In this article:
- What Is Thunderbolt™ Technology?
- What connector type does Thunderbolt use?
- What is the difference between Thunderbolt™ 4 and USB-C?
- Which USB are cross-compatible with Thunderbolt™?
- What are the benefits and advantages of Thunderbolt™ 4 over USB-C ?
- Daisy Chains, Hubs, and Docks
- External Graphics, Storage, and PCIe Enclosures
- Thunderbolt™ 4 Cables
- 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:
- 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.
- Quick Charging:
Suitable for up to 100W of power for laptop charging and up to 15W for computer-powered accessories.
- 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.
- With external graphics, creators can significantly reduce rendering and export times to boost their productivity and output.
- External storage allows creators to quickly back up large video (e.g. 4K) and photo files for additional peace of mind.
- 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.
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.