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Comparing Thunderbolt to HDMI, USB and PCIe Cable

Monday's announcement that the new 9 and MacBook Pros come equipped with USB 3.0 ports was welcome news to Mac users, but an indication of a broader question in the minds of those same users -- which input/output port technology is the best? CNET's Steven Shankland took a look at four I/O technologies -- Thunderbolt, HDMI, USB 3.0 and the new PCIe Cable -- to compare the pros and cons of each.

Thunderbolt is Intel's design for a high-speed port technology, with Apple and Acer both adding Thunderbolt ports to most new personal computers. It hasn't been widely adopted, however, and peripherals that take advantage of the technology are slow in coming. PCIe Cable (PCI Express Cable) is being adopted by HP. The two technologies showing the greatest level of adoption are USB 3.0 and HDMI.

Shankland's post notes that USB 3.0 is likely to really take off, with USB 2.0 all but disappearing by 2016. USB 3.0 has the advantage of being both backward-compatible and fairly ubiquitous. The technology could also get a boost from proposed designs that would offer power distribution in the same USB cable. HDMI is already the standard on HDTVs and set-top boxes, and Apple added HDMI output to the latest crop of MacBook Pros.

Thunderbolt is expected to zoom from 10 to 100 Gbps per channel in the near future, and PCIe Cable will have data transfer rates up to 64 Gbps. But it all boils down to cost for inclusion by manufacturers and availability of peripherals for consumers. Be sure to visit the CNET post for a fascinating read on the bus wars.