One of the things I love the most about AMD is the balance it provides to Intel. While I've spent much of CES looking for Thunderbolt products and lamenting the cost of controllers and devices, AMD put together a concept it calls Lightning Bolt.

Lightning Bolt is an AMD technology that can deliver USB 3.0, DisplayPort and Power over a single cable with mini DisplayPort connectors. I saw the technology demonstrated live, however I wasn't allowed to take any photos.

The technology is designed to be very simple and affordable. On the notebook side is a mux that combines power, DisplayPort and USB 3.0 into a single DP-like cable. The other end of the cable would connect to a Lightning Bolt breakout box that would provide USB 3.0, DisplayPort and power ports.

The cable is a standard mini-DP cable with changes on only two of the pins. AMD's goal is to enable affordable, single-cable docking stations for notebooks. The cost of the mux and associated components on the notebook side would be minimal, around a dollar. The mux would eventually be integrated into a notebook (the AMD demo had them external for demo purposes) and all you'd see is a mini-DP interface with some sort of indication that it was a Lightning Bolt interface. Given that it's a simple mux on the notebook side I'd assume that it would be possible to enable miniDP passthrough and display Lightning Bolt entirely if you wanted to.

There are performance and power limitations to this design. AMD claimed USB 3.0 transfers would be faster than USB 2.0, but not full speed. No word on how much power you'd be able to send over the interface either. As far as the docking stations go, AMD expects that they'll cost about as much as a USB 3.0 hub. 

Lightning Bolt won't be ready in time for Trinity's launch in the middle of the year, but AMD hopes to have it on the market by the end of the year.

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  • sigmatau - Friday, January 13, 2012 - link

    BTW, I do agree it sounds missleading at the least. Imagine if Microsoft came out with the mePhone after Apple introduced the iPhone. Reply
  • tim851 - Saturday, January 14, 2012 - link

    Agreed.

    "Ultrathins" is another example of AMD trying to knock off Intel.
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    HUH?

    The "Ultrathin" category is with us for at least a decade (Thinkpad S30 anyone ?) with low volume special stuff 15+ years ago.

    That Intel was not satisfied with a "generic" name for its latest PR campaign so come up with "UltraBook" moniker for Sandy-power ultrathins is their problem.

    To anyone with a bit of common sense the intel naming is just a plain joke.
    Though, one must admit MS's "MID"s are really hard to beat in this department ... :D
    Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Not cool at all. They took three existing things and crammed them into one connector, degrading their performance as a result. This sucks.

    USB 3 is NOT a substitute for Thunderbolt. Any reader of this site should know the multiple reasons by now.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    Seems suspiciously like they've just piped USB 3.0 over a souped-up DisplayPort Aux channel... Don't get me wrong, I'm all for competition in this arena, but this just seems to be an attempt to confuse gullible consumers with a very similar looking and sounding technology.

    Is that a Mini-DisplayPort cable you got there? No. Thunderbolt cable? No. It's gotta be Lightning Bolt then!
    Reply
  • TrackSmart - Friday, January 13, 2012 - link

    Good concept, but these competing connectivity standards are awful for consumers.

    Example: Powered eSATA ports sounded like a great idea 2 yrs ago. Fast transfer speeds, a single cable for data and power, and the same port could also be used as a normal USB port so it didn't waste space on a laptop. Awesome! BUT there are almost-zero external drives that support the standard. And only 1 in 20 laptop or desktop computers have this port.

    Pick ONE standard and make sure it is dirt-cheap to implement everywhere.
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    Powered eSATA was NEVER planned but actually created on an ad-hoc basis.

    If anything, it gives one eSATA/or/USB2 in same footprint which is good.

    BTW eSATA is the ONLY native storage interface so as far as external storage goes it is the best by definition.

    Though, 99% people really do NOT need its features (which come at a price of unvieldy cables).
    But for those of us who do, eSATA/USB is jus more versatile version of eSATA ... a shame that USB3 garbage is taking over this niche. :(
    Reply
  • ricardodawkins - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    AMD trying to out-niche another niche. Reply
  • taltamir - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    that's remarkably astute... How many people even need such a thing? Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    Is to add Ethernet to the mix. If it also had the network connection you could use it in place of a traditional docking port. Just put the laptop on the desk and plug in a single cable and you are in business. But without the network connection...doesn't work for me. Reply

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