Intel is rumoured to have begun the shipment of its second-generation Thunderbolt controller, boasting reduced power usage and a decreased footprint which will hopefully make them suitable for use in Ultrabook-style designs.
According to details obtained by VR-Zone
, the new Cactus Ridge Thunderbolt controllers are available in four- and two-lane variants, measuring 12x12mm with a thickness of 1.35mm. That's a small but significant saving in footprint compared to the equivalent four-lane Light Ridge part, which measured 15x15mm and 1.5mm in height.
The second generation isn't just about reduced component size, though: the four-lane Cactus Ridge DSL3510 boasts a thermal design profile (TDP) of 2.8W to 3.4W, compared to the previous-generation Light Ridge DV82524EF/L's 3.2W to 3.8W. Despite the lower power consumption, the new Cactus Ridge part offers the same functionality as its predecessor with four Thunderbolt lanes, two DisplayPort sinks, one DisplayPort source, and four PCI Express lanes available to devices.
If that isn't enough to convince manufacturers to fit Thunderbolt into their next Ultrabook design, Intel has a second component which drops some features for further power savings. Dubbed the Cactus Ridge DSL3310, the part features two Thunderbolt lanes, a single DisplayPort sink and two PCI Express lanes for a total TDP of 2.1W.
To match the new Cactus Ridge controllers for PCs, Intel is also claimed to be shipping the Port Ridge DSL2210 for endpoint devices. Measuring just 6x5mm with a height of 1.5mm and in a flip-chip ball grid array (FCBGA) package, the chip has a single Thunderbolt lane carrying two PCI Express lanes and is designed for use in client devices that don't need daisy-chain support. Drawing just 0.7W, Port Ridge could be the part for which external storage manufacturers have been waiting.
With Cactus Ridge parts now shipping in volume, Intel's board partners can begin manufacturing motherboards based around the components for retail. With Thunderbolt still proving a tough sell over the backwards-compatible USB 3.0 connectivity standard, however, it could be a while before demand rises enough for the technology to become truly ubiquitous.