Gaming PC

Intel Builds On USB4 v2 for 120 Gbps Next Generation Thunderbolt

The DisplayPort 2.1 specification has officially been announced. release Announced by VESA on Monday, it was followed by an announcement from USB-IF regarding the release of 80 Gbps USB4 v2. specification yesterday. These have brought to the fore significant technological efforts directed at creating a unified protocol that can handle the external I/O bandwidth requirements of future computing systems. Today, Intel is announcing an early prototype demonstration of its next-generation Thunderbolt based on the USB4 v2 and DisplayPort 2.1 specifications.

Intel’s contribution of the Thunderbolt 3 specification to the USB Promoter Group to form the basis for USB4 has its pros and cons. On the one hand, the convergence of the Type-C connector ecosystem has theoretically achieved the goal of minimizing end-user disruption, and the royalty-free specification for PCIe tunneling has opened the market to other silicon vendors such as ASMedia. opened. However, it also raised consumer concerns, as most of USB4’s compelling features (such as 40Gbps bandwidth and compatibility with PCIe tunneling) were completely optional features. That said, it allowed Intel to market his Thunderbolt port as a Type-C that could do it all. Intel’s demonstration of next-gen Thunderbolt also included a sneak peek at its specs, even though certain aspects have yet to be finalized. Before we delve too deep into Intel’s press release, we should briefly recap the announcement of the 80 Gbps USB4 v2 specification.

USB4 v2 update

USB4 v2 builds on the multi-protocol tunneling architecture introduced in USB4, doubling the available bandwidth while maintaining the same port/pin layout and cable construction. This was accomplished by moving the physical layer signal encoding to his PAM3 (details were covered in his 80 Gbps “Thunderbolt 5” article last year). This means his existing 40Gbps USB4 cable can also handle his 80Gbps operation.

The USB4 v2 specification allows tunneling of DisplayPort 2.1 signals and up to four PCIe 4.0 lanes. Also, updates to the data and display protocols enable USB data tunneling above 20 Gbps, making it more efficient.

One of the key updates to support DisplayPort 2.1 tunneling relates to the maximum aggregate bandwidth of 4 lanes in UHBR 20 transmission mode. This translates to 80 Gbps and essentially no spares for other protocols on the sender side. To handle this, USB4 v2 introduces the concept of asymmetric links. In general, a USB4 link uses two coupled high-speed differential signal pairs to transmit and receive data, allowing 40 Gbps duplex operation (40 Gbps transmit and 40 Gbps receive) in the symmetric case. However, during the lane initialization process, you can optionally configure the link to have 3 transmitters and 1 receiver on one side and 3 receivers and 1 transmitter on the other side. Combined with the high data rates provided by PAM3, the host can transmit 120 Gbps while receiving bandwidth down to 40 Gbps. A high resolution display can be driven reliably without sacrificing too much bandwidth on the sender side that could be used for other purposes (such as fast storage).

The power delivery specification has also been updated to match the updates made with USB4 v2 and issued new logo guidelines for consumer devices.

next generation thunderbolt

Over the past few years, Thunderbolt has seen incredible momentum. This was largely caused by the integration of his Thunderbolt controller inside mass-produced notebook processors starting with Ice Lake. The combination of data, video and power delivery in one port/cable benefits many use cases. In particular, hybrid work/hotdesking (putting monitors/networking etc. behind a dock, allowing multiple employees to connect to his Thunderbolt-equipped system at different times) is becoming more popular. Can also be used as a business/office space. Gamers and content creators crave the full I/O bandwidth that Thunderbolt offers.

As mentioned earlier, the next generation of Thunderbolt takes the USB4 v2 specification as a baseline and makes all the attractive optional features mandatory. In addition to this, his Thunderbolt integration in Intel’s notebook processors ensures power efficiency of the implementation on the host side. Making Thunderbolt mandatory for Intel Evo and vPro notebooks further strengthens Intel’s leadership in the USB4 v2 space.

Dynamic bandwidth readjustment, which allows tunneling of the highest bandwidth DisplayPort 2.1 streams while enabling the use of higher bandwidth peripherals, is one of the most exciting features of USB4 v2 and the next generation Ensures availability on systems with Thunderbolt ports.

Intel’s demonstration includes both host and device implementations, showing the host configuration first. His DisplayPort output of the discrete GPU feeds the host controller board and two Type-C cables branch out.

Aspects such as next-generation Thunderbolt port power delivery limitations (Thunderbolt 3 / 4 support up to 15W by default) will be revealed in the near future. Intel has not provided any information regarding market availability.

One look at the USB4 v2 specification and Intel’s next-generation Thunderbolt description and it’s clear that the Thunderbolt port will continue to be the Type-C port that does it all.

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