It was supposed to be a cheaper alternative to Thunderbolt, Intel’s high speed interface that launched in 2011. Thunderbolt uses PCI-E express and DisplayPort, while DockPort uses USB 3.0 and DisplayPort. Back at CES AMD said DockPort is in the process of being adopted by VESA as an extension of DisplayPort, so it’s no longer an experimental technology from AMD and Texas Instruments – it is an official industry standard.
The choice of USB 3.0 makes DockPort interesting for a number of reasons. Although there is still no word on price, it should be cheaper to produce and implement than Thunderbolt. Furthermore it won’t be an alternative to USB 3.0 like Thunderbolt, as it will rely on USB 3.0 to begin with. In other words AMD is not going for the exact same market, it is gunning for a broader market than Thunderbolt.
In terms of video, it relies on DisplayPort 1.2, the latest available standard, as the 1.3 spec won’t be finalized until later this year. Still, DisplayPort 1.2 has a data rate of 17.2Gbps, which means it can support 4K/UHD resolutions, or four 1080p displays. AMD says DockPort could be employed in portable hubs that would allow users to connect, charge or transform their devices. It would reduce cable clutter by bringing data connectivity in a single package and it could be an interesting addition to emerging form factors like hybrids.
Sadly though, there is still no word on when we can expect actual products based around the new standard. Thunderbolt has been out for years, but it remains a niche standard and it is prolific only in the Mac world. In PCs it is not and this appears to be where AMD is heading – the company wants a cheaper, simpler alternative for PCs. When it comes to rolling out new standards, AMD has a somewhat better track record than Intel (e.g. USB 3.0), so we can only hope that it won't be too long.
You can check out the video after the break.