It doesn’t have a name yet, but Intel says that the next version of Thunderbolt will be based on USB4 v2 and DisplayPort 2.1.
“Intel has always been the industry pioneer and leader for wired connectivity solutions, and Thunderbolt is now the mainstream port on mobile PCs and integrated into three generations of Intel mobile CPUs,” Intel general manager Jason Ziller says. “We’re very excited to lead the industry forward with the next generation of Thunderbolt built on the USB4 v2 specification, advanced to this next generation by Intel and other USB Promoter Group members.”
Thunderbolt 4 provides 40 Gbps of data throughput speed today, but Intel says that next-generation Thunderbolt will deliver 80 Gbps bi-directionally and 120 Gbps unidirectionally for content creator and video scenarios. It supports the DisplayPort 2.1 specification, delivers 2X performance over PCI Express, and will work at full speed with existing cables as long as they are 3 feet in length or less. Next-gen Thunderbolt will be backward compatible with previous versions of Thunderbolt, USB, and DisplayPort, too.
But with this announcement, the differences between USB and Thunderbolt are getting even more muddled. Intel notes that it contributed its Thunderbolt protocol specification to the USB Promoter Group in 2019, leading to the USB4 specification. But USB4 Version 2.0 (which will be renamed) supports data transfer speeds of 80 Gbps and will also work with existing cables and be backward compatible (in this case, with USB4, USB 3.2, USB 2.0, and Thunderbolt 3). Maybe it’s time for these firms to work on a single connectivity standard.
Anyway, Intel says it will reveal the final name of next-generation Thunderbolt in 2023, along with more information about its features and capabilities.