Thunderbolt and Flash Drives: A Future Combo?

By · Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Thunderbolt Flash Drive While USB 3.0 seems poised for mainstream adoption within the next few years, there’s a viable contender waiting in the wings with an eye on the top spot for the consumer’s universal interface—Thunderbolt.  As a relatively new technology created by Intel that’s only in a select number of name brand products (by companies like like Apple, LaCie, Avid, Western Digital and Sony), we couldn’t help but think what might happen if Thunderbolt really took hold in a range of consumer peripherals.  It’s already present in laptops and hard drives, so why not flash drives?  What would a Thunderbolt flash drive look like?  How would it perform?

Premium USB decided to tackle these questions using what we know about Thunderbolt to dream up a unique flash drive from the ultra high speed connection.  Here’s what we came up with:

–    Specs, specs, specs.  With bidirectional architecture and a 10 Gbps performance speed, a Thunderbolt flash drive would potentially transfer a movie shot in HD in under 30 seconds, making it ideal for audio/video professionals.  Currently, USB 3.0 at its peak is 4.8 Gbps.

–    Itty bitty portability.  If you’ve ever taken a good look at a Thunderbolt connector, you’ll notice that USB connectors are approximately twice as big.  Smaller Thunderbolt components suggest that there may be more design flexibility in building flash drives.  By fitting into smaller spaces or ports of devices and hardware, the connection could expand the versatility of where and how we use flash drives (think smartphones, tablets, TVs, cameras, etc.).

–    Chipping in.  Some hardware fanatics over at iFixit recently cracked open a Thunderbolt cable to discover a dozen chips and countless resistors.  While this sheds new light on why the connection is so fast, it also begs the question that if similar components were outfitted in flash drives, how much would it drive up the cost?  I’m thinking an initial market debut would have a significant price jump compared to our traditional USB flash drives (but then again, new technologies always start out expensive and later level out in price).

–    Daisy fresh.  You can daisy chain up to 7 devices with Thunderbolt to create the ultimate system because everything is connected by a single cable that still allows for freedom to expand the use of unique and innovative devices.  As a result, a Thunderbolt flash drive could connect to multiple device ports for expanded storage and data options.

We’re still hedging our bets on USB 3.0 flash drives in our foreseeable future.  Most average consumers do not have the need for Thunderbolt connection speeds based on their daily applications.  However, as technology’s capabilities evolve and Thunderbolt connectors are integrated into more of the products we use, that’s not to say we won’t eventually need it.

What kind of specs and features do you predict could show up in a Thunderbolt flash drive?  Give us your insight below.

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