Thread: Why doesn't someone make a PCIe Thunderbolt card for MacPro (or PC even!)?

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  1. #11  
    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Friday View Post
    Off the cuff, but i don't think you have those bus speeds via pcie as you do direct from thunderbolt connection. I think it is as simple as that...It's not the connector, but the bus speed from T-bolt.

    Er... No. Thunderbolt, as fast as it is for a single external connector, is nothing that special in the speed department. A standard PCIe v2 X16 slot could host 4 Thunderbolt ports just fine. Intel currently backs each Thunderbolt port with a PCIe v2 X4 allocation. Plain and simple there is one reason why PCIe to Thunderbolt cards do not exist. Intel is not willing to allow or license them at this time. Or at least not for systems without integrated Thunderbolt support in the primary chipset. PC's with Ivy Bridge chipsets that incorporate Thunderbolt support are allowed to have PCIe to Thunderbolt cards and some manufacturers, like ASUS and Gigabyte, are offering them. But it's not really a way of offering a Thunderbolt expansion card, it's really a way of offering Thunderbolt support specific to these new motherboards where people can opt to not install the Thunderbolt card and gain an extra PCIe X4 slot for other uses since Thunderbolt is not widely used yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Romano View Post
    The layer of complication is double fold.

    1 - Apple certification and licensing fees are a hurdle. No excuse though, it obviously can be done: see every existing thunderbolt device. Possibly there is motive on Apple's behalf regarding an upcoming MacPro refresh - That is total conjecture BTW.
    Apple has NOTHING to do with Thunderbolt licensing. It's 100% Intel. The fees are frickin' cheap, practically free too. Certification can be difficult, however it goes pretty easily if the peripheral maker actually follows the specs and design requests. Many of the Thunderbolt products currently on the market that took longer to get approved or the ones that have failed to reach the market didn't adhere to this and are crap anyway. The whole certification process is a turn-off for many manufacturers and a large stumbling block for a lot of the Asian peripheral makers. While not a big deal or a big expense, it's something that doesn't exist when making things that connect to USB3.

    Apple and Intel are the ones that brought Thunderbolt to market, Apple being the key player since they were a strong supporter of the technology right from the start. So is/was Sony and Sony actually retains the licensing to the name "LightPeak" and will be using it themselves for their optical cable products that will arrive later this year or early next year.

    2 - Thunderbolt is in effect a PCIe transformer if you will.
    Pretty much. Technically it's a PCIe cascade interface. The same as PCIe expansion systems that have existed on the market for years. Where the real technology lies is within the encoder present at each end of the cable connection. Cables are expensive and can often be flakey because they have active electronics within the connectors. The electronics are in effect signal conditioners and with the optical cables that are due to ship by the end of this year, the active electronics in those cables are optical encoders. By going optical, we lose the ability to send power over the cable (due to intended distances) however the theoretical limit to cable length is 500 meters.


    Another note on PCIe to Thunderbolt cards, they are starting to pop up as dedicated add-ons to certain PC motherboards. We will see more of them for general use this coming year, however the systems they will be compatible with will have chipset-level Thunderbolt support and in many cases will already have ports on board. You're not going to find a PCIe to Thunderbolt card for a current or legacy Mac Pro or any PC that doesn't currently enable support. Not going to happen. Personally, I think this is a mistake on Intel's part... Then again, I think the whole PC industry is usually confused on which ports should and should not be included and when. If I had my way, PC motherboards would all be shipping with integrated USB3, mini-SAS and Thunderbolt ports and that's it. Most PC makers continue to follow Microsoft's lead of supporting ancient technology to the bitter end. To a point where it goes beyond backward compatibility into the realm of redundantly stupid redundancy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikael Lubtchansky View Post
    But thunderbolt also carry a monitor signal and altho you may not need it, it might be required in order to get the thunderbolt certification...
    Indeed. And this still comes back to the requirement for Thunderbolt PCIe cards to only operate on systems with proper chipset support. At the very least, they should pass through access to the integrated Intel GPU. Of course, PC makers can integrate Thunderbolt directly onto any PC hardware, chipset support or not. As long as all the requirements are met -- video display access ability and all.
    Last edited by Jeff Kilgroe; 09-22-2012 at 07:48 AM.
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  2. #12  
    Senior Member Nook Kim's Avatar
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    Was just hoping I'd find answers here, but sigh..
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  3. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nook Kim View Post
    Was just hoping I'd find answers here, but sigh..
    If Intel certifies a card that doesn't pass through a video signal it would make them look pretty dumb for making Thunderbolt based on the Mini DisplayPort connector. It would also kill Thunderbolt's consumer market which is mostly devices like the Apple Thunderbolt Display which act as port multipliers and displays.

    It comes down to the fact that you need some way to transfer the video signal to the Thunderbolt output card and there has yet to be an elegant way thought up to do that.

    This isn't very elegant.

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  4. #14  
    I would say the answer is far easier (and maybe more complicated in some ways) than simple tech crunching numbers... If they licensed a PCIe Thunderbolt adapter, they wouldn't sell as many of the "New Mac Pro." (or as I call it, Darth Vader's Roomba).
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    Senior Member Terry VerHaar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyson Birmann View Post
    I would say the answer is far easier (and maybe more complicated in some ways) than simple tech crunching numbers... If they licensed a PCIe Thunderbolt adapter, they wouldn't sell as many of the "New Mac Pro." (or as I call it, Darth Vader's Roomba).
    But, if the "they" you refer to is Apple, "they," as Jeff pointed out above, have nothing to do with Thunderbolt licensing.
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  6. #16  
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    I heard from a pretty good source that some Asian company had started making these cards that would work in a Mac Pro for data only, but they're not licensed and therefore somewhat illegal. I can't find anything about this online, but then again, I don't read Chinese.
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