It’s been a few years since the Thunderbolt 3 protocol was  introduced, and Intel says there are more than 120 PCs on the market to support the standard.

But Intel’s latest chips don’t actually include native support for Thunderbolt 3. Device makers have needed to integrate a discrete Thunderbolt 3 controller, which has slowed adoption.

That’s one of the reasons why every device with a Thunderbolt 3 port can support USB Type-C accessories… but not every device with a USB Type-C port supports Thunderbolt 3’s 40 Gb/s data transfer speeds and other key features.

Now Intel wants to make it easier for device makers to adopt Thunderbolt 3 by integrating the technology “into future Intel CPUs.”

Intel will also make the Thunderbolt 3 specification available royalty-free to help anyone integrate the technology.

Here are a few of the benefits of Thunderbolt 3:

  • Support for sending video to up to two external 4K displays
  • Support for up to 100 watts of power delivery (your USB port can be your laptop’s power jack)
  • Supply up to 15 watts to bus-powered devices (for charging phones or tablets, or powering USB displays, among other peripherals)
  • Up to 4x faster data transfer speeds than you get with USB 3.1

By supporting Thunderbolt 3 at the chip level and making the spec available, Intel is probably increasing the odds that you’ll start to see the technology in mid-range PCs. Right now it tends to be available exclusively on higher-end machines.

While Intel says Thunderbolt 3 will be integrated into “future” CPUs though, it’s unclear if that means all future CPUS including entry-level, low-power Celeron and Pentium chips or if this is a feature that will be reserved for Core family processors.


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7 replies on “Intel: Thunderbolt 3 will be integrated with next-gen chips”

  1. I’ll stick with USB Type-C/3.1 with its 10GB/s and relatively open standards. I don’t want or need TB3 for anything I do and I certainly don’t want its security problems.

    1. Amen. I would rather have native ufs 2.1 support. For chromebooks it would be much better than emmc 5.0. I would think that most consumer laptop users would be fine using ufs as their main disk.

    2. To counter this, I want TB3. I want to be able to use PCI-E for the wide variety of things it’s capable of (4GB/s external storage arrays, 40gbit/s networking, external GPUs). Then there’s the stuff TB3 support guarantees like adherence to the USB-PD spec for up to 100W of power, like 8 lanes of displayport for dual 4K monitors. Then there are the funky features like connect two computers together via it for an easy 10gbit network.

      If a device has a USB-C port there’s no guarantee it’ll do anything special, it might even be just USB 2.0. You could have USB 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, 500mA of current, 900mA, or 5A@20V, displayport or not, HDMI or not, it’s totally unknown and that sucks. There’s no apt comparison here but if you got a device with a HDMI port that can only output 320×240 video over it that’d be a massive shock and disappointment, you expected 4K 60Hz (the cool things HDMI can do) and got only the worst bits.

      That’s why we need TB3. It’s a certification that this physical USB-C port can do all the cool things you were promised.

  2. If they make it available royalties free, does that mean that an ARM chip maker could add it too?

    1. Not going to be royalty free. The best case scenario would be some kind of AMD and Intel cross-licensing deal where both parties gain access to parts of the other’s tech portfolio. These deals are made all the time between major tech corporations.

      1. ” In addition to Intel’s Thunderbolt silicon, next year Intel plans to make the Thunderbolt protocol specification available to the industry under a nonexclusive, royalty-free license. Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification in this manner is expected to greatly increase Thunderbolt adoption by encouraging third-party chip makers to build Thunderbolt-compatible chips. We expect industry chip development to accelerate a wide range of new devices and user experiences. ”

        No Tacitus, you’re wrong. Straight from Intel’s mouth, it will be royalty-free.

        And they are ENCOURAGING third-party chip makers like AMD, Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, Huawei. And are EXPECTING a wide-range of new devices like phones, handhelds, tablets, TVs etc etc.

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