20-Gbps chipset claims unmatched cable performance and cost effectiveness

May 08, 2012 // By Paul Buckley
Intersil Corporation has unveiled the company's active cable solution specifically designed to support Thunderbolt cables.

As data rates in cables reach 10 Gbps 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 40 nm active cable IC – and the ISL80083 companion power management IC. This chipset breaks the cost barrier to widespread adoption with the features such as smarter integration thanks to 40 nm process technology and advanced power management which enables integration of key components such as microcontroller, input rail selector, level shifters and eye monitor.

Two-chip solution consumes less than 450 mW and eliminates expensive heat sinking required by alternative solutions.  The solution, which permits smaller connector housings on each end of the Thunderbolt cable and reduces standby power consumption by as much as 50%, allows cable manufacturers to use inexpensive bulk cable with enhanced yield.  A built-in test facility 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.

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 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,