We've just had confirmation that Intel is finally shipping its second generation Thunderbolt controllers, previously codenamed Cactus Ridge. The timing appears to be spot on, as rumours about Apple's upcoming Ivy Bridge MacBook Pros have kicked off and the first of the new models are expected to be announced end of May.
A handful of PC motherboards have also been "delayed" due to the fact that Intel hasn't gotten Cactus Ridge out of the door, but this is really a minor issue. That said, we're expecting to see Thunderbolt support on at least the new iMac and possibly the new Mac Pro systems from Apple which might be even closer to launch than a new notebook model.
For Ivy Bridge we know for certain that Intel will be offering two different solutions which we have reported about multiple times in the past, namely the DSL3310 which is a 12x12mm chip which offers two lanes worth of PCI Express bandwidth and draws 2.1W as well as the DSL3510 which offers four PCI Express lanes and draws 2.8W. The DSL3510 can also be used for daisy chainable devices and as such it would be a lower cost, smaller and more power efficient alternative to the original Light Ridge or CV82524 chipset.
Another aspect that makes the DSL3510 interesting is that it supports multiple internal DisplayPort inputs. What this means is that it could in theory interface with a discrete graphics card as well as the integrated graphics from an Intel CPU. This is likely to be the chip used by Apple in its desktop systems, whereas the more power efficient DSL3310 will end up in notebook products.
Beyond the Cactus Ridge chips, Intel is also shipping the DSL2210 – also known as Port Ridge – which will be the lowest cost device chip for the time being. It doesn't support daisy chaining and as such Intel has removed the requirement for it to receive a DisplayPort signal. As such the DSL2210 is somewhat limited, but it still offers two lanes worth of PCI Express bandwidth and it should be ideal for external storage devices, especially as this 6x5mm chip only draws 0.7W.
We'll have to wait and see what Intel's various hardware partners will put in their systems, but with the added information that the DSL3510 will potentially support discrete graphics card, this is what we're hoping to see on motherboards from Asus, Gigabyte and MSI. Just don't expect to see an iPhone or iPad with Thunderbolt connectivity any time soon, as even the DSL2210 isn't a likely candidate due to its relatively high power usage.