Intel has announced what it calls its "truly universal" Thunderbolt 4 specification. The new 'universal cable connectivity solution' actually offers the same maximum data throughput as Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) but adds improvements such as increased minimum performance requirements, expanded capabilities, and USB4 specification compliance.
Thunderbolt 4 will be an integrated feature of the upcoming Intel Tiger Lake processors but users of other processors / platforms will be able to hop on board using the Thunderbolt 4 controller 8000 series (JHL8540 and JHL8340 host controllers for computer makers, and JHL8440 device controller for accessory makers). Thunderbolt 4 developer kits and certification testing kits are now available too.
In the video above you can see a Tiger Lake laptop in action connected to multiple 4K monitors, an external fast SSD, power, and more - via a single Thunderbolt 4 connection from PC to a slim dock. The presenter stresses how compact the docks are, how they support up to 4 Thunderbolt 4 ports, as well as various traditional PC ports, and that new certified cables can be up to 2m long. Intel is targeting certified cable lengths between 5 and 50m in the coming year.
Intel says it has built upon the foundation of Thunderbolt 3 to design Thunderbolt 4, and it is a simplified more universal offering, so that certified devices will provide:
- Double the minimum video and data requirements of Thunderbolt 3.
- Video: Support for two 4K displays or one 8K display
- Data: PCIe at 32Gbps for storage speeds up to 3,000MBps.
- Support for docks with up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports.
- PC charging on at least one computer port.
- Wake your computer from sleep by touching the keyboard or mouse when connected to a Thunderbolt dock.
- Required Intel VT-d-based direct memory access (DMA) protection that helps prevent physical DMA attacks.
To make the new generation connectivity proposition clearer Intel has put together a summary and comparison chart which is embedded below.
As mentioned above, expect the first Thunderbolt 4 devices to become available this year alongside and/or shortly after the launch of Tiger Lake laptops.