Thunderbolt™ 3

Thunderbolt™ 3 DEFAULT

By Jason Ziller, Director of Thunderbolt Marketing, Intel

If you’re a business professional, content creator, gamer, or just want to simplify your 4K workspace, your world is about to get faster and simpler.

Today Intel® unveiled Thunderbolt™ 3, the fastest, most versatile connection to any dock, display, or peripheral device – including billions of USB devices.

“Thunderbolt™ 3 is computer port nirvana – delivering two 4K displays, fast data, and quick notebook charging”, said Navin Shenoy, vice president in Client Computing Group and general manager of Mobility Client Platforms at Intel Corporation. “It fulfills the promise of USB-C for single-cable docking and so much more. OEMs and device developers are going to love it.”

Users have long wanted desktop-level performance from a mobile computer. Thunderbolt was developed to simultaneously support the fastest data and most video bandwidth available on a single cable, while also supplying power. Then recently the USB group introduced the USB-C connector, which is small, reversible, fast, supplies power, and allows other I/O in addition to USB to run on it, maximizing its potential. So in the biggest advancement since its inception, Thunderbolt 3 brings Thunderbolt to USB-C at 40Gbps, fulfilling its promise, creating one compact port that does it all.

Computer ports with Thunderbolt 3 provide 40Gbps Thunderbolt – double the speed of the previous generation, USB 3.1 10Gbps, and DisplayPort 1.2. For the first time, one computer port connects to Thunderbolt devices, every display, and billions of USB devices. In Thunderbolt mode, a single cable now provides four times the data and twice the video bandwidth of any other cable, while supplying power. It’s unrivaled for new uses, such as 4K video, single-cable docks with charging, external graphics, and built-in 10 GbE networking. Simply put, Thunderbolt 3 delivers the best USB-C.

More Speed. More Pixels. More Possibilities.

What does this mean for end users? At 40Gbps, it is the fastest connection to your computer. You can transfer a 4K movie in less than 30 seconds. You can connect two 4K displays with nearly 16 million more pixels than an HDTV.

Full 4K Video Experience

Connect two 4K 60 Hz displays with astonishing resolution, contrast, and color depth to see your photos, videos, applications, and text with amazing detail.

Best Single-Cable Docking

Now, one compact port provides Thunderbolt 3 data transfer, support for two 4K 60 Hz displays, and quick notebook charging up to 100W with a single cable. It’s the most advanced and versatile USB-C docking solution available.

External Graphics

Gamers can now connect plug ‘n’ play external graphics to a notebook to enjoy the latest games at recommended or higher settings.

Thunderbolt™ Networking

Provides a peer-to-peer connection at 10 GbE speeds to quickly transfer files between computers, perform PC migrations, or set up small workgroups with shared storage.

Solutions and products built to Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 specifications will work with Thunderbolt 3 via an adapter.

Initial products with Thunderbolt 3 are expected to begin shipping before the end of this year, and ramp in 2016.

Technology Features

  • Thunderbolt™, USB, DisplayPort, and power on USB-C
  • USB-C connector and cables (small, reversible)
  • 40 Gbps Thunderbolt™ 3 – double the speed of Thunderbolt 2
    • Bi-directional, dual-protocol (PCI Express and DisplayPort)
    • 4 lanes of PCI Express Gen 3
    • 8 lanes of DisplayPort 1.2 (HBR2 and MST)
      • Supports two 4K displays (4096 x 2160 30bpp @ 60 Hz)
  • USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) – compatible with existing USB devices and cables
  • DisplayPort 1.2 – compatible with existing DisplayPort displays, devices, and cables
    • Connect DVI, HDMI, and VGA displays via adapters
  • Power (based on USB power delivery)
    • Up to 100W system charging
    • 15W to bus-powered devices
  • Thunderbolt™ Networking
    • 10Gb Ethernet connection between computers
    • Daisy chaining (up to six devices)
    • Lowest latency for PCI Express audio recording
    • How would you like to use this new technology? What new products would you like to see featuring Thunderbolt 3? Join the conversation with #Thunderbolt3 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

      For more information visit

Tags: 4K displays, 4K video, 5K displays, Computex, Computex 2015, docking, docks., external graphics, Intel Thunderbolt, PC gamers, PC gaming, Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt networking, USB-C


Now playing:Watch this: USB-C and Thunderbolt 3: One port to rule them all


Look around your house and chances are you have at least a few devices that use Universal Serial Bus. On average, some 3 billion USB ports are shipped each year, making it by far the most successful peripheral connection type in the world.

In fact, device manufacturers are so confident in the new USB-C standard that Intel announced last year that Thunderbolt 3, once thought to be a USB replacement, will use the same port type as USB-C. This means every Thunderbolt 3 port will also work as a USB-C port and every Thunderbolt 3 cable will work as a USB-C cable.

Before you can fully appreciate what a leap forward both USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 are, let's familiarize you with Type-A, Type-B, and the various versions of the Thunderbolt standard.


Prior to Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 2 and the original Thunderbolt shared the same cable type and port (which is the same port type as Apple's Mini DisplayPort) and had top data transfer speeds of 20Gbps and 10Gbps, respectively. With these older Thunderbolt standards, the cable was active, meaning the cable itself is a device that requires power to operate (which is why most Thunderbolt 1 or 2 devices would require an external power source in order to function.) This made Thunderbolt a much more expensive solution, as the cable itself is some 10 times more expensive than a USB cable of the same length.

Thunderbolt revisions

Revision Year released Super set of Top speed Port type
Thunderbolt 2011 Mini DisplayPort 10Gbps Mini DisplayPort
Thunderbolt 2 2013 Thunderbolt 20Gbps Mini DisplayPort
Thunderbolt 3 2015 Thunderbolt 2 (adapter required,) DisplayPort, PCIe 3rd Gen, USB 3.1 40Gbps (short or active cable) 20Gbps (long, passive cable,) USB-C

Here's how Thunderbolt 3 is different from its predecessors:

  • The Mini DisplayPort connection type has been ditched in favor of a USB-C connection type.
  • All Thunderbolt 3 cables will work as USB-C cables.
  • All USB-C cables will work as Thunderbolt 3 cables as long as they are good quality cables.
  • Thunderbolt 3 has a top data transfer speed of 40Gbps as long as the cable is 0.5m (1.6 ft.) or shorter.
  • For 1m (3.2 ft.) or longer cables, Thunderbolt 3 supports passive (cheaper) ones that have a top speed of 20Gbps, and active cables (more expensive) that retain the 40Gbps speed.
  • Thunderbolt 3 is backward-compatible with earlier versions of Thunderbolt, but due to the new port type, adapters are required to use legacy Thunderbolt devices.
  • Any USB-C device (like a Google Pixel) plugged into a Thunderbolt 3 port will function normally.
  • Since Thunderbolt 3 devices use discrete Thunderbolt chips to function, they will not function if plugged into a USB-C port.

All versions of Thunderbolt allow for daisy-chaining up to six devices together to a host and in addition to data, can also carry Hi-Def video and audio signals.


In the USB world, things are a bit more complicated because there have been more versions and types than Thunderbolt. Generally, the versions refer to the speed and functionality of the USB cable, while the USB type refers to the physical shape and the wiring of the ports and plugs. Let's start with the USB type.


USB Type-A

Also known as USB Standard-A, USB Type-A is the original design for the USB standard and uses a flat rectangular shape.

On a typical USB cable, the Type A connector, aka the A-male connector, is the end that goes into a host, such as a computer. And on a host, the USB port (or receptacle) where the Type A-male is inserted, is called an A-female port. Type-A ports are mostly in host devices, including desktop computers, laptops, game consoles, media players and so on. There are very few peripheral devices that use a Type-A port.

Different USB versions including USB 1.1, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 (more on differing versions below) currently share the same USB Type-A design. That means a Type-A connector is always compatible with a Type-A port event if the device and host use different USB versions. For example, a USB 3.0 external hard drive also works with a USB 2.0 port, and vice versa.


Similarly, small devices such as a mouse, keyboard or network adapter that have hard-wired USB cables always use Type-A connectors. That's true also for gadgets without cables, such as a thumb drive.

USB 3.0's connectors and ports have have more pins than USB 2.0. This is in order to deliver faster speeds and higher power output. However, these pins are organized in a way that doesn't prevent them from physically working with the older version.

Also note that there are smaller Type-A plugs and connectors, including Mini Type-A and Micro Type-A, but there are very few devices that use these designs.


USB Type-B

Typically, the Type-B connector is the other end of a standard USB cable that plugs into peripheral device (such as a printer, a phone or an external hard drive). It's also known as Type B-male. On the peripheral device, the USB port is called Type B-female.

Since the peripheral devices vary a great deal in shape and size, the Type-B connector and its respective port also come in many different designs. Up to now there have been five popular designs for the USB Type-B's plugs and connectors. And since the Type-A end of a USB cable remains the same, the Type-B end is used to determine the name of the cable itself. (Wikipedia has a great USB connector mating matrix you can consult.)

The original standard (Standard-B): This design was first made for USB 1.1 and is also used in USB 2.0. It's mostly for connecting large peripheral devices, such as printers or scanners to a computer.

Mini-USB (or Mini-B USB): Significantly smaller, the Mini-USB Type-B ports are found in older portable devices, such as digital cameras, phones and older portable drives. This design is now close to obsolete.

Micro-USB (or Micro-B USB): Slightly smaller than Mini-USB, the Micro-USB Type-B port is currently being replaced by USB-C as the charging and data port for latest phones and tablets.

Micro-USB 3.0 (or Micro-B USB 3.0): This is the widest design and mostly used for USB 3.0 portable drives. Most of the time, the Type-A end of the cable is blue.

Standard-B USB 3.0: This design is very similar to the Standard-B, however, it's designed to handle USB 3.0 speed. Most of the time, both ends of the cable are blue.

Note that there's also another, less popular, USB 3.0 Powered-B plug and connector. This design has two additional pins to provide extra power to the peripheral device. Also, there's a relatively rare Micro Type-AB port that allows the device to work as either a host or a peripheral device.


Proprietary USB

Not all devices use the standard USB cables mentioned above. Instead, some of them use a proprietary design in the place of the Type-B plug and connector. The most famous examples of these devices are the iPhone and the iPad, where either a 30-pin or Lightning connector takes place of the Type-B end. The Type-A end, however, is still the standard size.

USB revisions

Top speed Max power output Power direction Cable configuration Availability
USB 1.1 12Mbps N/A N/A Type-A to Type-B 1998
USB 2.0 480Mbps 5V, 1.8A Host to peripheral Type-A to Type-B 2000
USB 3.0 / USB 3.1 gen 1 5Gbps 5V, 1.8A Host to peripheral Type-A to Type-B 2008
USB 3.1 / USB 3.1 gen 2 10Gbps 20V, 5A Bi-directional / Host to peripheral (compatible) Type-C both ends, reversible plug orientation / Type-A to Type-C (compatible) 2013

USB versions

USB 1.1: Released in August 1998, this is the first USB version to be widely adopted (the original version 1.0 never made it into consumer products). It has a top speed of 12Mbps (though in many cases only performs at 1.2Mbps). It's largely obsolete.

USB 2.0: Released in April 2000, it has a max speed of 480Mbps in Hi-Speed mode, or 12Mbps in Full-Speed mode. It currently has the max power out put of 5V, 1.8A and is backward-compatible with USB 1.1.

USB 3.0: Released in November 2008, USB 3.0 has a top speed of 5Gbps in SuperSpeed mode. A USB 3.0 port -- and its connector -- are usually colored blue. USB 3.0 is backward-compatible with USB 2.0 and its port can deliver up to 5V, 1.8A of power. This is sometimes refereed to as USB 3.1 Gen 1.

USB 3.1 (sometimes refereed to as USB 3.1 Gen 2.): Released on July 26, 2013, USB 3.1 doubles the speed of USB 3.0 to 10Gbps (now called SuperSpeed+ or SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps), making it as fast as the original Thunderbolt standard. USB 3.1 is backward-compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. USB 3.1 has three power profiles (according to USB Power Delivery Specification), and allows larger devices to draw power from a host: up to 2A at 5V (for a power consumption of up to 10W), and optionally up to 5A at either 12V (60W) or 20V (100W). The first USB 3.1 products are expected to be available in late 2016, and will mostly use USB Type-C design.


USB Type-C (or USB-C)

Physically, the Type-C port and connector are about the same size as those of the Micro-B USB mentioned above. A Type-C port measures just 8.4 by 2.6mm. This means it's small enough to work for even the smallest peripheral devices. With Type-C, both ends of a USB cable are the same, allowing for reversible plug orientation. You also don't need to worry about plugging it in upside down as it will function both ways.

Since 2015, USB-C has been widely adapted and used in many phones and tablets. Many new storage devices also use USB-C ports instead of a USB-B port. Almost all devices that support USB 3.1 use the USB-C port. USB 3.1 has a top speed of 10Gbps and can deliver a power output of up to 20 volts (100 watts) and 5 amps. When you consider most 15-inch laptops require just around 60 watts of power, this means in the future they will be charged the way phones are now, via their little USB port. Apple's new MacBook has just one USB-C port as the sole peripheral and power port.

Type-C USB also allows for bi-directional power, so apart from charging the peripheral device, when applicable, a peripheral device could also charge a host device. All this means you can do away with an array of proprietary power adapters and USB cables, and move to a single robust and tiny solution that works for all devices. Type-C USB will significantly cut down the a amount of wires currently needed to make devices work.

One port, one cable, no fuss

Type-C USB and USB 3.1 are backward-compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. In a pure Type-C USB connection, the Type-A ports and plugs are no longer included. However, you'll find compatible Type A-to-Type C cables. On top of that, there will be adapters to make Type C hosts and devices work with existing USB devices.

This is the first time adapters are required with USB connections, and likely the only time, at least for the the foreseeable future. USB Implementers Forum, the group responsible for the development of USB, says that Type-C USB is designed to be future-proof, meaning the design will be used for future and faster USB versions.

It will take a few years more for Type-C become to become as popular as the current Type-A on the host side, but when it does it will simplify the way we work with devices. In fact, Intel is even working on a USB audio standard that might render the 3.5mm audio jack obsolete. And with the addition of Thunderbolt 3 now being the super-set of USB-C, eventually, we'll just have only one type of port and cable to connect all peripheral devices to each other and to a computer. It's predicted that, thanks to support for USB-C, the adoption of Thunderbolt 3 will take off, which hasn't been the case with previous versions of Thunderbolt.

Editors' note: This article was originally published on August 22, 2014 and has been regularly updated.

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Thunderbolt (interface)

Computer hardware interface

Not to be confused with Lightning (connector).

Manufacturer Various
Produced Since 24 February 2011; 10 years ago (2011-02-24)[1]
SupersededIEEE 1394 (FireWire)
Length Maximums:
Width 7.4 mm male (8.3 mm female)
Height 4.5 mm male (5.4 mm female)
Hot pluggable Yes
Daisy chain Yes, up to 6 devices[2].
Thunderbolt V4: HUB support[3][4]
External Yes
Audio signal Via DisplayPort protocol or USB-based external audio cards. Supports audio through HDMI converters.
Video signal Via DisplayPort protocol
Pins Thunderbolt 1 and 2: 20
Thunderbolt 3 and 4: 24
Connector Thunderbolt 1 and 2: Mini DisplayPort
Thunderbolt 3 and 4: USB-C
Max. voltage 18 V (bus power)
Max. current 550 mA (9.9 W max.)
Data signal Yes
Bitrate Thunderbolt 1: 2 channels, 10 Gbit/s each (20 Gbit/s in total)[5]
Thunderbolt 2: 20 Gbit/s in total
Thunderbolt 3: 40 Gbit/s bidirectional, 80 Gbit/s one way
Thunderbolt 4: 40 Gbit/s
Protocol Thunderbolt 1: 4× PCI Express 2.0,[5]DisplayPort 1.1a[2]
Thunderbolt 2: 4× PCI Express 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2
Thunderbolt 3: 4× PCI Express 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2 (2 streams),[6]USB 3.1 gen. 2
Thunderbolt 4: 4× PCI Express 3.0, DisplayPort 2.0, USB4
Pin 1 GND Ground
Pin 2 HPD Hot plug detect
Pin 3 HS0TX(P) HighSpeed transmit 0 (positive)
Pin 4 HS0RX(P) HighSpeed receive 0 (positive)
Pin 5 HS0TX(N) HighSpeed transmit 0 (negative)
Pin 6 HS0RX(N) HighSpeed receive 0 (negative)
Pin 7 GND Ground
Pin 8 GND Ground
Pin 9 LSR2P TX LowSpeed transmit
Pin 10 GND Ground (reserved)
Pin 11 LSP2R RX LowSpeed receive
Pin 12 GND Ground (reserved)
Pin 13 GND Ground
Pin 14 GND Ground
Pin 15 HS1TX(P) HighSpeed transmit 1 (positive)
Pin 16 HS1RX(P) HighSpeed receive 1 (positive)
Pin 17 HS1TX(N) HighSpeed transmit 1 (negative)
Pin 18 HS1RX(N) HighSpeed receive 1 (negative)
Pin 19 GND Ground
Pin 20 DPPWR Power
This is the pinout for both sides of the connector, source side and sink side. The cable is actually a crossover cable, it swaps all receive and transmit lanes; e.g. HS1TX(P) of the source is connected to HS1RX(P) of the sink.

Thunderbolt is the brand name of a hardware interface for the connection of external peripherals to a computer. It has been developed by Intel, in collaboration with Apple.[7][8] It was initially marketed under the name Light Peak, and first sold as part of an end-user product on 24 February 2011.[1]

Thunderbolt combines PCI Express (PCIe) and DisplayPort (DP) into two serial signals,[9][10] and additionally provides DC power, all in one cable. Up to six peripherals may be supported by one connector through various topologies. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 use the same connector as Mini DisplayPort (MDP), whereas Thunderbolt 3 and 4 reuse the USB-C connector from USB.


Symbol used on Thunderbolt ports
Thunderbolt 1 or 2, connector
Thunderbolt link connections
Intel provides two types of Thunderbolt controllers, a two-port and a one-port type. Both peripherals and computers require a controller.
Thunderbolt 2 port on MacBook Pro with Retina display.

Thunderbolt controllers multiplex one or more individual data lanes from connected PCIe and DisplayPort devices for transmission via two duplex Thunderbolt lanes, then de-multiplex them for use by PCIe and DisplayPort devices on the other end.[2] A single Thunderbolt port supports up to six Thunderbolt devices via hubs or daisy chains; as many of these as the host has DP sources may be Thunderbolt monitors.[11]

A single Mini DisplayPort monitor or other device of any kind may be connected directly or at the very end of the chain. Thunderbolt is interoperable with DP-1.1a compatible devices. When connected to a DP-compatible device, the Thunderbolt port can provide a native DisplayPort signal with four lanes of output data at no more than 5.4 Gbit/s per Thunderbolt lane. When connected to a Thunderbolt device, the per-lane data rate becomes 10 Gbit/s and the four Thunderbolt lanes are configured as two duplex lanes, each 10 Gbit/s comprising one lane of input and one lane of output.[2]

Thunderbolt can be implemented on PCIe graphics cards, which have access to DisplayPort data and PCIe connectivity, or on the motherboard of new computers with onboard video, such as the MacBook Air.[11][12][13]

The interface was originally intended to run exclusively on an optical physical layer using components and flexible optical fiber cabling developed by Intel partners and at Intel's Silicon Photonics lab. It was initially marketed under the name Light Peak,[14] and after 2011 as Silicon Photonics Link.[15] However, it was discovered that conventional copper wiring could furnish the desired 10 Gbit/s per channel at lower cost.

This copper-based version of the Light Peak concept was co-developed by Apple and Intel. Apple registered Thunderbolt as a trademark, but later transferred the mark to Intel, which held overriding intellectual-property rights.[16] Thunderbolt was commercially introduced on Apple's 2011 MacBook Pro, using the same Apple-developed connector as Mini DisplayPort.

Sumitomo Electric Industries started selling up to 30-metre-long (100-foot) optical Thunderbolt cables in Japan in January 2013,[17] and Corning, Inc., began selling up to 60-metre-long (200-foot) optical cables in the US in late September 2013.[18]



Intel introduced Light Peak at the 2009 Intel Developer Forum (IDF), using a prototype Mac Pro logic board to run two 1080p video streams plus LAN and storage devices over a single 30-meter optical cable with modified USB ends.[19] The system was driven by a prototype PCI Express card, with two optical buses powering four ports.[20] Jason Ziller, head of Intel's Optical I/O Program Office showed the internal components of the technology under a microscope and the sending of data through an oscilloscope.[21] The technology was described as having an initial speed of 10 Gbit/s over plastic optical cables, and promising a final speed of 100 Gbit/s.[22] At the show, Intel said Light Peak-equipped systems would begin to appear in 2010, and posted a YouTube video showing Light Peak-connected HD cameras, laptops, docking stations, and HD monitors.[23]

On 4 May 2010, in Brussels, Intel demonstrated a laptop with a Light Peak connector, indicating that the technology had shrunk enough to fit inside such a device, and had the laptop send two simultaneous HD video streams down the connection, indicating that at least some fraction of the software/firmware stacks and protocols were functional. At the same demonstration, Intel officials said they expected hardware manufacturing to begin around the end of 2010.[24]

In September 2010, some early commercial prototypes from manufacturers were demonstrated at Intel Developer Forum 2010.[25]

Copper vs. optical[edit]

See also: Cables

Though Thunderbolt was originally conceived as an optical technology, Intel switched to electrical connections to reduce costs and to supply up to 10 watts of power to connected devices.[26]

In 2009, Intel officials said the company was "working on bundling the optical fiber with copper wire so Light Peak can be used to power devices plugged into the PC."[27] In 2010, Intel said the original intent was "to have one single connector technology" that would let "electrical USB 3.0 ... and piggyback on USB 3.0 or 4.0 DC power."[28] Light Peak aimed to make great strides in consumer-ready optical technology, by then having achieved "[connectors rated] for 7,000 insertions, which matches or exceeds other PC connections ... cables [that were tied] in multiple knots to make sure it didn't break and the loss is acceptable," and, "You can almost get two people pulling on it at once and it won't break the fibre." They predicted that "Light Peak cables will be no more expensive than HDMI."[29]

In January 2011, Intel's David Perlmutter told Computerworld that initial Thunderbolt implementations would be based on copper wires.[28] "The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought," he said.[30] A major advantage of copper is the ability to carry power. The final Thunderbolt standard specifies 10 W DC on every port. See comparison section below.

Intel and industry partners are still developing optical Thunderbolt hardware and cables.[31] The optical fiber cables would run "tens of meters" but would not supply power, at least not initially.[12][32][33] The version from Corning contains four 80/125 μm VSDN (Very Short Distance Network) fibers to transport an infrared signal up to 190 m (600 ft).[34] The conversion of electrical signal to optical is embedded into the cable itself, so the current MDP connector is forward compatible. Eventually, Intel hopes for a purely optical transceiver assembly embedded in the PC.[33]

The first such optical Thunderbolt cable was introduced by Sumitomo Electric Industries in January 2013.[35] It is available in lengths of 10 m (30 ft), 20 m (70 ft), and 30 m (100 ft). However, those cables are retailed almost exclusively in Japan, and the price is 20 to 30 times higher than copper Thunderbolt cables.

German company DeLock also released optical Thunderbolt cables in lengths of 10 m (30 ft), 20 m (70 ft), and 30 m (100 ft) in 2013, priced similarly to the Sumitomo ones, and retailed only in Germany.[36]

In September 2013, glass company Corning Inc. released the first range of optical Thunderbolt cables available in the Western marketplace outside Japan, along with optical USB 3.0 cables, both under the brand name "Optical Cables".[18] Half the diameter of and 80% lighter than comparable copper Thunderbolt cables, they work with the 10 Gbit/s Thunderbolt protocol and the 20 Gbit/s Thunderbolt 2 protocol, and thus are able to work with all self-powered Thunderbolt devices (unlike copper cables, optical cables cannot provide power).[18] The cables extend the current 30 m (100 ft) maximum length offered by copper to a new maximum of 60 m (200 ft). This lets peripheral Thunderbolt devices be farther from their host device(s).

As of March 2020[update] there were no optical Thunderbolt 3 cables on the market. However, optical Thunderbolt 1 and 2 cables could be used at the time with Apple's Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 adapters on each end of the cable. This achieves connections up to the 60 m (200 ft) maximum offered by previous versions of the standard.[37]

In April 2019, Corning showed an optical Thunderbolt 3 cable at the 2019 NAB Show in Las Vegas.[38] Just over a year later, in September 2020, Corning released their optical Thunderbolt 3 cables in lengths of 5 m (20 ft), 10 m (30 ft), 15 m (50 ft), 25 m (80 ft), and 50 m (200 ft).[39] In the meanatime, Taiwanese company Areca released optical Thunderbolt 3 cables in April 2020 in lengths of 10 m (30 ft), 20 m (70 ft), and 30 m (100 ft).[40]

In early 2021, copper Thunderbolt 4 cables arrived from many companies at the 0.8 m (3 ft) length. Copper versions of Thunderbolt 4 cables are now all passive cables offering full 40Gbit/s speed and support all versions of USB (up to USB4), and three lengths are specified: 0.2 m (0.7 ft), 0.8 m (3 ft), and 2 m (7 ft) – with companies like CalDigit and Cable Matters initially offering ones at the latter length. Later on, optical Thunderbolt 4 cables are targeting lengths between ~5 m (20 ft) to 50 m (160 ft) for release at sometime in the future.[41]

Thunderbolt 1[edit]

CNET's Brooke Crothers said it was rumored that the early-2011, MacBook Pro update would include some sort of new data port, and he speculated it would be Light Peak (Thunderbolt).[42] At the time, there were no details on the physical implementation, and mock-ups appeared showing a system similar to the earlier Intel demos using a combined USB/Light Peak port.[43] Shortly before the release of the new machines, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) announced they would not allow such a combination port, and that USB was not open to modification in that way.

Other implementations of the technology began in 2012, with desktop boards offering the interconnection now available.[44]

Apple stated in February 2011 that the port was based on Mini DisplayPort, not USB. As the system was described, Intel's solution to the display connection problem became clear: Thunderbolt controllers multiplex data from existing DP systems with data from the PCIe port into a single cable. Older displays that using DP 1.1a or earlier must be located at the end of a Thunderbolt device chain, but native displays can be anywhere along the line.[12] Thunderbolt devices can go anywhere on the chain. In that respect, Thunderbolt shares a relationship with the older ACCESS.bus system, which used the display connector to support a low-speed bus.

Apple states that up to six daisy-chained peripherals are supported per Thunderbolt port,[45] and that the display should come at the end of the chain, if it does not support daisy chaining.

In February 2011, Apple introduced its new line of MacBook Pro notebook computers and announced that the technology's commercial name was Thunderbolt, with MacBook Pros being the first machines to feature the new I/O technology.

In May 2011, Apple announced a new line of iMacs that include the Thunderbolt interface.[46]

The Thunderbolt port on the new Macs is in the same location relative to other ports and maintains the same physical dimensions and pinout as the prior MDP connector. The main visible difference on Thunderbolt-equipped Macs is a Thunderbolt symbol next to the port.[11]

The DisplayPort standard is partially compatible with Thunderbolt, as the two share Apple's physically compatible MDP connector. The Target Display mode on iMacs requires a Thunderbolt cable to accept a video-in signal from another Thunderbolt-capable computer.[47] A DP monitor must be the last (or only) device in a chain of Thunderbolt devices.

Intel announced they would release a developer kit in the second quarter of 2011,[48] while manufacturers of hardware-development equipment have indicated they will add support for the testing and development of Thunderbolt devices.[49] The developer kit is being provided only on request.[50]

In July 2011, Sony released its Vaio Z21 line of notebook computers that had a "Power Media Dock" that uses optical Thunderbolt (Light Peak) to connect to an external graphics card using a combination port that behaves like USB electrically, but that also includes the optical interconnect required for Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt 2[edit]

In June 2013, Intel announced that the next version of Thunderbolt, based on the controller code-named "Falcon Ridge" (running at 20 Gbit/s), is officially named "Thunderbolt 2" and entered production in 2013.[51] The data-rate of 20 Gbit/s is made possible by joining the two existing 10 Gbit/s-channels, which does not change the maximum bandwidth, but makes using it more flexible. Apple announced Thunderbolt 2 in June 2013 at their developer-conference (WWDC) and said it would ship in the next Mac Pro generation.[52] Thunderbolt 2 shipped in the 2013 MacBook Pro, released on 22 October 2013.[53]

At the physical level, the bandwidth of Thunderbolt 1 and Thunderbolt 2 are identical, and Thunderbolt 1 cabling is thus compatible with Thunderbolt 2 interfaces. At the logical level, Thunderbolt 2 enables channel aggregation, whereby the two previously separate 10 Gbit/s channels can be combined into a single logical 20 Gbit/s channel.[54]

Intel says Thunderbolt 2 will be able to transfer a 4K video while simultaneously displaying it on a discrete monitor.[55]

Thunderbolt 2 incorporates DisplayPort 1.2 support, which allows for video streaming to a single 4K video monitor or dual QHD monitors. Thunderbolt 2 is backwards compatible, which means that all Thunderbolt cables and connectors are compatible with Thunderbolt 1.

The first Thunderbolt 2 product for the consumer market was Asus's Z87-Deluxe/Quad motherboard, announced on 19 August 2013,[56] and the first system released with Thunderbolt 2 was Apple's late 2013 Retina MacBook Pro, on 22 October 2013.[57]

Thunderbolt 3[edit]

Thunderbolt 3 or 4, ports
USB-C Thunderbolt 3 or 4, connector

Thunderbolt 3 is a hardware interface developed by Intel.[58] It shares USB-C connectors with USB,[59][60][61] and can require special "active" cables for maximum performance for cable lengths over 0.5 meters (1.5 feet). Compared to Thunderbolt 2, it doubles the bandwidth to 40 Gbit/s (5 GB/s). It allows up to 4 lanes of PCI Express 3.0 (32.4 Gbit/s) for general-purpose data transfer, and 8 lanes of DisplayPort HBR2 (34.56 Gbit/s) for video, but the maximum combined data rate cannot exceed 40 Gbit/s. Video data will be prioritized over PCIe data.[62]

Intel's Thunderbolt 3 controller (codenamed Alpine Ridge, or the new Titan Ridge) halves power consumption, and simultaneously drives two external 4K displays at 60 Hz (or a single external 4K display at 120 Hz, or a 5K display at 60 Hz when using Apple's implementation for the late-2016 MacBook Pros) instead of just the single display previous controllers can drive. The new controller supports PCIe 3.0 and other protocols, including DisplayPort 1.2 (allowing for 4K resolutions at 60 Hz).[63] Thunderbolt 3 has up to 15 watts of power delivery on copper cables and no power delivery capability on optical cables. Using USB-C on copper cables, it can incorporate USB Power Delivery, allowing the ports to source or sink up to 100 watts of power. This eliminates the need for a separate power supply from some devices. Thunderbolt 3 allows backwards compatibility with the first two versions by the use of adapters or transitional cables.[64][65][66]

Intel offers three varieties for each of the controllers:[67]

  • Double Port (DP) uses a PCIe 3.0 ×4 link to provide two Thunderbolt 3 ports (DSL6540, JHL6540, JHL7540)
  • Single Port (SP) uses a PCIe 3.0 ×4 link to provide one Thunderbolt 3 port (DSL6340, JHL6340, JHL7340)
  • Low Power (LP) uses a PCIe 3.0 ×2 link to provide one Thunderbolt 3 port (JHL6240).

This follows previous practice, where higher-end devices such as the second-generation Mac Pro, iMac, Retina MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini use two-port controllers; while lower-end, lower-power devices such as the MacBook Air use the one-port version.

Support was added to Intel's Skylake architecture chipsets, shipping during late 2015 into early 2016.[64][65][66]

Devices with Thunderbolt 3 ports began shipping at the beginning of December 2015, including notebooks running Microsoft Windows (from Acer, Asus, Clevo, HP, Dell, Dell Alienware, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, and Sony), as well as motherboards (from Gigabyte Technology), and a 0.5 m Thunderbolt 3 passive USB-C cable (from Lintes Technology).[68]

In October 2016, Apple announced the updated MacBook Pro, which features two or four Thunderbolt 3 ports depending on the model.[69] In June 2017, Apple announced new iMac models that feature two Thunderbolt 3 ports, as well as the iMac Pro, which featured four ports when released in December 2017.[70]

On 8 January 2018, Intel announced a product refresh (codenamed Titan Ridge) with "enhanced robustness" and support for DisplayPort 1.4. Intel offers a single port (JHL7340) and double port (JHL7540) version of this host controller and a peripheral controller supporting two Thunderbolt 3 ports (JHL7440). The new peripheral controller can now act as a USB sink (compatible with regular USB-C ports).[71]


Main article: USB4

The USB4 specification was released on 29 August 2019 by USB Implementers Forum,[72] based on the Thunderbolt 3 protocol specification.[73]

It supports 40 Gbit/s (5 GB/s) throughput, is compatible with Thunderbolt 3, and backwards compatible with USB 3.2 and USB 2.0.[74][75] The architecture defines a method to share a single high-speed link with multiple end device types dynamically that best serves the transfer of data by type and application.

Thunderbolt 4[edit]

Thunderbolt 4 was announced at CES 2020[76] and the final specification was released in July 2020.[77] The key differences between Thunderbolt 4 and Thunderbolt 3 are support for USB4 protocol and data rates, a minimum bandwidth requirement of 32 Gbit/s for PCIe link, support for dual 4K displays (DisplayPort 1.4),[78] and Intel VT-d-based direct memory access protection to prevent physical DMA attacks.

Another major improvement is that TB4 now supports Thunderbolt Alternate Mode USB hubs ("Multi-port Accessory Architecture"), and not just daisy chaining.[3][4] Those hubs are backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 3 devices and can be backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 3 hosts (Titan Ridge only, with Alpine Ridge the additional downstream ports get downgraded to USB3).[79][80]

The maximum bandwidth remains at 40 Gbit/s, the same as Thunderbolt 3 and four times faster than USB 3.2 Gen2x1.[81][77] Supporting products began arriving in late 2020 and included Tiger Lake mobile processors for Project Athena notebooks and 8000-series standalone Thunderbolt controllers (codenamed Goshen Ridge for devices and Maple Ridge for hosts).

DisplayPort Alt Mode 2.0: USB4 supports DisplayPort 2.0 over its alternative mode. DisplayPort 2.0 can support 8K resolution at 60 Hz with HDR10 color and use up to 80 Gbit/s, which is double the amount available to USB data, because it sends all the data in one direction (to the monitor) and can thus use all eight data lanes at once.

Royalty situation[edit]

On 24 May 2017, Intel announced that Thunderbolt 3 would become a royalty-free standard to OEMs and chip manufacturers in 2018, as part of an effort to boost the adoption of the protocol.[82] The Thunderbolt 3 specification was later released to the USB-IF on 4 March 2019, making it royalty-free, to be used to form USB4.[73][83][84] Intel says it will retain control over certification of all Thunderbolt 3 devices.[85] Intel also states it employs "mandatory certification for all Thunderbolt products".[86]

Before March 2019, there were no AMD chipsets or computers with Thunderbolt support released or announced due to the certification requirements (Intel did not certify non-Intel platforms). However, the YouTuber Wendell Wilson from Level1Techs was able to get Thunderbolt 3 support on an AMD computer with a Threadripper CPU and Titan Ridge add-in card working by modifying the firmware, indicating that the lack of Thunderbolt support on non-Intel systems is not due to any hardware limitations.[87][88] As of May 2019, it is possible to have Thunderbolt 3 support on AMD using add-in cards without any problems,[89] and motherboards like ASRock X570 Creator already have Thunderbolt 3 port.[90]

In January 2020 Intel certified[91] ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming ITX/TB3 and now vendors are freely allowed to produce Thunderbolt controller silicon (even though those ASRock motherboards used Intel Titan Ridge).[92]

ASUS currently supports Thunderbolt 3 on AMD with the add-in card THUNDERBOLTEX 3-TR, being compatible with AMD motherboards and Ryzen 3, 5 (56xx): ROG STRIX B550-E GAMING, ROG STRIX B550-F GAMING (Wi-Fi), ROG STRIX B550-F GAMING, PRIME B550-PLUS, TUF GAMING B550-PLUS.

Peripheral devices[edit]

A multiple hard disk storage device that attaches to a computer through a Thunderbolt connection.

Apple released its first Thunderbolt-equipped computer in early 2011 with the MacBook Pro. The first Thunderbolt peripheral devices appeared in retail stores only in late 2011, with the relatively expensive Pegasus R4 (4-drive) and Pegasus R6 (6-drive) RAID enclosures by Promise Technology aimed at the prosumer and professional market, initially offering up to 12 TB of storage, later increased to 18 TB. Sales of these units were hurt by the 2011 floods in Thailand (who manufacture much of the world's supply of hard-drives) resulting in a cut to worldwide hard-drive production and a subsequent driving-up of storage costs, hence the retail price of these Promise units increased in response, contributing to a slower take-up of the devices.

It also took some time for other storage manufacturers to release products: most were smaller devices aimed at the professional market, and focused on speed rather than high capacity. Many storage devices were under 1 TB in size, with some featuring SSDs for faster external-data access rather than standard hard-drives.

Other companies have offered interface products that can route multiple older, usually slower, connections through a single Thunderbolt port. In July 2011, Apple released its Apple Thunderbolt Display, whose gigabit Ethernet and other older connector types made it the first hub of its type. Later, companies such as Belkin, CalDigit, Other World Computing, Matrox, StarTech, and Elgato have all released Thunderbolt docks.

As of late 2012, few other storage devices offering double-digit TB capacity had appeared. Exceptions included Sonnet Technologies' highly priced professional units, and Drobo's 4- and 5-drive enclosures, the latter featuring their own BeyondRAID proprietary data-handling system.

Backwards compatibility with non-Thunderbolt-equipped computers was a problem, as most storage devices featured only two Thunderbolt ports, for daisy-chaining up to six devices from each one. In mid-2012, LaCie, Drobo, and other device makers started to swap out one of the two Thunderbolt ports for a USB 3.0 connection on some of their low-to-mid end products. Later models had the USB 3.0 added in addition to the two Thunderbolt ports, including those from LaCie on their 2big range.

The late 2013 Retina MacBook Pro was the first product to have Thunderbolt 2 ports, following which manufacturers started to update their model offerings to those featuring the newer, faster, 20 Gbit/s connection throughout 2014. Again, among the first was Promise Technology, who released updated Pegasus 2 versions of their R4 and R6 models along with an even larger R8 (8-drive) RAID unit, offering up to 32 TBs of storage. Later, other brands similarly introduced high capacity models with the newer connection type, including G-Technology (with their G-RAID Studio models offering up to 24 TB) and LaCie (with their 5big, and rack mounted8big models, offering up to 48 TB). LaCie also offering updated designed versions of their 2big mainstream consumer models, up to 12 TB, using new 6 TB hard-drives.

Thunderbolt 3 was introduced in late 2015, with several motherboard manufacturers and OEM laptop manufacturers including Thunderbolt 3 with their products. Gigabyte and MSI, large computer component manufacturers, entered the market for the first time with Thunderbolt 3 compatible components.[93][94]

Dell was the first to include Thunderbolt 3 ports in laptops with their XPS Series and their Dell Alienware range.[95]

Apple Mac machines with Thunderbolt 3 include: iMac Pro, iMac 2017, Mac Mini 2018, MacBook Pro 2016 onwards, MacBook Air 2018.

Although Thunderbolt has initially had poor hardware support outside of Apple devices and has been relegated to a niche gadget port, the adoption of the Thunderbolt 3 using USB-C connector standard into a wide array of hardware bodes well for market acceptance of the standard, besides that it will become part of USB4 standard.

Security vulnerabilities[edit]

Vulnerability to DMA attacks[edit]

Thunderbolt – like many high-speed expansion buses, including PCI Express, PC Card, ExpressCard, FireWire, PCI, and PCI-X — is potentially vulnerable to a direct memory access (DMA) attack. If users extend the PCI Express bus (the most common high-speed expansion bus in systems as of 2018[update]) with Thunderbolt, it allows very low-level access to the computer. An attacker could physically attach a malicious device, which, through its direct and unimpeded access to system memory and other devices, would be able to bypass almost all security measures of the operating system, allowing the attacker to read and write system memory, potentially exposing encryption keys or installing malware.[96] Such attacks have been demonstrated, modifying inexpensive commodity Thunderbolt hardware.[97][98] The IOMMU virtualization, if present, and configured by the BIOS and the operating system, can close a computer's vulnerability to DMA attacks,[97] but only if a malicious device can't alter the code that configures the IOMMU before the code is executed. As of 2019, the major OS vendors had not taken into account the variety of ways in which a malicious device could take advantage of complex interactions between multiple emulated peripherals, exposing subtle bugs and vulnerabilities.[99] Some UEFI implementations offer Kernel DMA Protection.

This vulnerability is not present when Thunderbolt is used as a system interconnection (IPoTB supported on OS X Mavericks), because the IP implementation runs on the underlying Thunderbolt low-latency packet-switching fabric, and the PCI Express protocol is not present on the cable. That means that if IPoTB networking is used between a group of computers, there is no threat of such DMA attack between them.[96][97][100][101]

Vulnerability to Option ROM attacks[edit]

When a system with Thunderbolt boots, it loads and executes Option ROMs from attached devices. A malicious Option ROM can allow malware to execute before an operating system is started. It can then invade the kernel, log keystrokes, or steal encryption keys.[102] The ease of connecting Thunderbolt devices to portable computers makes them ideal for evil-maid attacks.[103]

Some systems load Option ROMs during firmware updates, allowing the malware in a Thunderbolt device's Option ROM to potentially overwrite the SPI flash ROM containing the system's boot firmware.[104][105] In February 2015, Apple issued a Security Update to Mac OS X to eliminate the vulnerability of loading Option ROMs during firmware updates, although the system is still vulnerable to Option ROM attacks during normal boots.[106]

Firmware-enforced boot security measures, such as UEFI Secure Boot (which specifies the enforcement of signatures or hash whitelists of Option ROMs) are designed to mitigate this kind of attack.

Vulnerability to data exposure attacks (Thunderspy)[edit]

In May 2020, the Thunderspy seven major security flaws were discovered in the Thunderbolt protocol, which allow a malicious party to access all data stored in a computer, even if the device is locked, password-protected, and has an encrypted hard drive. These vulnerabilities affect all Thunderbolt 1, 2 and 3 ports.[98] Thunderspy vulnerabilities can largely be mitigated using Kernel DMA Protection, along with traditional anti-intrusion hardware features.[107][108]


See also: Copper vs. optical

Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter

In June 2011, the first 2 m (7 ft) length Thunderbolt cable was released from Apple, costing US$49.[109] As an active cable, it contains circuitry in its connectors.

In June 2012, Apple began selling a Thunderbolt-to-gigabit Ethernet adaptor cable for US$29.[110] In the third quarter of 2012, other manufacturers started providing cables of varying lengths up to the maximum supported length of 3 m (10 ft), while some storage-enclosure builders began including a Thunderbolt cable with their devices.

In January 2013, Apple reduced the price of their 2 m (7 ft) length cable to US$39 and added a half-meter cable for US$29.[111]

Several other brands have released copper Thunderbolt cables, with some going up to the maximum 3 metres (10 feet) allowable for copper Thunderbolt 1 & 2 cables. Initially, most devices did not come with an included Thunderbolt cable to keep selling cost lower, hence the mass usage of Apple's cables or third-party cables, especially if a user wanted 3 m (10 ft) length, but most devices eventually began including some length of copper Thunderbolt cable with the product.

With the introduction of Thunderbolt 3, Intel announced that otherwise-standard passive USB-C cables would be able to connect Thunderbolt devices at lower speeds than full active Thunderbolt cables, but still faster than USB 3.1.[112] This allows for cheaper connections to new Thunderbolt devices, with inexpensive USB-C cables costing significantly less than active Thunderbolt cables.

Released from mid-2016, copper versions of Thunderbolt 3 cables were released at lengths up to 2 m (7 ft). However, shorter lengths up to 0.8 m (3 ft) (initially only available at up to 0.5 m (2 ft)) are passive cables offering the full 40Gbit/s speed. 2 m (7 ft) cables are available in two types: passive ones offering only 20Gbit/s speed but cheaper in cost, and more expensive active 2 m (7 ft) ones offering the full 40Gbit/s speed. Additionally, only the passive cables are able to offer compatibility with up to USB 3 (20Gbit/s) ports, while active ones only support up to USB 2.0 (480Mbit/s). Much later on, from April 2020, optical Thunderbolt 3 cables were finally released (see Copper vs. optical section above).

Copper versions of Thunderbolt 4 cables are now all passive cables, offering full 40Gbit/s speed, and supporting all versions of USB (up to USB4). Released in early 2021, they are also all to be available in three specified lengths: 0.2 m (0.7 ft), 0.8 m (3 ft), and 2 m (7 ft) – with many companies initially offering 0.8 m (3 ft) ones, while companies like CalDigit and Cable Matters initially offering ones at 2 m (7 ft). At some unspecified time in the future, optical Thunderbolt 4 cables are targeting lengths between ~5 m (20 ft) to 50 m (160 ft).[41]


VerModel ChSize
182523EF0415 × 153.8Light RidgeQ4 2010
DSL251002?Eagle RidgeQ1 2011
DSL231008 × 901.85SFF
DSL22100105 × 600.7Port RidgeQ4 2011Device only
DSL3510H0412 × 123.4Cactus RidgeCancelled
DSL3510L2.8Q2 2012
DSL3310022.1Host only
DSL451004?Redwood Ridge2013
DSL44100210 × 10?Host only
2DSL552004??Falcon RidgeQ3 2013Thunderbolt 2, 20 Gbit/s speed+DP 1.2
3DSL6540[113]10.7 × 10.72.2Alpine Ridge[114]Q4 201540 Gbit/s speed, PCIe 3.0, HDMI 2.0 LSPCon (DP Protocol Converter),
DP 1.2, USB 3.1, 100 W power delivery (compatible with USB Power Delivery).[115][116]
DSL6340[117]011.7Q1 201540 Gbit/s speed, DP 1.2
JHL6240[118]1.2Q2 201640 Gbit/s speed, DP 1.2, lead-free
JHL7340[121]011.9Titan RidgeQ1 201840 Gbit/s speed, DP 1.4
JHL7440[123]2.4Q1 201840 Gbit/s speed, DP 1.4, optional USB-C port compatibility,
backwards compatibility when a TB3 docking station is connected to a non-TB3 computer
4JHL8340[124]01??Maple Ridge2H 202040 Gbit/s speed, USB4 compliant
JHL8540[125]0210.7 × 10.7?Q4 2020
JHL8440[126]*0410.7 × 10.7?Goshen RidgeQ3 202040 Gbit/s speed, USB4 compliant (peripheral only), with 4x Thunderbolt 4 ports for branching hub topology. Tunnelling of DP1.4, USB 3 (10G), PCIe (32G). Has PCIe 3.0 x1 and USB 3 (10G) native interfaces.
Devices controller aimed at: † computers, * accessories

See also[edit]


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  100. ^"Thunderbolt how it works". Intel. 2014. Archived from the original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  101. ^Sevinsky, Russ (1 October 2013). Black Hat USA 2013 - Funderbolt: Adventures in Thunderbolt DMA Attacks. Retrieved 16 July 2014.

What is Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4? Features, speeds and future of USB-C port technology

(Pocket-lint) - The ports on the side of your laptop are important. They decide what you can do on your device and how quickly you can do it.

In 2018 when Apple introduced a new style MacBook Pro, it ditched every single port of its old machines and replaced it with just Thunderbolt 3. Many PCs makers followed suit. Now it's fairly normal to have at least one USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port on a device.

What is Thunderbolt 3?

Intel introduced the Thunderbolt platform in 2011 at a time when USB 3.0 was all the rage and could transfer data at speeds up to 5Gbps. Thunderbolt was capable of twice that, 10Gbps, plus it could transfer multiple types of data - not just serial data to storage devices.

It could, for instance, pipe video data to displays. It could also daisy-chain devices together, such as your hard drive to your computer and a display to your hard drive.

USB 4 is now on the way, which will include the Thunderbolt 3 specification within it. In other words, all USB 4.x ports will be Thunderbolt capable to deliver the same speed and features.


Thunderbolt 3 uses the same design as the familiar USB Type-C connector. This connector is used for simplicity foremost, but there are other reasons, too.

Early versions of Thunderbolt relied on a Mini DisplayPort-style connector, and Apple was the only major manufacturer to embrace Thunderbolt. But hardly any laptops used or would use Mini DisplayPort and, with USB-C coming to the fore and in many ways replacing Mini DisplayPort, it made perfect sense.

Thunderbolt 3 supports the DisplayPort protocol too, so you can use one cable to daisy-chain and drive multiple 4K displays at 60Hz.

Thunderbolt 3 allows for connection speeds up to 40Gbps - so double the speed of the previous generation - USB 3.1 10Gbps, and DisplayPort 1.2.

It also offers USB speeds of up to 10Gbps, and it can connect up to two 4K displays, outputting video and audio signal at the same time.

It also supports DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0, and 10GbE fast networking.

Plus, Thunderbolt 3 is backwards compatible.

So what is USB-C?

USB Type-C - or USB-C for short - is a physical USB connector. It's replaced Micro-USB connectors previously used by most Android phones and will eventually even replace USB Type-A, which is the standard larger scale USB connector that everyone probably thinks of when they hear "USB". 

The previously-mentioned USB 4 specification will still use the USB-C connector. 


USB Type-C is well-known because it allows for quicker data transfer. By default, USB Type C offers 7.5W and 15W transmissions, whereas USB 3.0 offers 4.5W transmission. USB Type-C also allows your devices to charge, because it can transmit up to 100W, which is enough to charge most laptops.

That means you can use a single cable with a USB Type-C connector to quickly transfer data to your device while you charge it.

But the most interesting thing about USB-C is that the connector is reversible: there is no "right way up". You can just blindly stick it into a port on a device, and it'll smoothly go in and work.

Why are more laptops using Thunderbolt?

Manufacturers have embraced Thunderbolt because of its features - mostly the fast data transfer for storing large files. The fact it uses the now-common USB-C connector is a welcome bonus. 

You can use it to connect your Mac or PC to displays, transfer data quickly between computers and hard drives, daisy chain external devices, and power up - all with just one physical connection.


Remember that not all USB Type-C ports support Thunderbolt 3 though. While smartphones and tablets may use the connector, it doesn't necessarily mean those top speeds and features are available.

Originally the Thunderbolt platform was only available on devices with Intel processors, but that's since change as Intel shared the technology as part of USB4. That's why Apple's M1 Mac products, which don't use Intel processors, support Thunderbolt, for example.

So, while you can technically plug any USB Type-C device or cable into a Thunderbolt 3 port, it won't support Thunderbolt's features. And a Thunderbolt 3 peripheral plugged into a regular USB Type-C port won't support Thunderbolt features either.

Best laptop 2021: Top general and premium notebooks for working from home and more
Best laptop 2021: Top general and premium notebooks for working from home and more By Dan Grabham ·

What about Thunderbolt 4?

Yes, it was inevitable, Thunderbolt 4 succeeded Thunderbolt 3. However, it doesn't offer faster speeds - it's still 40Gbps maximum - and the USB Type-C connector port is still the same.

So what does Thunderbolt 4 add? A number of useful things.

First, and perhaps most important, is increased video data support. Thunderbolt 4 can support a single monitor to 8K resolution, or two 4K monitors - doubling the capability of Thunderbolt 3.

Second, there's wake from sleep, allowing quick start with connected peripherals.

Third, PCIe data speeds have doubled to 32Gbps. This is handy if you connect, say, an external graphics card to your PC,

Last up there's added security - with VT-d protection restricting direct memory access.

Is Thunderbolt 4 just USB4?

The connector looks the same, being USB Type-C, but Thunderbolt 4 is assurance that you're getting the top-spec USB4.

Because USB4 has various layers: there's a 20Gbps version, for example, despite it being capable of 40Gbps. Thunderbolt 4 ensures that top speed happens.

USB4 also doesn't guarantee the ability to run dual 4K monitors, while there's no mandatory wake-from-sleep requirement - all of which you get with Thunderbolt 4.

Writing by Maggie Tillman and Dan Grabham. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on .

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3 thunderbolt™



Thunderbolt, developed by Intel, steps up USB port technology by supporting both high‐speed data and video. Harnessing Thunderbolt through a USB-C port created in partnership with USB-IF, Thunderbolt 3 is the fastest port available. It connects Thunderbolt devices, all HD and 4K displays, and billions of USB-C devices using one compact, reversible cable.



The increasing mobility of the workforce coupled with the decreasing size of devices created a challenge within the tech sphere: How to support desktop speeds and applications—on mobile devices. Thunderbolt was developed as a solution to this challenge. Thunderbolt 3 supports the fastest data and most video bandwidth on a single cable.

Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock features HDMI, Ethernet, FireWire, Thunderbolt 2, VGA and USB 3 ports

1. Ethernet    2. Firewire    3. Thunderbolt 2
4. DisplayPort    5. HDMI®    6. USB-C   7. USB-A


Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, PCI Express, and USB

Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock is 80 times faster than USB 2.0


Up to 40 Gbps total bandwidth

Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock can support two 4K HD displays simultaneously


Supports dual 4K 60Hz displays

Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock delivers Up to 85W power delivery


Up to 85W power delivery


The new wave of Thunderbolt 3 Docks from Belkin brings fast data transfer, ultra-high definition monitor support and all the features you want from your ideal workstation.


Take full advantage of Thunderbolt technology with cables and accessories from Belkin.

Thunderbolt™ 3 Dock Pro

Back of Belkin Thunderbolt™ 3 Dock Pro featuring ports


  1. USB-A 3.0 ports
  2. Gb Ethernet
  3. DisplayPort
  4. Thunderbolt™ 3 port
  5. Thunderbolt™ 3 port (powers up to 85W)
  6. DC in (170W)
  7. USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 port
  8. USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port
  9. SD Card Reader
  10. Audio In/Out

Thunderbolt™ 3 Dock Plus

Back of Belkin Thunderbolt™ 3 Dock Plus featuring ports


  1. Gb Ethernet
  2. USB-A 3.1 ports
  3. USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 ports
  4. DisplayPort
  5. DC in (125W)
  6. Thunderbolt™ 3 port
  7. Audio In/Out
  8. USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 port

Cheat Sheet

Gbps (stands for gigabits per second)

A unit of data transfer rate measuring bandwidth speed by the billions of bits transferred per second.

Standard USB (stands for Standard Universal Serial Bus)

The most common universal connector on the “other end” of most current USB cables, Standard USB is often suitable for use with computers, car chargers, wall chargers, and many other devices.

USB port (stands for Universal Serial Bus port)

A port designed for use with an industry standard connector to communicate data and supply electric power between devices.

USB 3.1

USB 3.1 is the updated, Gen 2 version of USB 3.0. Gen 2 successfully doubled the transfer speed rate of Gen 1(USB 3.0), taking USB from 5 Gbps to 10 Gbps.

USB-C (also known as Type-C)

A new type of USB connector, hailed as the new standard. Smaller, faster, and more user-friendly than previous USB types, USB-C has widespread support from industry leaders, meaning USB-C will come to replace all other USB types.

USB-IF (stands for USB Implementers Forum)

A non-profit organization founded by the companies that developed the Universal Serial Bus (USB) specification. The USB-IF’s mission is to support and advance USB technology.

4K (short for 4,096 pixels of resolution)

Quickly becoming the new standard for high-quality digital video, 4K refers to a horizontal resolution of 4,096 pixels, or “4K” pixels.

Mini DisplayPort

A miniaturized version of the DisplayPort interface, Apple developed audio-visual digital interface Mini DisplayPort in 2008.

Thunderbolt 3 FAQ

closeWhat is Thunderbolt / Thunderbolt 3?

Thunderbolt is a technology designed to move large amounts of data quickly and safely between two compatible devices, such as a laptop and a monitor (to provide high-definition visuals to the monitor), or a camera and a laptop (to download large photo files from the camera).

closeWhat is a Thunderbolt / Thunderbolt 3 port?

Thunderbolt 3 technology uses a USB-C port to connect devices together. The USB-C port is able to handle the large amounts of data pushed through by Thunderbolt at high speeds. The use of a single port type – USB-C – makes it easier to connect audio, video, USB and storage devices through a single cable for a versatile, convenient solution.

closeIs Thunderbolt/ Thunderbolt 3 the same as USB-C?

Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C look the same because they share the same port, but they are not the same. USB-C refers only to the shape of connectors and cables, while Thunderbolt 3 is the technology that runs through the connectors and cables. While all Thunderbolt 3 devices use the USB Type-C port, not all Type-C ports contain Thunderbolt 3 technology. This means that some USB-C ports may not support the features and capabilities of Thunderbolt 3.

closeWhat is a Thunderbolt cable?

A Thunderbolt cable has a reversible connector offering high-speed data transfer. It is highly versatile and capable of supporting high-resolution displays, power, audio and video with just a single cable.

closeCan I connect a mini DisplayPort to Thunderbolt?

You can connect a DisplayPort device, such as a monitor, to a Thunderbolt laptop through an adapter or docking station.

closeWhat is a Thunderbolt 3 Dock?

A Thunderbolt 3 dock is an extension to your laptop through a single cable, and can support multiple peripherals all at the same time, to deliver high-speed data transfers for video, audio, and storage devices.

closeHow fast is Thunderbolt 3?

Thunderbolt 3 is the fastest port on the market today at 40 Gbps total bandwidth.




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What can you do with Thunderbolt 3? DIY in 5 Ep 75

I screamed, whined, squeaked, and with a hung in my mouth I mooed and made other sounds. But I was not bad, but quite the opposite. I have never experienced such a high.

Now discussing:

At these competitions, she fell for Max, a handsome muscular athlete, whom all the local girls ran after, including her current bridesmaid, who. Was imposed by her future husband. Since she did not have friends in America and, in general, she was a shy, excellent student, a crammer.

She spent all her free time on training and reading. The bridesmaid is a slender, tall brunette daughter of wealthy Italian immigrants who lived next door to Max and dreamed of getting herself a muscular handsome man.

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