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New MacBook Air uses tinier, cheaper Thunderbolt chip

updated 09:45 pm EDT, Thu July 28, 2011

MacBook Air 2011 uses mini Eagle Ridge chip

An investigation into the new MacBook Air's internals has revealed that Apple is using a new, relatively untested Thunderbolt chip. Nicknamed Eagle Ridge, it has two 10Gbps bidirectional lanes (40Gbps) where the Light Ridge chip in the iMac, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini has a full four. The part tracked down by AnandTech can only drive one display over Thunderbolt but is also much smaller and most likely cheaper, a key to fitting it into even the 11-inch, $999 Air.

In practice, the controller isn't significantly slower for high-speed peripherals like the Promise Pegasus R6 RAID array. Performance differences have more to do with the OS and processor than the Thunderbolt chip. Multiple devices in a chain may hit a limit, but the chip is still enough to run the multiple interfaces off of a Thunderbolt Display without being congested.

The MacBook Air is likely to be the only Mac that uses Eagle Ridge. It's speculated that Intel's more frugal design may be the choice of Windows PC builders who want to claim Thunderbolt support but want to save money. Sony's head start on most rivals for implementing the technology and might see newer PCs use as yet unannounced chips.

Eagle Ridge at top; Light Ridge at bottom (images via iFixit)

by MacNN Staff



    Comment buried. Show
  1. imNat-imadouche

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I'm not surpise

    Apple is no different to other companies. Charge a premium but use cheap components. Then one day and one year later when the warranty expires, the device fails.

  1. facebook_Colin

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jul 2011


    Thunderbolt just got cheaper

    I don't see this chip helping Thunderbolt to displace USB 2.0 and 3.0 on the consumer-grade hardware anytime soon, but hey, more Thunderbolt-capable PC's mean cheaper and more Thunderbolt devices in the long run.

    Not that I have a Mac with Thunderbolt (or even with a unibody), but I may eventually upgrade in the next decade. :-)

  1. Sandman619

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    So please explain to me how 2 x 10Gbps = 40Gbps ?
    My public school math tells me that it's only 10 Gbps since the 2 channels cannot be combined to get a throughput of 20Gbps. You'll notice that your figure is 40Gbps which makes even less sense. As for the " cheaper ", " tinnier " qualities… how many displays would you think that a MacBook Air would run ? They don't have a graphics chip capable of that performance

  1. sammaffei

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Who cares?

    I don't see someone running multiple RAID Arrays into a MacBook Air anyway. Kinda like pulling a horse carriage with a Ferrari.

  1. prl99

    Joined: Dec 1969


    2 x bi-directinal 10Gbps = 40Gbps

    @Sandman: You must have missed out on the "new" math in school. Each TB port is bi-directional at 10Gbps. This new math is stretching things because bi-directional doesn't mean you can allocate both directions into one direction but it also means the interface is not slowed down by return communications like other interfaces.

    I wasn't aware the the other Macs actually had 4 bi-direrctional ports. Maybe the reason the MBA can only support one external display is because one of those ports is dedicated to video while the other is dedicated to data. On a 4-port TB, you can drive multiple (at least two) displays, requiring extra ports.

  1. Athens

    Joined: Dec 1969


    iPhone 5

    At least we know which chip will be in the iPhone 5, the question is, will it be a USB dock connector with a thunderbolt adapter or 2 separate dock connector cables, one for thunderbolt and one for USB...

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: iphone 5

    There will be no thunderbolt in iPhone 5. It is too early in its development cycle (or, in case you haven't noticed, there are NO Thunderbolt devices out there at all!) and it offers no advantage over USB 2.0.

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