Intel Thunderbolt 技術開放授權、同時將協定提供給 USB IF 作為 USB 4 基礎

2019.03.04 10:01PM
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雖然 USB IF 甫針對 USB 3.2 公布完善的版本,不過為了滿足消費者更多情境, USB If 與重要成員之一的 Intel 宣布提供 Thnderbolt 協定作為 USB 4 使用,同時也宣布 Thunderbolt 將供第三方廠商生產相容晶片,無論對於 Intel 或是 USB IF 都是相當重大的公布。

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在正式宣布前,亦由可稱為 Thunderbolt 之父的客戶運算事業群總經理 Jason Ziller 親自解釋此次 Intel  Thunderbolt 策略轉型的重點。

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不過要注意的是, USB 4 規範預計要到 2019 年中旬正式發表,完整細節與白皮書也還未底定, USB 4 能否相容 Thunderbolt 的菊花鏈模式還待後續公布,屆時也會針對 USB 4 為 USB Type-C 介面制定更新版本,滿足 USB 4 匯流排探索、設定與效能等需求。

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在 2017 年 Computex , Intel 即提及將開放 Thunderbolt 標準給予業界,藉此打造更豐富的產業生態,如今 Intel 在宣布與 USB IF 合作制定 USB 4 的同時,也強調 Thunderbolt 3 將提供給第三方晶片品牌生產相容晶片。值得注意的雖 Thunderbolt 提供給 USB IF 作為 USB 4 傳輸協定與提供相容性,不代表 Thunderbolt 將整併至 USB 規範中。

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但 Intel Thunderbolt 與 USB 兩方仍將併行存在,同時 Intel 與 USB IF 也將提供各自的認證標誌取得方式,這也意外著 USB 4 雖相容 Thunderbolt 3 ,然而不代表裝置在未經過 Intel 驗證程序前可掛上 Thunderbolt 3 標章。但 Intel 除了開放 Thunderbolt , Intel 也將開放其它實驗室進行認證,要掛上 Thunderbolt 3 標誌的產品不再需要送至 Intel 以色列實驗室認證。

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Intel 開放 Thunderbolt 技術後,除了原本就有生產 USB 晶片的廠商如瑞昱、祥碩、德儀、瑞薩、意法等廠商能夠生產 Thunderbolt 3 相容晶片,包括 AMD高通聯發科蘋果等亦可能在下一代行動裝置晶片若為了支援 USB 4 規範,亦可因此而相容 Thunderbolt 周邊設備。

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Intel Thunderbolt 原屬於 Intel 制定的傳輸協定,基於 PCIe 通道,不過在官方並未正式定義使用的連接介面,在前兩版主要採用 DisplayPort 作為連接介面,而在 Thunderbolt 3 與 USB IF 合作,除採用 USB Type-C 介面作為連接介面;而在此次 Intel 不僅宣布開放、不須授權的 Thunderbolt 技術,更將 Thunderbolt 3 協定提供給 USB IF ,作為 USB 4 規範的基礎。

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乍看之下 Intel 將 Thunderbolt 開放似乎少了技術的獨佔性,不過若就整個產業生態而言,開放規範並貢獻給 USB IF 後,對於原本就需要生產 USB 相關產品的公司等同不得不使用 Thunderbolt 協定,即便未取得 Intel Thunderbolt 認證標章,仍能相容 Thunderbolt 裝置,也間接促使 Thunderbolt 生態鏈更為茁壯。

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同時 Intel 也在今年宣布全新的 10nm 平台 Ice Lake 將原生支援 Thunderbolt 3 ,有助將此技術下放到主流市場,畢竟當前要能夠相容 Thunderbolt 需要額外的 Thunderbolt 晶片,不少筆電廠商在成本考量下放棄提供 Thunderbolt ,現在原生支援後,板卡與筆電廠也沒有理由不提供 Thunderbolt 。

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在改採用 Thunderbolt 規範做為基礎之後, USB 4 不僅能夠維持與先前 USB 規範的相容與 USB PD 供電規範、 DisplayPort 的相容性,亦可藉由相容 Thunderbolt 規範除透過雙通道達到 40Bbps 傳輸速度,小檔案傳輸性能亦可提升,並支援菊花鍊連接模式;此外當前 Thunderbolt 3 產品亦可視為準 USB 4 規範相容產品。

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