Apple Thunderbolt

Intel’s ultrafast Thunderbolt interface is going to get a lot faster in its next iteration.

The company announced today at the NAB conference that the new version of Thunderbolt will be able to send and receive data at 20 gigabits per second, Engadget reports. The existing version only runs at 10 Gbps (which is still faster than the 5 Gbps of its more ubiquitous competitor, USB 3.0).

All of the above speeds are merely theoretical maximums, but they’re decent indicators of how each interface compares to one another.

While faster speeds are always nice to see, the real upgrade with Intel’s new Thunderbolt interface — codenamed Falcon Ridge — is how it can transfer and display massive 4K video files simultaneously. That’s a lot of data, considering that 4K videos will be around four times as large as today’s 1080p HD files.

4K support makes the new Thunderbolt interface a useful upgrade as we move to 4K-capable displays and videos. Today’s Thunderbolt, developed together with Apple, is basically a faster alternative to the old Firewire standard for professionals (with the helpful addition of powering monitors as well). Most consumers are still fine with plain-old USB, and I suspect many don’t even take advantage of the speed benefits from USB 3.0.

Intel is set to begin production of the new Thunderbolt interface in 2014, and it will also be backward-compatible with existing Thunderbolt cables and devices.