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The Tech Inside Apple’s $50 Thunderbolt Cable

• Chris Foresman via

The first Thunderbolt compatible peripherals — Promise’s Pegasus RAIDs — started shipping on Tuesday. Using the RAIDs with a Thunderbolt equipped Mac, though, requires a rather expensive $50 cable that is only available from Apple. We dug into the design of the cable to find out why Apple felt justified in charging $50 for some plastic-wrapped copper wire, and why Thunderbolt may have a hard time gaining traction outside of the higher-end storage and video device market — a fate similar to Apple’s FireWire.

Promise’s RAIDs do not come supplied with a Thunderbolt cable. Instead, users are directed to buy a Thunderbolt cable directly from Apple, which costs $49 for two-meter length. We contacted Promise to find out why a Mini DisplayPort cable could not be used in its stead, since the Thunderbolt port is based on Mini DisplayPort. A support technician told Ars that Apple’s cable is a “smart” cable that “has firmware in it.”

Intel confirmed that Thunderbolt requires specific Thunderbolt cables. “Only Thunderbolt cables can be used to connect Thunderbolt products using Thunderbolt connectors,” Intel spokesperson Dave Salvator told Ars. “The cables have been designed for the 10Gbps signaling as well as power delivery that are part of Thunderbolt technology.”

Active cabling required 

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