Turns Out Apples Thunderbolt Cable Might Be Worth $50
Usually when purchasing cables I shy away from name-brand anything. If anyone in a big-box retailer even begins to utter the the words "Monster Cab--," a swift gut-check mutes those horrible words from coming out of their mouth.
So I approached the pricing of Apples recently released Thunderbolt cable with the reluctant optimism of Charlie Brown trying to kick a football. Fifty dollars is large chunk of change for an I/O cable. I don't care what they put in there, all the thing does is transfer files.
However, as iFixit discovered in their teardown of Apple's Thunderbolt cable, all I/O cables are not created equal. These cables are "Active" cables, meaning they contain onboard firmware chips, in this case Two Gennum GN2033 Thunderbolt Cable Transceiver chips amongst other smaller ones. The chips help boost signal quality to reduce errors in information sent through the Thunderbolt cable. The passive cables most of us are used to using don't require any of these chips because the transfer rates aren't nearly fast enough.
The chips are contained in the rather large plastic housings at both ends of the cable. Both needed to be melted/cut off, and desoldered to reach the lightning fast innards.
ArsTechnica spoke with sources within the telecom industry and confirmed that active cables would be used in future iterations of Thunderbolt. Presumably the active cables would allow the optical versions of Thunderbolt to transmit power to devices, which is one reason Apple stepped in to help Intel develop a copper-based Lightpeak solution (AKA Thunderbolt). Without it the cables wouldn't be able to supply power to external devices.
Despite all the fancy chips, and lightning fast transfer speeds I have a hard time believing any cable is worth $50. Hopefully a Mono Price variant emerges soon.