What Is Thunderbolt™ Technology?

In this article:

  1. What Is Thunderbolt™ Technology?
  2. What connector type does Thunderbolt use?
  3. What is the difference between Thunderbolt™ 4 and USB-C?
  4. Which USB are cross-compatible with Thunderbolt™?
  5. What are the benefits and advantages of Thunderbolt™ 4 over USB-C ?
  6. Daisy Chains, Hubs, and Docks
  7. External Graphics, Storage, and PCIe Enclosures
  8. Thunderbolt™ 4 Cables
  9. PC-to-PC Networking

What Is Thunderbolt™ Technology?

Thunderbolt™ technology is an Intel-developed connectivity standard delivering power, data and video signal over a single connection.

The Thunderbolt™ certification establishes mandatory minimum requirements for cables, PCs and accessories to help ensure greater reliability and interoperability across devices and vendors. For end users, Thunderbolt™-based products deliver a great experience when connecting accessories.

What connector type does Thunderbolt use?

Thunderbolt™ 4 uses the oval-shaped USB-C connector type, features a lightning symbol and is compatible with USB4.

What is the difference between Thunderbolt™ 4 and USB-C?

Thunderbolt™ 4 is not the same as USB-C. However, Thunderbolt™ 4 uses the USB-C connector type, recognizable by its oval shape.

Thunderbolt™ 4 Sets Higher Minimum Requirements.

Thunderbolt™ 4 certification requires support for power, data and video with constant 40 Gbps bandwidth.  USB cables, devices and ports may be limited to a variable range of data speeds, with no guarantee of display quality. The Thunderbolt™ logo is a simple, sure-fire indicator of what a connection between devices can do.

Which USB are cross-compatible with Thunderbolt™?

Various USB standards, including USB 3.2 and USB4, also use the USB-C connector type.  Those cables and ports are cross-compatible with Thunderbolt™ 4.

When connected with devices of different capabilities, the connection will only support the lowest common data rate.  For example, you can plug a USB 3.2 cable into a Thunderbolt™ 4 port, and the port will negotiate data, power and video signal capabilities with the connected device at a USB 3.2 level.

What are the benefits and advantages of Thunderbolt™ 4 over USB-C ?

Thunderbolt™ 4 offers distinct advantages over USB-C with a more flexible and expansive set of capabilities. Productivity, content creation, and gaming applications can benefit from Thunderbolt™ 4 technology with cleaner workspaces and more bandwidth to support more accessories.

Thunderbolt™ 4 ports and cables support power charging and data transfer with bidirectional movement and video display in one interface. For example, with a Thunderbolt™-enabled laptop, display and cable, the lap top can pass a video signal to the monitor whilst charging the lap top at the same time.

Thunderbolt™ 4 delivers:

  1. High Bandwidth:

Capable of 40 Gbps of bandwidth, which can be allocated for data and video, making Thunderbolt™ ideal for heavy workloads and fast file transfers.

  1. Quick Charging:

Suitable for up to 100W of power for laptop charging and up to 15W for computer-powered accessories.

  1. Rich Display Options:

Up to two 4K 60 Hz displays or one 8K 60 Hz display on a single connection.

Daisy Chains, Hubs, and Docks

With Thunderbolt™ devices daisy chained together, data, power and video signals can flow from the computer and down the chain into five additional accessories.

You can also connect multiple devices into a Thunderbolt™ hub or dock which then can be plugged into a Thunderbolt™ computer to consolidate all accessories into a single connection.

External Graphics, Storage, and PCIe Enclosures

The high bandwidth of Thunderbolt™ 4 allows end users to connect their computers to external GPUs, storage drives and PCIe enclosures.

PCIe connectivity is not supported by USB 3 and is optional for USB4, whereas Thunderbolt™ 4 offers the most flexibility in which devices you can connect.

  1. With external graphics, creators can significantly reduce rendering and export times to boost their productivity and output.
  2. External storage allows creators to quickly back up large video (e.g. 4K) and photo files for additional peace of mind.
  3. An External PCIe enclosure allows connection via Thunderbolt™ 4 for even more possibilities, such as video capture cards.

Thunderbolt™ 4 Cables

Thunderbolt™ 4 cables can connect to USB and DisplayPort accessories with lengths of up to two meters giving users more flexibility in setting up their workstations.

PC-to-PC Networking

Users can connect Thunderbolt™-enabled computers to establish a security-enabled connection between the devices at speeds faster than a 10 Gb Ethernet connection.

This connection facilitates quick and easy file sharing, especially for large files.

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