With the introduction of Thunderbolt technology on Apples new Macbook Pro laptop computers, there is now a degree of confusion regards whether existing computer peripherals will be compatible or not?
The port looks exactly the same as the mini display port.
In fact the only way you can identify that it is a Thunderbolt port is by the Thunderbolt flash logo.
You can still use it to connect to an Apple LED Cinema Display or to Mini Display Port adapters though. Thunderbolt technology is compatible with existing DisplayPort displays and adapters.
It is backwards compatible, but you’ll need a cable adaptor to connect to an existing DisplayPort monitor.
Apple’s adapters for hooking up to HDMI, DVI and VGA video will also continue to work.
All Thunderbolt peripherals share a common connector allowing users to simply daisy-chain up to six devices one after another connected by a Thunderbolt cable.
Therefore all devices down the chain will need to have two ports except for the last peripheral.
Each Thunderbolt cable actually consists of two 10Gbps PCI Express channels for transferring data and a DisplayPort channel for video. It combines data, video, audio and power in a single connection.
A special Thunderbolt chip has to be present in the computer and each Thunderbolt peripheral to achieve Thunderbolt bandwidth performance.
The Thunderbolt controller chip provides protocol switching capabilities to support the two protocols PCIe and DisplayPort over a single cable.
Third-party vendors are planning to sell adapters that let you connect USB, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800 devices to Thunderbolt ports. Thunderbolt won’t make these devices any faster however, they’ll still be limited to the performance of their built-in components.
Sonnet have recently announced the release of two Thunderbolt adapters. The Allegro FW800 and Presto Gigabit Ethernet Thunderbolt adapters allow users to connect to either a FireWire 800 device or Gigabit Ethernet connection.