Is one Thunderbolt port enough for a laptop?

The notebook is still alive and kicking at Apple Inc. as the company refreshed its MacBook Pro line. The computer giant unveiled three new models, all of which are based on Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor and come equipped with a new high-speed Thunderbolt I/O port in place of the machine’s DisplayPort outlet.

The new I/O standard, co-developed with Intel under the Light Peak codename, offers users a huge boost over USB 3.0 with a 10 Gigabit per second data exchange and is compatible with PCI-Express, USB, Firewire, and external monitors.

The feature also caught the eye of many bloggers.

Sync-Blog writer Simon Cohen said his primary laptop currently sports 10 I/O interfaces, which is something he’s taken “a sort of pride in.” But that has changed, he added, with the Thunderbolt launch.

“It might be a little naive of me to think so, but I’m hoping that the architectural simplicity that Thunderbolt creates will eventually result in lower costs for PC manufacturers,” Cohen wrote. “It just makes sense that a single port is cheaper to produce than 10. Whether this turns out to be the case and whether manufacturers end up passing along these savings to consumers is tough to call, but competition being what it is, I remain optimistic!”

ZDNet blogger Jason D. O’Grady is excited about using the new Thunderbolt port, but expressed concern at Apple’s apparent decision to implement only one “Tbolt port” per device.
“It looks like Thunderbolt is only going to be used for a video out port initially, but I hope that Apple puts more than one of the newfangled ports on the new MBPs,” he wrote. “I mean, maybe there’s only one port visible in these shots because they’re of the 13-inch model? Maybe there’s more on the other side (since the optical is gone)?”

He added that at least two ports would be a necessity for most users. “What if you’re using the Tbolt port with an external monitor — which I do at least half of the time on my current MBP15 — and you want to use another Tbolt peripheral? You’re out of luck. Since the port is being used for video you’d need a dongle or hub to share the connection. And don’t get me started on how I feel about dongles.”

CrunchGear blogger Matt Burns agreed, writing that “it’s still somewhat puzzling that Apple opted to have the single Thunderbolt port share duties with the only DisplayPort jack.”

Cohen did not express his opinion on whether the device needed more Thunderbolt ports, but noted that the technology could be “daisy-chained.”

“In essence, this means if every Thunderbolt-compatible device had two ports, you could string them all together (up to six in total), one after the other, and plug the device that was closest to your PC (the monitor perhaps?) into a single Thunderbolt port on your computer,” he wrote. “Voila – instant access to all of your devices and only one cable to keep organized. Sounds very Apple doesn’t it?”

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