Thunderbolt technology has a truly made an impact on how you connect PC to peripheral devices. With the latest arrival of Thunderbolt 4, it has become a new way to connect your Mac or Intel-based computers to peripheral devices.
Previously Thunderbolt 3 has been a rage in the market as it has redefined the data transfer speed and power delivery between computer and peripheral devices. However, to take things to the next level, Intel has introduced Thunderbolt 4 at CES 2020, which will take over Thunderbolt 3.
It has not only enhanced the charging speed and video output through a single connection but also has made sure of minimal usage of cables. Although there has yet to be a major upgrade from the previous standard in terms of transfer speed, it has made some improvements that will enhance the user experience.
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Thunderbolt 4 is the latest upgrade in the lineup of Thunderbolt technology, whose main aim is to make a widescale coverage of universal PC connection. It was first showcased at CES 2020, and the main purpose of its introduction is to create one cable connection that will cater to the needs of all types of work.
It is an upgraded connection interface that not only ensures you are treated with better transfer speed and power delivery but also enhances video output and connection between devices.
This new standard is not only compatible with USB 4, DisplayPort and PCIe but also many other ports, making it a one-port solution for all types of connectivity. However, the feature that makes it stand out is its USB Type C form factor and backward compatibility with previous Thunderbolt versions.
In terms of speed, nothing has changed much, and it still utilizes the same 40 Gbps transfer speed of Thunderbolt 3 with bidirectional bandwidth. The power delivery capacity also hasn’t changed much with respect to the previous version.
But Intel has made a major improvement with the video transmission because users looking to connect an 8K monitor at a 60Hz refresh rate will prefer Thunderbolt 4. Although it is not a game-changing feature, Intel and Mac laptop users can now charge different types of devices with this port.
Whether you want to charge a portable speaker, smartphone, small laptop or any other device with less than 100W of power, this new port can easily do its job. The Thunderbolt 4-based laptops and devices are slowly arriving in the market from this year, and it is expected to become a common choice for this decade.
What Are The New Things In Thunderbolt 4?
Thunderbolt 4 is the latest standard in the lineup of Thunderbolt technology, and currently, all the latest Intel and Mac-based laptops and devices are flaunting this port. Even though the jump from Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 4 isn’t that much of an upgrade, it has still brought up some new things which enhance the modern way of computing.
At first look, you might not see any change in form factor because it still utilizes the same USB Type C form factor, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Let’s take a look at the new things in Thunderbolt 4;
Thunderbolt 4 has made an upgrade in the minimum PCIe data speed requirement from 16 Gbps to 32 Gbps. Although it still holds the same bidirectional bandwidth of 40 Gbps, the increase in PCIe data bandwidth has resulted in significant improvement in performance and transfer speed in external PCIe devices. Users connecting storage devices, graphics cards or any PCIe will see a better result with Thunderbolt 4 ports.
The backward compatibility of Thunderbolt 4 is something to look out for because if you need to connect a computer with an older Thunderbolt standard, you can easily do it.
This new generation Thunderbolt port is integrated with VT-D-based DMA protection that has tightened the security by a large margin. This new protection stops any security vulnerabilities and properly assesses everything before providing permission. It also remaps requests from the peripheral device to which it is connected, thus making sure your laptop is safe.
With Thunderbolt 4, you can utilize the wake from sleep functionality, where the computer can be easily brought out of hibernation with a simple shake on the peripheral device. The peripherals might be directly connected or connected through a dock to the computer.
Thunderbolt 4 cables have been designed in such a way that they can be used both as external and internal cables. Since it aims to make a universal port for all, it can be utilized for linking devices or components both on the inside and outside. The multi-compatibility also makes it useful for connecting docks.
It comes with better support for connecting multiple 4K displays with a 60Hz refresh rate, as it can handle high bandwidth traffic. With this new port, you can also easily connect monitors up to 8K resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate which wasn’t possible with previous generations.
Thunderbolt 4 cables can go up to 2 meters in length and still provide 40 Gbps data transfer speed. The power delivery doesn’t get compromised, and a certified cable can easily offer a maximum power delivery of 100-watt. Moreover, with 2-metre Thunderbolt 4 cables, you will also get full bandwidth for your DisplayPort.
This port has become a primary requirement for any computer or device to have Intel’s EVO certification. All the latest computers that get EVO certification come with at least one Thunderbolt 4 port as it ensures seamless connectivity, tangle-free usage and better portability.
What Are The Benefits You Will Get With Thunderbolt 4?
Like every other port, Thunderbolt 4 also fulfills the primary need for connecting peripheral devices or computers to a computer. But there are still major advantages that have made it popular among modern consumers. Let’s check out what benefits you will get with Thunderbolt 4 ports;
Thunderbolt 4 ports serve as a multipurpose port which can be used for achieving high-speed data transfer, fast charging and also transfer video signals. It can do all three jobs simultaneously without compromising on the bandwidth.
With this port, you will experience high-speed bidirectional bandwidth of up to 40 Gbps and a PCIe data speed of up to 32 Gbps. It makes things easy for users to connect high-speed SSD, external GPUs and powerful monitors with such high bandwidth.
Through daisy-chaining functionality, you can connect up to five Thunderbolt devices from one port without compromising on bandwidth and power delivery.
The wide range of compatibility with different versions of connectors makes it easy to use Thunderbolt 4 cables with different ports. You won’t have to get confused between USB 1.1, USB 2.0 and USB 3.1, as you can have one cable for all types of devices.
Although Thunderbolt 4 comes with the form factor USB Type C, it offers compatibility with multiple connection standards. You can easily connect DisplayPort, PCIe, USB and older Thunderbolt versions with one port, thus reducing the need for multiple ports or dock stations.
Ensures a 10 Gigabit ethernet network connection between computers through a peer-to-peer network. It helps you set up a private network with other computers and transfer large amounts of data without taking much time.
With this latest generation Thunderbolt port, the cable length won’t matter much for speed and video transmission. You will get full bandwidth coverage even if you go for 2-meter Thunderbolt 4 cables.
All the Thunderbolt 4 cables come with certification, which means they not only meet all the standard requirements but will offer you the quality you expect.
All the Thunderbolt 4 connectors come with the number 4 and the Thunderbolt symbol, so it becomes easy to identify the cable.
Are Both Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 Same?
Both Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 come with the same form factor and size, and moreover, they are also compatible with each other. But Thunderbolt 4 is not at all the same as the latest USB 4 protocol, and there are many differences in features and minimum requirements.
Although they are closely linked in terms of various functionalities, Thunderbolt 4 gets the best when it comes to performance. However, it lacks popularity and widespread of usage with other devices. The major area where Thunderbolt 4 differs from USB 4 is the minimum speed requirement, as the former has 40 Gbps bandwidth while the latter has 20 Gbps bandwidth.
The PC port power for peripherals is 15-watt, while USB 4 only gets half of it. Another area in Thunderbolt 4 that differs from USB 4 is DMA protection because it gets Intel VT-d-based protection and peer-to-peer networking at 10 Gigabit ethernet.
When you want to connect a display, you can hook only one monitor with USB 4, but with Thunderbolt 4, you can connect up to two 4K monitors.
Laptops With Thunderbolt 4
All the latest laptops with 11th or 12th Gen Intel processors laptops are coming up with Thunderbolt 4 ports. Most of these laptops are ultra-compact form factors laptops that require a minimal number of highly functional ports for optimum portability.
Whether it is a laptop for business or gaming, the latest Intel-based laptops get at least one Thunderbolt 4 port in their port list. However, laptops with Thunderbolt 4 all get Evo certification, as this port serves as the minimum requirement.
Latest models like Dell XPS 13 Plus, HP Envy X360 13, Lenovo S9 Yoga, Razer Book 13, MSI Prestige 14, etc, come with the latest Thunderbolt ports.
How Thunderbolt 4 Offers Protection Against Cyberattacks
The introduction of Intel VT-D-based DMA protection in Thunderbolt 4 has made the port offer protection against cyberattacks. Previous Thunderbolt version ports weren’t safe from cyberattacks because it, on connection, offered direct memory access.
So if a cyber attacker can somehow get physical access to the port, the attackers can compromise the whole system. However, with the latest VT-D protection, the Thunderbolt 4 can prevent DMA attacks as it can stop PCIe devices from having unauthorized access to the memory of the system.
Basically, Intel’s latest VT-D protection makes use of DMA remapping, where it creates safe memory blocks for every device connected to your system. Thus, it stops the PCIe devices from getting whole access to the memory and only getting access to a certain part of the memory.
This new mechanism has made Thunderbolt 4 much safer for users and made it suitable for laptops where security is a priority.
Currently, Thunderbolt 4 is in its early stage, but it is slowly getting popular among brands for its huge amount of benefits. Many brands, like Dell, Asus, Lenovo, Razer etc, are adopting Thunderbolt 4 in their earlier laptops. Experts are speculating Apple and Microsoft will also follow this trend, but it is quite early to speculate. Thunderbolt 4 docks are also appearing in the market, and it is compatible with most devices.