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So Long, Thunderbolt

July 16th, 2013 - 7:52 am

Acer says goodbye to Thunderbolt:

In 2012, Acer became the first Windows PC maker to embrace Thunderbolt, Intel’s super-fast communication technology. But that enthusiasm didn’t carry past mid-2013.

The utility and ubiquity of performance improvements of USB, combined with Thunderbolt’s high cost, led Acer to drop the port from its machines last week.

“We’re really focusing on USB 3.0 — it’s an excellent alternative to Thunderbolt,” Acer spokeswoman Ruth Rosene said. “It’s less expensive, offers comparable bandwidth, charging for devices such as mobile phones, and has a large installed base of accessories and peripherals,” she said, mentioning external hard drives, flash drives, keyboards, mice, and gamepads.

USB 3.0 is a fine upgrade to USB 2, but it’s no replacement for Thunderbolt — at least not for power users. What we have here is the old USB vs Firewire battle. Firewire, like Thunderbolt, is the superior tech. They both have controllers built into each device, reducing the workload placed on your computer’s processor. Thanks to that, they’re also much more likely to reach their advertised throughputs. USB rarely if ever manages to do so. And in terms of actual throughput, USB 3 doesn’t come anywhere close to Thunderbolt. And Thunderbolt 2 is coming out soon, with double the previous performance.

But USB is cheaper to add to computers, and much cheaper to add to peripherals. So Thunderbolt is likely to be limited to Mac users and to video workstations, which is barely enough difference to make a decent Venn diagram.

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