Apparently not all Thunderbolt ports are created equally. Anadtech discovered that the Thunderbolt chip within the latest MacBook Air is not the same found in the current MacBook Pro. The Air’s version packs less power and throughput resulting in less abilities. Hope you weren’t planning on hooking up two of those new fancy Thunderbolt Displays.
Thunderbolt is an amazing interconnect, capable of running four bidirectional, dual standards 10 Gbps channels. The capabilities are nearly endless as the single I/O port allows for nearly any interface normally associated with PCIe or DisplayPort. It’s how the latest MacBook Pros can run dual Thunderbolt displays that each feature a sort of docking station with three USB ports, one FireWire port, Gigabit Ethernet, and another Thunderbolt port.
The MacBook Air’s Thunderbolt is slightly different, though. It’s only capable of two 10 Gbps channels thanks to a less capable, but physically smaller, controller chip. This means among other points that the Air can only be able to run one Thunderbolt display. Anandtech notes that other manufacturers might use the same small controller card in their upcoming products.
Apple doesn’t hide this fact on the Air’s product page. “Or use the Thunderbolt port to connect the new Apple Thunderbolt Display and transform your ultracompact MacBook Air into a complete desktop workstation.” But they probably won’t stop an order with a MacBook Air and two Thunderbolt Displays. [Anandtech via AppleInsider, image via iFixit]