Intel: Optical Thunderbolt cables due next year, still at “only” 10 Gbps per channel

Intel today released a couple tidbits to cast more light on Thunderbolt I/O and give folks some perspective concerning its road map. This is my next details some of the features which are outlined in greater detail over at the brand new Thunderbolt web site, which mostly covers branding and various technicalities. For example, we now have it in writing that all Thunderbolt-branded products are to interoperate across all vendors. Per official information, the maximum allowed length of electrical Thunderbolt cables is three meters. Plugs are compatible with Mini-DisplayPort, but DisplayPort cables won’t work as a Thunderbolt cable replacement.

The biggest takeaway is that active optical cables are coming “sometime next year.” Optics will extend Thunderbolt cables to “tens of meters”, but they’ll still provide the same 10 Gbps bidirectional data transfer speeds per channel (there are two channels per cable), much as today’s electrical cables that have circuitry in cable ends. In all, about twenty third-parties are backing Intel’s technology, which isn’t that much considering that Thunderbolt, after all, is a future-proof I/O technology from the world’s largest chip maker.

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Thunderbolt Displays now shipping to end users

…in New Zealand anyway.  One 9to5Mac reader said that the Thunderbolt Display he ordered on August 17th was now en route to his home.  If anyone else has a shipping display let us know in the comments or at tips@9to5mac.com.

What’s perhaps most interesting about this shipment information is that these displays aren’t shipping directly from China as most Apple products do. They are shipping from a holding spot in Australia (below) perhaps indicating that the wait on these displays isn’t because of hardware, but in fact software, which, incidentally was updated last night on Thunderbolt MacBook Pros and Mac Minis.

Apple releases EFI firmware update 2.2 for MacBook Pro and 1.3 for Mac mini, fixing Thunderbolt issues

After releasing an EFI firmware update for the MacBook Air earlier this week, Apple has released an EFI update for both the MacBook Pro and Mac mini this afternoon. The MacBook Pro update is version 2.2 and Mac mini version 1.3, fixing compatibility issues for the upcoming Thunderbolt Display and bringing numerous Lion fixes — and adding Lion Internet Recovery on the MacBook Pro.

Hit up Software Update on your Mac to get downloading. (via The Next Web)

Belkin unveils new Thunderbolt Express Dock at IDF

Belkin took a little bit of time today at IDF to show off their new Thunderbolt Express Dock that provides a selection of ports that mirror the new 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display, sans the $999 price point.

The accessory sports three USB ports, a Thunderbolt port, Firewire 800 port, and Gigabit Ethernet. Perhaps the dock could use some more of that Apple “mimimalism” – we’re sensing some wasted space being used here.

There is no word on pricing or availability as of yet, and Daily Tech reminds us we might still have to cough up $50 for a Thunderbolt cable. We’ll keep you updated when the device is officially announced. More Thunderbolt accessories here, another image after the break.
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Get your MacBook Air ready for Thunderbolt with EFI firmware update 2.1

Apple’s Thunderbolt hardware pieces are coming together and to get ready, Apple is updating MacBook Air firmware. The 4 MB update promises to enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on MacBook Air (mid 2011) models.

Thunderbolt parts have already began shipping and new products include Docks, external PCI Card adapters, as well as storage.

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mLogic rethinks Mac’s expansion ports with three new accessories

While we’ve yet to witness the abundance of Thunderbolt-enabled peripherals (they are coming, though), accessory makers have finally begun churning out interesting products for getting some mileage out of your Thunderbolt Mac. We spotted mLogic’s mLink this past weekend and love it a lot. The $399 box, SlashGear explains, hooks up with your Mac via a Thunderbolt port and acts as an external chassis that lets you connect PCIe cards to any Thunderbolt-equipped Mac, just like Magma’s ExpressionBox 3T. They also launched mDock and mBack accessories. The mDock, aimed at mid-2009 or later MacBook Pros, includes either a 2.5-inch Time Machine-friendly 500GB or 1TB SATA 5400 rpm hard drive, port extender and port blocker.

Of course, you can add additional storage by attaching your own external drive via a front-facing USB port. The accessory replicates all of the ports found on the side of your notebook, including MagSafe and mini DisplayPort for hooking up external monitors. Its dedicated front facing USB port provides 10 watts of power for charging the iPad and the box doubles as a standalone charger when not docked. Pity it lacks a pass-through Thunderbolt port. The mDock also neatly routes cables to the back, an important feat for the people in the never-ending pursue of the clutter-free desktop. And about that mBack gizmo…

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