention.

Do you think Thunderbolt will take off? Or will it be a forgettable technology?

- Maurice Cacho, MSN Tech & Gadgets

 Photo: Intel

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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.

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