Thunderbolt vs. Mini DisplayPort
April 5, 2012 4:43 PM   Subscribe

What is the difference between the Apple Thunderbolt cable and a regular mini display port cable, if any?
posted by Brocktoon to Technology (8 answers total)

"These cables contain tiny chips at either end that are calibrated to the attenuation and dispersion properties of the wire between them. Compensating for these properties "greatly improves the signal-to-noise ratio" for high-bandwidth data transmission."

Cable brains make it faster.
posted by Nauip at 5:02 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

To answer your question:

If it's for one monitor, which supports mini displayport, nothing. If it's for a disk drive, or for daisy chaining compatible monitors, or anything else that would be loudly proclaiming its thunderbolt creds, see above.
posted by mhz at 5:38 PM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

For almost everyone, the difference is $42. MHz has it.
posted by wnissen at 8:18 PM on April 5, 2012

The difference, for the future, is that DisplayPort appears to be a standard that's not going to survive-- HDMI is far more popular and Thunderbolt makes it redundant, while Thunderbolt will at least duke it out with USB 3.0 for the prize of new-hotness serial dataport. As with FireWire/1394 and USB, they may peacefully coexist in niches, although 1394 seems to also be losing ground to HDMI in the consumer and prosumer camera markets, which was 1394's main niche (that I'm aware of, at least).
posted by Sunburnt at 4:55 AM on April 6, 2012

P.S. Cable Brains make it expensive-- it remains to be seen how affordable T-bolt hubs and devices will be compared to their USB 3.0 equivalent.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:21 AM on April 6, 2012

Functionally, Apple's flavor of Thunderbolt is like Mini Displayport but with another entire data connection alongside the video connection (and 12 V DC power). Thunderbolt is pin-compatible with Mini Displayport, but with an extra set of pins interleaved for that other stuff.

There's also a fiber-optic specification for Thunderbolt out there, but I'm not sure anyone has actually built a commercial product that uses it. And I read somewhere about Sony building a weird USB3/Thunderbolt hybrid connector.
posted by adamrice at 7:55 AM on April 6, 2012

Sunburnt: "The difference, for the future, is that DisplayPort appears to be a standard that's not going to survive-- HDMI is far more popular"

Citation please?

DisplayPort and HDMI are (for the most part) electroncially compatible, so it's not really like having two separate standards is going to be the end of the world.

There are a variety of reasons why DisplayPort is slightly better for PC use, and HDMI is slightly better for TV use.
posted by schmod at 9:01 AM on April 6, 2012

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