Whilst showing off their Trinity APUs at CES 2012, AMD had another little treat for visitors at their booth, a new data transfer technology called ‘Lightning Bolt’. When we say new, it’s actually a clever little manipulation of the existing USB 3.0 and DisplayPort. AMD says this solution will be a lot cheaper to implement so we could expect many notebooks to sport this in the near future, unlike Thunderbolt. While no one was able to click the pictures of the port in action, Anand Lal Shimpi managed to get to the bottom of this to see exactly what makes Lightning Bolt tick.    

How it works

How it works

The basic idea is to deliver USB 3.0, DisplayPort and power, over a single cable via a miniDP connector. On the notebook side, we have a mix that combines the USB 3.0, DP and power directly from the PSU and channels it through a miniDP port. The other side of the cable will feature a breakout box (similar to the ones that used to ship with older graphics cards) where you’ll have a standard USB 3.0 port, Display Port and power ports. The mux will be built into the notebook and is said to be relatively cheap to implement (about a dollar) whereas the cable would cost about the same as a USB 3.0 hub. There is a small catch here though since USB 3.0 will be sharing the data stream with a DP connector; it won’t be able to operate at full speed. It’ll still be faster than USB 2.0 but not as fast as a standard USB 3.0 port. This technology will launch in the middle of the year but AMD hopes to bring it to the market sometime towards the year end.

While this sounds like a good option for small and lightweight notebooks where you’re limited to a number of ports you can place on the notebook, it doesn’t really make sense for a regular notebook as you’d rather have a standard USB 3.0 port instead of a combo port with the need for an extra cable. It seems like it will cater to a niche audience just like powered ESATA on notebooks. When was the last time you actually used that port for a SATA connection or more importantly, how many ESATA portable drives do you have on the market today? If rumors are to be believed and AMD is indeed preparing Ultrathin notebooks to compete with Ultrabooks, then this technology seems fitting for those kind of notebooks.

Publish date: January 14, 2012 11:45 am| Modified date: December 18, 2013 9:22 pm

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