Thunderbolt™ Technology: The Fastest, Simplest and Most Reliable USB-C Connection1

Comparison2: Thunderbolt vs USB




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ThunderboltTM 4

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ThunderboltTM 3

USB4®

USB 3 / DP

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40 Gbps bandwidth checkmark checkmark
 
 
15W power to run accessories checkmark checkmark    
Mandatory testing and certification checkmark checkmark    
2 x 4K/60Hz monitors checkmark      
Required PC charging3 on at least one computer port checkmark      
Universal 40 Gbps cables up to 3m checkmark      
Up to 4 Thunderbolt™ ports on accessories checkmark      
System wake from sleep checkmark      
Intel® VT-d based DMA protection checkmark      

Thunderbolt Technology Benefits

Thunderbolt 4 technology helps provide a clutter-free desktop with consolidated connectivity and high bandwidth in one simple connection. Gamers, content creators, and workers who need everyday productivity all benefit from this single, powerful connection. Quickly move massive files. Enable the highest-quality display settings. Add more accessories with the use of Thunderbolt docks and hubs while simultaneously charging the laptop over one cable. Also, you can daisy chain multiple Thunderbolt devices together in a row or through a hub that provides up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports.

As part of Thunderbolt brand certification, mandatory testing ensures broad compatibility across Mac, Windows, Chrome, or Linux. It also ensures interoperability of computers, cables, and accessories from different brands, so your devices work well together regardless of the OS or hardware manufacturer.

Thunderbolt 4 technology is backwards compatible with its prior generation as well as millions of USB 3 and USB4 products. In 2019, Intel contributed the Thunderbolt protocol specification to the USB controlling consortium, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF). The royalty-free use of the Thunderbolt protocol aided in the development of USB4, the next-generation USB protocol. The convergence of the underlying Thunderbolt and USB protocols further increased compatibility among USB-C-based products, simplifying how people connect their devices. However, when devices with varying ports are connected, performance capabilities will only support the lowest level of the standard in that connection.

Thunderbolt 4 technology provides a consistent total bandwidth of 40 gigabits per second in each direction. This bandwidth is dynamically allocated between data and video for all devices on a single connection. Compared to the variable speeds of USB 3.2 and USB4, the high standard set by the Thunderbolt 4 interface delivers peak data transfer speeds—or maximum video display quality—to support productivity, gaming, and content creation.

FAQs

Check out which type of ports your system has by:

  • Looking for the Thunderbolt™ icon on devices (next to the USB-C port).
  • Checking the product’s I/O specification online to see if it lists Thunderbolt ports.
  • Downloading Intel® Driver & Support Assistant (Intel® DSA) to detect what ports you have on your PC.

Thunderbolt technology delivers the best-in-class capabilities to drive high-bandwidth data, power, and video transfers for up to five devices on one connection. Gamers, creators, and workers can enjoy a clean desktop space with multiple displays and accessories on a powerful connectivity standard. Learn how Thunderbolt technology delivers the best experiences with simple, powerful, and flexible connectivity.

  • Thunderbolt 4 technology is the next generation of the Thunderbolt protocol, following Thunderbolt 3 technology. Both generations use the same USB-C connector type, but Thunderbolt 4 technology introduces higher minimum requirements and new capabilities for a best-in-class user experience.
  • Learn more about the difference through this article.

Checking the product’s I/O specification online to see if it lists Thunderbolt ports. Downloading Intel® Driver & Support Assistant (Intel® DSA) to detect what ports you have on your PC.

No. You don’t need to install any software or drivers to make things work. Connect your computer with any Thunderbolt accessory, and they simply work together.

Thunderbolt 4 technology became integrated in the CPU starting with 11th Gen Intel® Core™ processors. Today, approximately 90% of 11th gen Intel Core processor-based laptops have Thunderbolt ports.

At least one Thunderbolt 4 port is required on all Intel® Evo™ and Intel® Core™ vPro® processor family-based laptops.

Look for the Thunderbolt icon on your PC (next to the USB-C port) or check the product I/O specification for Thunderbolt technology.

Product and Performance Information

1

Performance varies by use, configuration and other factors. Learn more at www.Intel.sg/PerformanceIndex.

2Performance based on minimum specification requirements.
3Laptop Charging: For thin and light notebooks that require less than 100W to charge.
4

Fastest Connection: As compared to other PC I/O connection technologies including eSATA, USB, and IEEE 1394 Firewire*. Performance will vary depending on the specific hardware and software used. Must use a Thunderbolt-enabled device. Learn more at https://www.intel.com/PerformanceIndex.

5

All versions of the Intel vPro® platform require an eligible Intel® Core™ processor, a supported operating system, Intel LAN and/or WLAN silicon, firmware enhancements, and other hardware and software necessary to deliver the manageability use cases, security features, system performance and stability that define the platform. See intel.com/performance-evo for details.

6

All Intel Evo branded designs must meet demanding thresholds for key mobile user experiences like responsiveness and battery life; individual device performance may vary. Details at www.intel.com/performance-evo.

7

All versions of the Intel vPro® platform require an eligible Intel® Core™ processor, a supported operating system, Intel® LAN and/or WLAN silicon, firmware enhancements, and other hardware and software necessary to deliver the manageability use cases, security features, system performance, and stability that define the platform. See intel.com/performance-vpro for details.