USB 3.0 continues to steal Thunderbolt’s thunder

“For Thunderbolt fans hoping that the high-speed interface will catch on, we’ve got more bad news: an Acer representative talking to CNET has said that the company has no plans to support Thunderbolt in its PCs this year,” Andrew Cunningham reports for Ars Technica.

“Acer’s Aspire S5 Ultrabook was one of the few Windows laptops to include Thunderbolt support when it was introduced in early 2012,” Cunningham reports. “By itself, the news of one company distancing itself from Thunderbolt might not be a big deal, but this is just another example of the trouble that Thunderbolt faces two-and-a-half years after its public introduction in the 2011 MacBook Pro.”

Cunningham reports, “Cost is one of the primary obstacles facing Thunderbolt—the cost of the cables, the cost of licensing, and the extra cost of putting the separate controller chip into PCs are all significant hurdles. Some relief may come when (or if) Intel begins to integrate Thunderbolt into its chipsets, which certainly boosted adoption of USB 3.0 when that interface became natively supported by Ivy Bridge’s 7-series chipsets. Until then, though, Thunderbolt’s chicken-and-egg problem will persist.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Belkin finally ships Thunderbolt Express Dock – April 30, 2013
LaCie releases largest range of Thunderbolt solutions for Mac and PC at NAB – April 8, 2013
Thunderbolt isn’t just a faster USB – and Mac buyers see that – August 25, 2011

56 Comments

          1. Poor people don’t think that way. At least that has been my experience dealing with them. They either don’t understand that spending more now will save them more in the long run or are impulsive and need that new thing fix.

            I have acquaintances that by a new PC every other year or when they break which ever comes first. They’ve gone through 3 PC’s while I’ve been on the one iMac. I always ask why and they say they can’t afford a Mac. The thing is, they aren’t even buying the bottom of the barrel PC.

            1. Not to nitpick, but there is a difference between poor and low income, even though I don’t often differentiate.

              Low income is a state of finance that can be changing, from recent graduate heading up in scale, to recent lay-off heading down.

              Poor is a state of mind. Even if some people get assistance and money, they stay poor as a way of life, they know no better.

            2. It’s not poor vs not-poor thinking. It’s Ikea vs Ethan Allen thinking. In other words, some people don’t want the same model forever (ie reliability). They either want to make payments (in the form of repair and cleaning) vs one large lump purchase price or they want to throw it away and get something new. High income and low income people think this way – nothing wrong with it.

            3. In some cases, it’s just a tradeoff – my wife doesn’t even like Ethan Allen furniture because she thinks it looks Amish, but she would much rather have a Mac than a PC.

            4. The point is Ethan Allen is well built furniture that lasts a long time, so I have been told. The point was not about taste or style, it was about quality and reliability vs cheap stuff.

        1. So we should all stop giving away our old Macs to people who need it? Maybe it’s just me, but I think just about everyone is better off owning a Mac instead of a rent-a-center Dell.

        2. I am on disability, fix income and own a 27″ 3.4 ghz iMac. If you want a quality desk computer you will save up money for one. I plan on keeping this machine for the next 8 years which with the slow down on progress on speed it should make it that long.

        3. I beg to differ. As a physician in a “free clinic” (in quotes because there really are no free clinics anymore – everyone has to pay something), I’d say at least 80% of the young mothers on welfare and WIC who bring in their kids have an iPhone.

      1. Thunderbolt exists only because Steven Jobs personally hated wires and wanted interface that would be able to replace all the wires, including power (except for one single power for iMac, obviously).

        It is not meant to compete with USB since it is much more advanced, faster, universal thing.

        1. Thunderbolt is an Intel product. It’s genesis had nothing to do with Steve Jobs and the reason it is so expensive is Intel’s licensing as well as the chips required for it. The second generation was supposed to be much cheaper but doesn’t seem like it has had much impact.
          Who cares what Acer does..they are in a race to the bottom with el cheap PC’s.

          1. The problem with Thunderbolt is that Apple couldn’t figure out how to put Thunderbolt on the last update of the Mac Pro (where professionals buying peripherals would have spurred a market to be created).

          2. “Thunderbolt is an Intel product. It’s genesis had nothing to do with Steve Jobs”

            That’s not entirely true. Apple wanted a new, next level/generation and asked Intel to develop it. Intel developed it with Apple as their primary customer (even using Macs when doing demos). Apple trademarked the Thunderbolt name, and the port used by Thunderbolt is based on the Apple developed MiniDisplay port.

            If it wasn’t for Apple, Intel probably wouldn’t have developed Thunderbolt, and certainly it would be called something else, and look/function a lot differently. Then again, if it wasn’t for Apple, I’m not too sure USB would’ve taken off either.

            1. “That’s not entirely true” — more like entirely not true — as you have mentioned, Thunderbolt would not exist at all if not direct Apple/Jobs’ involvement.

          3. It is developed by both Intel and Apple, but the idea is by the latter.

            Intel had optical I/O in their laboratories that had nothing to do with real product.

            Apple came and said they want copper version of it. It is Appe’s idea, Apple’s cable, Apple’s connectors, Apple designed and tested motherboards for whole development process, Apple even came up with the very “Thunderbolt” name.

            So why Thunderbolt controller is Intel’s development, it only came to life because of personal wish of Steven Jobs. Intel would never release Thunderbolt by itself as they were happy enough with their USB 3 thing.

      1. You do know that both USB and Thunderbolt are both proprietary Intel products and both have proprietary connectors and licensing from Intel?
        They are Intel products that Apple chose to use.

    1. so you are not poor person? totally you don’t understand. USB 3 is dominating market along with USB2. firewire, thunderbolt are failed because nobody use that shit. it is only apple standard.

  1. Apple seems to enjoy having a new connection interface chicken-and-egg problem every 5 years or so.

    Other than having one more line of the feature list, what is the advantage in combining data, video, and audio connectors into one plug that costs MORE than the three separately???

    1. You don’t know much about Thunbderbolt.
      Look at an Apple Cinema display and Apple laptop. Video, sound, USB and TB data connections, ethernet, all through a single cable.
      It’s not like Thunderbolt is the only connector on a Mac.

      1. What is this “Thunbderbolt” of which you speak?

        Answer my question, and all will be revealed. Having a fewer number or smaller surface area of a box devoted to connectors does absolutely nothing positive for most consumers if it costs more or limits user choice.

  2. Hmmm, not a problem on the Mac side. Thunderbolt dogs and USB3 cats should be able to live together, especially Thunderbolt2!

    BTW I’ve just been data dumping off my old 9500 and 8100 Macs with SCSI DDS3, MO and ZIP drives media transfer too and I can tell you I don’t miss those days at all! All of this old stuff is headed for electronic waste disposal to free up space and clutter. Sad though. It’s been a hoot to be back on OS 9.1 and 8.1. But makes me appreciate OS X that much more – especially the stability!

  3. The “poor” here is poor of mind, cheap thinking. Thunderbolt, a port that you can connect at least 3 DVI displays and allow to plug almost any other known relevant connection cannot even be compared to the limited USB 3. Thanks Apple to provide such kind of greatness.

    1. Still, the cost of the materials will have to come down before that greatness can be spread to the masses. Kind of like SSD drives – got a lot of pluses, but the cost is still a major drawback.

    2. On the other hand, someone looking for a low-end PC aren’t going to connect 3 DVI displays. Or anything high-end enough that would take advantage of TB.

      1. Am I unadvisedly at Gizmodo or any other anti Apple forum?
        The “3 displays” capability was just to show how powerful is TB.
        Acer’s target market is average people who doesn’t bother to use whatever necessary to average processing.
        What matters to them is sharing photos/music on an USB camera or pendrive. It’s what they know, their reality.
        Good for them, stick on that, I don’t care.
        Acer: keeps your average business.
        But don’t come imposing arguments justifying your restrictions.
        I’m not having those mentioned restrictions cause my peripherals’ manufactures are all going FB on same prices. And fast.
        For those who needs performance or know that the kind of technology you buy now will reflect your device longevity, again, thanks Apple for thinking ahead, for the greatness.

  4. On no! Now the dozens of Mac users with external Thunderbolt drives will have to use their USB3 adapter, that they already use for connecting to older computers, when connecting their Thunderbolt drive to someone else’s newer Acer laptop, slowing down file transfers by as much as 10% in some cases! The horror!

      1. More than that, it’s the death knell for the Mac Pro. What’s the point the buying the high end professional desktop if I can’t daisy chain six new Acer laptops directly to it and perform faster than USB3 data transfers? None.

    1. Slowing down by 10%?

      You wouldn’t use a TB connection to connect to an old 4500 or 5400 RPM hard disk. You’d connect to a RAID or 10k or 15k disks or to an SSD. In these cases you an actually use TB’s (and TB2’s) 20 Gbps — four times USB 3.0 and with a LOT less CPU overhead.

      And why would a person want to directly connect a Mac to a “newer” Acer laptop? What would be the reason (assuming it’s even realistic to do so).?

      1. My point exactly (not being sarcastic anymore).

        It really doesn’t matter if Acer laptops just have USB3. It has absolutely no effect on Mac Pros and MacBook Pros and high speed peripherals connecting to it with Thunderbolt.

        Even if you were in a pinch, and had to move files from your Thunderbolt external SSD drive to someone’s Acer laptop, you can still do it, and at just about the maximum speed that Acer laptop can handle. And that’s the worst case scenario – owning a Thunderbolt drive, that can connect to anyone else’s computer, but sometimes has to “slum it” at USB speeds because of the other computer’s limitations. It’s still going to do Thunderbolt speeds back on your pro computer.

  5. High cost and no peripheral support is killing Thunderdud and this is what Apple killed FireWire for.

    In a couple of months when Apple ships it’s new Mac Mini Pro Black Trashcan Edition HTPC, it will be dependent upon this fading and widely unsupported “standard” and once again Apple users will be locked in to overpriced connectors that have few uses.

    Tell Mr Cook and his PR guy I will be hanging on to my REAL Mac Pro that does not require a King’s ransom in Thunderdud cables and desk cluttering BS until I build a Hackintosh. I doubt I will waste any money on Thunderdud.

    1. Dude,
      I rigged up a Owc mercury pro 6G SSD in a buffalo ministation thunderbolt external and that is my boot drive for my 2012 Mac mini. Know how fast it boots? From power on to desktop, 15 seconds. Apps scream, file transfers are lighting. Yes, it was a bit pricey, but to play, sometimes you have to pay. Acer PC users don’t play, they just follow and desperately try to keep up.

  6. At least Apple/Intel learnt their lesson from the FW800 fiasco with its backwardly-INcompatible and less reliable connector which singlehandedly killed FireWire and the proposed speed improvements that were in the works.
    Cost is still a major issue for TB/TB2.

  7. I have two USB3 Seagate 3TB drives raided to 6TB and one Thunderbolt 4TB LaCie. I honestly cannot tell a difference between them, they are both fast, Thunderbolt is just more expensive so I am kinda disappointed, maybe my casual test was flawed.

  8. I was using USB 3.0 Seagate GoFlex drives for video editing and cloning my primary drives. I switched two to Thunderbolt and got the Belkin Express dock so even the USB drives are connecting through the Thunderbolt. I was STUNNED at how fast EVERYTHING was. Not just the Thunderbolt drives but the USB drives were faster too.

    Who cares if the PC doesn’t support Thunderbolt. It’s a race to the bottom of the cheap and ignorant.

  9. At this point in time, Thunderbolt is a pro-level I/O. I’m not surprised at the slow adoption. USB-whatever is the ‘good enough’ for everyone else.

    When USB was available via Intel, it was Apple who solely integrated it into computer for over a year. The PC industry had to dragged to that show as well.

    Thunderbolt is wired. It is a compromise considering that before it was released there was a HYPE FEST over what it was supposed to be, OPTICAL. It was being called ‘Light Peak’. But darned, no light. Just electrons over copper. Thus ‘Thunderbolt’ as the compromise name.

    Here are some details:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbolt_(interface)

    Intel introduced Light Peak at the 2009 Intel Developer Forum (IDF), using a prototype Mac Pro logic board to run two 1080p video streams plus LAN and storage devices over a single 30-meter optical cable with modified USB ends. The system was driven by a prototype PCI Express card, with two optical buses powering four ports….

    Originally conceived as an optical technology, Intel switched to electrical connections to reduce costs and to supply up to 10W of power to connected devices…

    Intel and industry partners are still developing optical Thunderbolt hardware and cables. The optical fiber cables are to run “tens of meters” but will not supply power, at least not initially. They are to have two 62.5-micron-wide fibers to transport an infrared signal up to 100 metres (330 ft). The conversion of electrical signal to optical will be embedded into the cable itself, allowing the current MDP connector to be forward compatible, but eventually Intel hopes for a purely optical transceiver assembly embedded in the PC.

    The first such optical Thunderbolt cable has been introduced by Sumitomo Electric Industries in January 2013. It is available in lengths of 10, 20, and 30 m. However, at present time the cable only ships to Japan and the price is 20×—30× higher than copper Thunderbolt cables.

    1. I should also add that the point of using optical cable is the ability to have very long lengths thanks to the lack of EM (electromagnetic) field interference. EM interference is the bane of copper cables, reducing its effectiveness/efficiency as the cable’s length increases. However, over time there have been advancements in shielding copper cable as well as line noise filtering to the point where copper cable still remains considerably less expensive while producing acceptable quality. However, for distance data transmission, optical rules.

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