If you have been shopping around or researching for Ultrabooks which pack a Thunderbolt port your search like hundreds of other UK consumers has more than likely resulted in disappointment thus far. Your disappointment is not dumb-founded though; at this time, Thunderbolt connectivity is not an Intel Ultrabook requirement, and as such no OEM’s are obliged to include them within any given Ultrabook range.
Instead, Ultrabooks all feature at least 1 USB 3.0 port, which as of late has been marketed as the ‘next-generation’ of connectivity interface for personal computers. The thing is though USB 3.0 has been around since 2008 believe it or not, which is a whole 4 years ago, and as we all know the technology industry moves on a lot within a time frame like that. Despite only recently coming to the mass attention of the UK public then USB 3.0 is second to a newer type of connectivity already, however despite being owned by Intel themselves (yup, Intel own the trademarks to Thunderbolt) this newer technology has not yet found its way in to all of the latest Ultrabooks. In fact, without research, you’d be hard pressed to find any Ultrabooks with Thunderbolt at all.
This then contradicts all supposed ‘reliable’ reports that Thunderbolt would make its way over to Ultrabooks during the second quarter of 2012. According to Digitimes, Acer, Acustek and Lenovo were all going to be releasing Thunderbolt sporting ultra-portables to the world during the second quarter of 2012, which we now know to be complete and utter bull crap.
So what is Thunderbolt
Released commercially more than a year ago (February 2011, to be exact) by Apple on their updated Macbook range, Thunderbolt is in its simplest terms a small port on a computer which offers twice the performance of the latest SuperSpeed USB (3.0) interconnect. Thunderbolt offers a 10Gbps transfer rate, compared with SuperSpeed USB’s 5Gbps. Thunderbolt is also a whole 12 times faster than FireWire 800 and up to 20 times faster than USB 2.0. In tests, Thunderbolt can transfer a full-length, high-definition movie in less than 30 seconds whilst USB 3.0 can take over 60. Another key advantage to Thunderbolt over USB 3.0 is a biggie; Thunderbolt offers the ability to serve as a transport for PCIe, which is something USB is incapable of.
With the above in mind, it is easy to see why Apple the most valuable technology company in the world has integrated Thunderbolt in to the whole of its Mac range. The way Thunderbolt works is pretty simple – Thunderbolt features two protocols; PCI Express (PCIe) and DisplayPort. The Thunderbolt chip switches between the two protocols to support different devices and tech. DisplayPort offers HD display support as well as eight channels of HD audio. A Thunderbolt connector has two full-duplex channels; each are bi-directional and capable of 10Gbps of throughput.
Why do most Ultrabooks not feature Thunderbolt then?
Now that is a great question. Intel owns the rights and trademarks to Thunderbolt and this is the very same company who want Ultrabooks to succeed within the laptop market and be seen by consumers as future proof. Feel free to laugh at the irony of that. What’s more, Apple has Thunderbolt integrated within their whole Mac range and as a technology company competing for laptop customers, a Macbook is sure to appeal to anybody who requires this kind of connectivity or speed above what USB 3.0 can offer.
Blame isn’t entirely on Intel however. OEM’s are being lazy too by not adopting this latest technology and by instead opting to offer up the cheaper parts of USB 3.0 and marketing them as the be all and end all of speed.
The key solution to getting OEM’s to include Thunderbolt in to Ultrabooks of the future is simple; Intel MUST make it a standard requirement within their Ultrabook guidelines. If you are unsure of what those are currently, I wrote a post on it right here, for further reading.
Note: Before anybody chimes in and talks about OEM’s announcing support for Thunderbolt or already supplying expansion units, I am fully aware of this. I’m talking about the late adoption and lack of investment in finished products.
There is but two
At the time of writing this post (September 2012) there is but two Ultrabooks on the market which include Thunderbolt as standard, and those Ultrabooks are the Acer Aspire S5 and HP Spectre XT TouchSmart. The S5 was released in June 2012 mostly good reviews from websites online. It features a rather unique ”MagicFlip I/O Port,” which pops out to reveal Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 and HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) ports, as well as a black magnesium-aluminium chassis allowing it to weigh in at 1.2kg (2.65lbs).
The third generation Intel Core i7 processor model, clocked at 1.9GHz rolls in at +£1200 online whilst the third generation Intel Core i5 processor model can be had for around £980 online. Expensive stuff, for sure, however there is definitely a market out there for this here Ultrabook with the model being aimed at professionals predominantly. Acer didn’t see fit to include Thunderbolt in to its lesser S3 model Ultrabook however, which would have undoubtedly stirred up other OEM’s in to creating mid-range books’ with the technology which inspired this post.
I personally love Thunderbolt and am more than confident it will in time replace USB 3.0 for the most part. The trouble currently however lies with Intel; until they make it a standard requirement within their Ultrabook manifesto, OEM’s will continue to be lazy and offer nothing but USB 3.0 within their machines. Arguing against this one could say that Thunderbolt is too expensive as a part currently to be included within any mid-range Ultrabook however I’ll close this post with a couple of products to consider:
The Amazon Kindle Fire. The Google Nexus 7. Both of these products contribute to their given markets, and both bucked the trend of traditional tablet pricing versus features incorporated. Isn’t it time laptop manufacturers did the same?