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The New MacBook Air’s Thunderbolt Interface Is Only Half As Powerful

The New MacBook Air’s Thunderbolt Interface Is Only Half As Powerful

Those of Apple’s customers that just bought one of their sexy new Thunderbolt MacBook Airs might be surprised at their new interface’s lack of “thunder”. According to a new report, the Thunderbolt controller in the new Air is half the size of that found in the 2011 MacBook Pro, Mac Mini and iMac – and only half as powerful!

A new report from Anandtech reveals that Apple has used smaller, cheaper, less powerful Thunderbolt controllers in its new MacBook Airs, presumably to save space. The new controllers aren’t as fast as their larger brothers, and only feature a single channel for external displays rather than two.

The full-sized chip (pictured below) used in Apple’s other Thunderbolt products is called Light Ridge, features 4 bi-directional 10Gbps channels, two of which are dedicated to powering displays.

The smaller and weaker Thunderbolt chip (pictured below) used in the new Airs, however, is called Eagle Ridge, and only features two channels (theoretically making it only half as fast), only one of which can support an external display.

Furthermore, on the bright side, Anandtech’s report also notes that the cheaper, scaled-down Thunderbolt chip is the most likely chip to be used by competitors wishing to add Thunderbolt to their products (such as the Thunderbolt laptop that Sony announced).

While the change won’t matter to many MacBook Air users, I suspect it will come as a disappointment to users expecting to be able to hook up multiple monitors.

  1. Anyone hoping to hookup more than one monitor will probably not be buying a MacBook Air for their main machine. Intel’s HD 3000 graphics couldn’t power it anyways, so what’s the point?

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