According to a recent update to intel’s desktop processor lineup, it has introduced the highly-anticipated 14th Gen Core “Raptor Lake Refresh” processors. However, amidst the buzz surrounding this release, a crucial detail emerged: these processors do not support the upcoming Thunderbolt 5 connectivity standard, contrary to earlier reports.
Initially, it was erroneously stated that the 14th Gen Core desktop processors were designed to accommodate Thunderbolt 5, a highly anticipated standard announced by Intel in September. Thunderbolt 5 promised an impressive generational doubling in bandwidth, offering an impressive 80 Gbps per direction.
This significant leap was achieved through an innovative feature called Bandwidth Boost, which allowed for an even more staggering 120 Gbps in one direction and 40 Gbps in the other. This feature is especially valuable for tasks like importing large datasets from Thunderbolt 5-based external storage devices.
Delving deeper into the intricacies, it’s essential to understand how Intel arrives at the 80 Gbps default per-direction bandwidth for Thunderbolt 5. Although the underlying PCIe bandwidth of PCIe Gen 4 x4 theoretically reaches 64 Gbps per direction, Thunderbolt 5 combines multiple interfaces, including DisplayPort, to achieve its advertised bandwidth. Thus, the 80 Gbps translates to 64 Gbps of PCIe bandwidth, while the 120 Gbps is derived from 96 Gbps.
For the Bandwidth Boost to operate optimally, the PCIe root complex in the processor must have the capability to re-task sub-lanes of PCIe lanes for either purely transmission (Tx) or reception (Rx). This level of awareness is crucial at the uncore level of the processor.
While Intel does have a TB5 controller design codenamed “Barlow Ridge,” it is slated for release after Q1 2024, leaving only the currently available “Maple Ridge” controller, which supports Thunderbolt 4 with 40 Gbps per direction bandwidth. Even once Barlow Ridge becomes available, it won’t be compatible with “Raptor Lake Refresh” socketed desktop processors.
Intel has acknowledged the mistake in their initial announcement and provided a statement on October 19, clarifying that while some processors in the Intel Core 14th Gen family will support Thunderbolt 5, the 14th Gen Core desktop processors specifically will not. This statement raises questions about which processors will ultimately support Thunderbolt 5, potentially hinting at updates to Intel’s mobile processor stack.
The revelation that the 14th Gen Core desktop processors lack compatibility with Thunderbolt 5 has led enthusiasts and professionals to consider alternatives. Users on the 14th Gen Core socketed desktop platform can still benefit from Thunderbolt 4 using motherboards or add-on cards equipped with Intel’s “Maple Ridge” controller.
Looking forward, Intel’s future releases are eagerly anticipated, particularly those associated with the next-generation processors. The potential inclusion of “Raptor Lake Refresh-H/HX” processors and the integrated Thunderbolt 5 support in the upcoming “Meteor Lake” processors could signify a significant shift in Intel’s desktop processor strategy. While the 14th Gen Intel Core desktop processors offer remarkable advancements in computing power, it’s important to note that Thunderbolt 5 compatibility remains exclusive to specific processors within the Intel Core 14th Gen family. This development sparks curiosity about the future of Intel’s processor lineup and its integration with the Thunderbolt 5 standard.