Eagle Ridge, Image Courtesy iFixit
 
When we first published the details of Intel's 2012 line of Thunderbolt controllers we pointed out that the specs of the two new controllers seemed identical to those of the two outgoing controllers. To briefly recap, there are currently two Thunderbolt controllers in the market: Light Ridge and Eagle Ridge. The ultimate difference between the controllers is how many ports are supported (it's a bit more complicated than that but that's what it boils down to). Light Ridge supports 2, Eagle Ridge supports 1.
 
Any Thunderbolt device currently shipping or shipping before the end of Q1 will use either Light Ridge or Eagle Ridge. Both of these parts are priced somewhere in the $20 - $30 range.
 
Sometime in Q2 (not at the Ivy Bridge launch in April unfortunately) we'll see the introduction of one and two port Cactus Ridge controllers. From a feature standpoint these two will be identical to what we have today, the main difference is integration.
 
There are a number of external components you currently need to support Thunderbolt, especially if you want to enable DisplayPort video output in addition to data. Intel wouldn't be specific but it told me the only difference between Cactus Ridge and its predecessors is Cactus integrates more of these external components onto the die itself. The solution is still not fully integrated, but it is more integrated than the current solution. While this won't drive down the cost of the controller itself, it will reduce the cost of implementing Thunderbolt. Given Intel's history of wanting to integrate everything, it's pretty safe to assume that going forward we'll see a slow integration of all external components into the Thunderbolt controller.
 
So if you see a Thunderbolt device that you're interested in and it's launching during or before April of this year, it's likely based on Light/Eagle Ridge. Otherwise it's Cactus Ridge. The difference to you shouldn't be anything noticeable, but it should contribute to somewhat more affordable Thunderbolt devices.

 

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  • Ikefu - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    As soon as someone releases a PCI-E over thunderbolt Video Card box that supports cards with 6 and 8 pin power connectors I'm all in with thunderbolt and it will become a must have but not really until then.

    Being able to pack a Radeon 7970 or GeForce 580 for use with my laptop on the road would be epic (even if it takes a lot of suitcase space). But I don't really see any must have thunderbolt peripherals that make it stand out to me yet. USB 3.0 handles all my needs pretty well
    Reply
  • ss284 - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    I'm pretty sure thunderbolt v1 is the bandwidth equivalent of a 2x or 4x pci-e slot. You'll need to wait for thunderbolt v2(10x bandwidth). Reply
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    Not really, it would still be a massive upgrade for laptops as is. Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    A 4x 2.0 slot isn't enough of a penalty to affect very many games. IF you look through the complete list; a few do get clobbered; but most have only a minimal impact. Some games are fine even on a 1x slot. The average there includes some games with a minimal performance hit, and others that are absolutely crushed by IIRC as much as 75% slowdowns.

    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/AMD/HD_5870_PCI...
    Reply
  • Flunk - Friday, January 13, 2012 - link

    It's the equivalent of a 1X slot. Reply
  • ViRGE - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    $20-$30 per controller, plus external components, AND $50 for a cable?! Good lord no wonder almost nothing is using Thunderbolt, this is ridiculously expensive. The minimum costs to use Thunderbolt are easily $100 (2 controllers + cable). Even if prices came down 80%, that would still be expensive to a market that scoffed when Apple wanted $.25 for royalties on Firewire.

    Intel needs to let other manufacturers make Thunderbolt controllers, and in turn those manufacturers need to make integrated single-chip devices that are direct TB-to-SATA controllers and what-not as opposed to today's multi-chip solutions. Otherwise Thunderbolt will never be cheap enough to be practical.
    Reply
  • FaaR - Friday, January 13, 2012 - link

    Oh lawdy lawd so expensive. Boo hoo.

    Yeah this stuff costs a bit of money, but it's not as bad as you're complaining. The $50 cable is at retail, obviously a thunderbolt device manufacturer would not pay that price. Instead of getting hung up on cost and ignorantly poo-pooing all over this tech (because of your obvious apple hate no doubt), why not stop for a second and consider what you're getting, which is 40GBit/s aggregate data traffic, plus the equivalent of two dual-link DVI outputs and 10W of power, all in a cable about 5mm in diameter.

    What would that have cost a couple years ago? Astronomical sums, for sure.
    Reply
  • daneren2005 - Friday, January 13, 2012 - link

    Hmm, let me consider all of the things that normal people (not enterprise obviously) use that would need that 40 Gb/s traffic...oh wait, there isn't anything. The fastest SSDs don't even fully use USB 3, and aren't exactly being used by many considering most people can barely afford to get small cheap ones put in as their OS drives. And even if tomorrow all flash drives were instantly converted into faster 1 GB/s drives, they are transferring to their data drives which are still limited around the 100-150 MB/s range. Might this type of cable be awesome in 5 years? Sure, but by then there will probably be USB 4 which will once again provide more than enough bandwidth for people's current needs, and be dirt cheap still. And that is just for hard drives. That doesn't even consider the fact that you are adding, say even $20, to the price of each keyboard, mouse, printer, monitor, etc... For the average user, this is a worthless extra that doesn't work with any of their existing stuff and adds to the price of anything supporting it anyways. For certain people this is an awesome advancement, but that group is small so don't expect it to gain mass adoption. Reply
  • solipsism - Friday, January 13, 2012 - link

    That's is wicked inexpensive for a technology that OEMs can't even sell to the masses yet. The world found out about Thunderbolt, the copper version of LightPeak using the mDP port interface, less than a year ago the day it was announced as an exclusive for Apple for a year.

    If the prices and availability are still this low at CES 2013 then you will have a soapbox on which to stand. Seeing as how it's still months before other OEMs can sell devices with TB, it's backed by Intel (How did USB work out?), and there were plenty of devices with TB I think it's going to do fine.
    Reply

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