Intersil introduces next generation 40nm Thunderbolt solution

20Gbps Chipset Provides Unmatched Cable Performance and Cost Effectiveness

Intersil Corporation, a world leader in the design and manufacture of high-performance analog and mixed signal semiconductors, has unveiled its active cable solution specifically designed to support Thunderbolt cables.

As data rates in cables reach 10Gbps and beyond, the physical properties of thin cables cause significant signal impairment. In order to correct for signal impairment, complex high-speed transceiver ICs must be located within the connectors at each end of a cable. Thunderbolt ‘active cables’ are the first consumer examples of this trend which will become prevalent for high-speed interconnections in the coming years.

Intersil’s active cable system solution includes the ISL37231 – the industry’s fist 40nm active cable IC – and the ISL80083 companion power management IC. This chipset breaks the cost barrier to widespread adoption with the following features:

Smarter Integration

  • 40nm process technology and advanced power management enable integration of key components such as microcontroller, input rail selector, level shifters and eye monitor

Lowest Power

  • Two-chip solution consumes less than 450mW and eliminates expensive heat sinking required by alternative solutions
  • Permits smaller connector housings on each end of the Thunderbolt cable
  • Reduces standby power consumption by as much as 50%

Patent-Pending Cable Compensation Techniques

  • Allows cable manufacturers to use inexpensive bulk cable with enhanced yield

Built-In Test

  • Eliminates expensive and time consuming manual testing by integrating an embedded processor, PRBS generator and error checker

Intersil’s solution provides two bi-directional channels with an aggregate transfer rate of 20Gbps. Users can easily interconnect Thunderbolt-enabled products with a single thin cable, and daisy-chain up to six devices.

“We’ve set the stage for an unprecedented low price point for Thunderbolt cable,” said Roger Levinson, vice president & general manager for Intersil’s signal path products group. “This will promote the simple, high-speed interconnection of peripherals that lead to enhanced digital experiences. Our 40nm technology reduces the cost of every variable in the cable manufacturing process, enabling the widespread adoption of Thunderbolt technology.”

Simpler, Smarter Solution

Intersil’s ISL37231 high-speed signal processing IC, together with the ISL80083 power management IC, provides a complete and highly integrated solution. The embedded microcontroller and input rail selector greatly minimize the number of external components required for the production of a Thunderbolt cable, thereby reducing overall cost.

The ISL37231 provides the industry’s lowest power and highest performance for a broad range of inexpensive cable types including Shielded Twisted Pair (STP), Twinax and Microcoax. The ISL37231’s advanced features, which include media optimized adaptive equalization, de-emphasis and signal retiming, increase the robustness of inexpensive links that would otherwise be unreliable with simple retiming solutions.

As an integrated mini-Power Management IC (mini‐PMIC), Intersil’s ISL80083 is purpose-built to efficiently power the ISL37231 transceiver in Thunderbolt cables. The ISL80083 integrates a highly efficient 2.5MHz synchronous buck regulator, low power linear regulator, level shifters and input rail selector, and also contributes to a much lower solution cost.

Price and Availability

Devices are being sampled now to selected customers. Please contact Intersil for pricing information.

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