Apple lists mystery 3-meter "Pro" Thunderbolt 3 cables on Mac Pro specs sheet

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in General Discussion
Apple has included a collection of "Pro" Thunderbolt 3 cables in its list of accessories for the new Mac Pro, including the odd option of a 3-meter cable, a length that is not typically covered by the standards governing Thunderbolt 3 cable specifications.




The online Apple Store page for the Mac Pro, published on Monday, includes a section within the Tech Specs page titled Kits and Accessories, where Apple lists software, storage expansion, hardware, and peripherals that it suggests could be bought to run on the new professional workstation.

Under the "Other Accessories" category are three listings for the "Apple Thunderbolt 3 Pro Cable," which suggests some alternative version of the existing Thunderbolt 3 cables it sells with some extra element to benefit the Mac Pro in some form. The three listings are not linked to other pages, so there are no published details as to what is "Pro" about them at this time.

The three listings also indicate Apple is doing something unusual with the "Pro" cables, as the three lengths are identified as 1.8 meters, 2 meters, and 3 meters. As Apple already sells 0.8 meter and two meter Thunderbolt 3 cables, it is likely the 1.8 meter option is a mistake.

The Mac Pro's Kits and Accessories list, with the Thunderbolt 3 Pro cables highlighted
The Mac Pro's Kits and Accessories list, with the Thunderbolt 3 Pro cables highlighted


The existence of a 3-meter Thunderbolt 3 Pro Cable is odd, as the standards relating to Thunderbolt 3 specify the longest a metal cable can be is two meters and still provide full Thunderbolt 3 speeds. At present, there are no vendors of optical Thunderbolt 3 cables.

Sources of AppleInsider within Apple not authorized to speak on behalf of the company have confirmed the existence of the three-meter length, but refused to elaborate.

Active Thunderbolt 3 cables are able to support 40Gbps of bandwidth at up to 2 meters, while passive runs at full speed at up to 0.5 meters then reduces down to 20Gbps at up to two meters. It is certain that the three meter cable length in an active cable, as full speeds aren't possible at that length with passive cabling.

It is also plausible that Apple is taking advantage of some aspect of Titan Ridge, Intel's Thunderbolt 3 chipset that supports up to DisplayPort 1.4 and a fallback to USB 3.1 speeds if a Thunderbolt 3 host is not detected. The Mac Pro specifications do not clarify the situation.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    it makes sense considering lots of pros have their tower far away from the monitor.
    n2itivguydysamoriaMisterKitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 13
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,634administrator
    it makes sense considering lots of pros have their tower far away from the monitor.
    Yeah, we certainly see a need for it. Where we don't see yet is how it is specifically possible.
    n2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 13
    slothjslothj Posts: 2member
    These might be optical.  Copper can only support 40Gbps over a short distance.  Optical HDMI cables are already available, also because copper runs into trouble with the high bit-rates of 4K and beyond-- you can find them on Amazon. 

    Recall the original name for Thunderbolt was LightPeak.  It has been a photonic idea for a long time.

    If the 3m cables are not photonic, it's only a matter of time.
    n2itivguyStrangeDaystenthousandthingsmacplusplusMisterKit1STnTENDERBITScornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    danwellsdanwells Posts: 28member
    The other use (besides tower away from monitor) is stuffing a RAID in a closet - RAIDs tend to be noisy contraptions. Does the leak show any pricing? I can see two ways it might work - optical (which could open lengths of hundreds of meters), or additionally amplified. Present active TB cables are boosted on the ends, as I understand it. Could this contain an additional booster amplifier in the middle? TB3 can carry quite a bit of power, so there's no problem powering the (sub 1 watt) booster unit. I've seen over-length USB cables that work this way, and (while I've never seen it in a single cable), Ethernet signal boosters that connect two cables together while amplifying the signal also exist. I can't imagine that adding more than one amplifier is either practical or cost effective, so the "amp in the middle" trick would be limited to ~4 meter cables - after that, you'll want to be optical.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 13
    ravnorodomravnorodom Posts: 222member
    It sounds like a $199 Thunderbolt 3 Pro USB cable that goes with the Pro Stand.
    dysamoriakestralmobird
  • Reply 6 of 13
    camccamc Posts: 29member
    After all this Super Mac has four wheels  :)

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 13
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,336member
    They are black and cost 50% more ;)
    dysamoriakestral
  • Reply 8 of 13
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,971member
    What’s the Lightning Pro cable?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 13
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 573member
    The cables might be nice for rack mountable gear. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 13
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,826member
    I would hope that “pro” means better retention methods.   

    As for the length, optical would would make a lot of sense, especially if they want to offer even longer lengths.  That doesn’t mean though that copper or another conductor might be possible.  Optical though solves a lot of problems that are hard to deal with when using metallic conductors.  
  • Reply 11 of 13
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,737member
    slothj said:
    These might be optical.  Copper can only support 40Gbps over a short distance.  Optical HDMI cables are already available, also because copper runs into trouble with the high bit-rates of 4K and beyond-- you can find them on Amazon. 

    Recall the original name for Thunderbolt was LightPeak.  It has been a photonic idea for a long time.

    If the 3m cables are not photonic, it's only a matter of time.
    We’ll know when prices are listed. But even the optical cables I’ve found only do 20Gb/s, if they’re longer than 1 meter.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,737member

    It sounds like a $199 Thunderbolt 3 Pro USB cable that goes with the Pro Stand.
    Joking aside, you should look at the pricing of TB cables. Optical cables are very expensive. And they’re not from Apple.

    https://eshop.macsales.com/search/thunderbolt%203%20cables

    Note that the longer cable only supports 20Gb/s. Corning’s cables are a lot more expensive, about twice as much.
  • Reply 13 of 13
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 238member
    I think it's unlikely this is an optical cable. Once you switch to fiber, there's no reason to make it just three meters. Do ten.

    I think it's much more likely they've managed to improve the time correction electronics at the cable ends. There are 40g "Direct Attached Copper" active cables for network gear which reach up to five meters in length, so it's definitely possible to pass data reliably over copper at that rate over more than two meters.
    watto_cobra
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