What Is Thunderbolt 3?

Thunderbolt 3 is an alt protocol introduced by Intel so that users can explore a high data transfer rate and fast video transmission. It first came into light in the year 2015, when it was integrated with USB 3.1 protocol and USB-C connector.

As the size of devices, especially laptops, was getting thinner and the demand for portable units was increasing, it created a vacuum, and that is when Thunderbolt 3 came into existence.

The first Thunderbolt 3 port was integrated into Macbook Pro, which was launched in 2018, and gradually other laptop brands started following the trend. As it had the capability to support high speed, deliver more power and provide data transmission up to 4K 60Hz, it has become an uncalled norm to have at least one Thunderbolt 3 in devices.

Thunderbolt 3

Created by technology mega-giant Intel in partnership with USB-IF, Thunderbolt 3 was introduced as an enhancement of the USB 3.0 protocol. The Thunderbolt technology was integrated with the USB-C port so that not only it can ensure a super high-speed data transfer rate but also ensure seamless video transmission.

Earlier Thunderbolt versions were based on Mini DisplayPort connector, but most devices didn’t use Mini DisplayPort, so earlier versions didn’t make a mark in the market. However, the adoption of the USB-C style connector in Thunderbolt 3 allowed the technology to become a plausible choice for users.

Currently, Thunderbolt 3 is considered as one of the fastest ports available in the market and has a maximum data transfer rate of 40Gbps. Moreover, it has the capability to send multiple types of data which makes it more versatile to use. Since it uses the same connector as the USB Type C connector, it allows Thunderbolt 3 to support different types of USB protocol that supports USB-C.

Unlike other ports, this port has the capability to support six devices through daisy chaining and helps you to connect other devices in other ports. The most highlighting feature of this protocol is that it can help you connect multiple 4K displays from one port, and that too at 60Hz.

A part of its bandwidth is reserved for video and audio signal transmission, and that is why it can ensure swift video transmission up to 4K signal without any lag. It also offers support for DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.0, thus ensuring a wide variety of display compatibility.

A major reason that many manufacturers, especially Apple, started adopting Thunderbolt 3 in their devices is that it delivers power up to 85W, which is more than sufficient to power large devices. Although it has been able to mark its complete dominance, it is slowly getting popular among users, and its backward compatibility is helping it to gain.

Thunderbolt 3 Is Not Same As All USB-C

Thunderbolt 3 is a protocol that has been designed by integrating the design of the USB-C connector. Both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C look the same when it comes to reversible connectors and have the same size.

However, USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are not the same as the later technology only borrows the shape and size of the USB-C connector and cable. Thus, Thunderbolt 3 devices support USB Type-C and are compatible with USB-C cables. However, not all USB Type C ports are Thunderbolt 3 because they don’t contain the technology of Thunderbolt 3.

When you connect a Thunderbolt 3 cable to a USB-C port, you may not get the speed of Thunderbolt 3 because they lack the capabilities and features. But when you connect the same cable to a Thunderbolt 3 port, you can utilize the full potential of the protocol.

Main Reasons A Lot Of Brands Are Using Thunderbolt 3

Slowly consumers understand the capabilities and features of Thunderbolt, and it is leading manufacturers to integrate Thunderbolt 3. The major reason that this port is getting popular among brands and consumers is that it utilizes a USB-C connector but with better capabilities.

Not only it allows users to experience more data transfer speed than USB-C but many other major enhancements in capabilities. So let’s check out the reasons that are leading Thunderbolt 3 to become a mainstream choice;

40 Gbps Data Transfer Rate

You heard it right. Thunderbolt 3 protocol is capable of achieving a maximum transfer rate of 40Gbps. Not only does the transfer speed more than USB 3.1 and USB 3.0, but it also doubles the transfer rate of Thunderbolt 2.

Whether you want to transfer large data files or record 4K video directly from a camera, this port can handle everything with ease. The high transfer rate also gives you the freedom to utilize eGPU with your laptop and achieve the same bandwidth as if the GPU is connected to the motherboard.

Capability To Connect Two 4K Monitor At A Time

Like USB-C, Thunderbolt 3 also can transmit video and audio signals at a high bandwidth. But what makes it stand out is its capability to connect two 4K monitors through a single wire, and that too at a 60Hz refresh rate.

The protocol has reserved a large portion of the bandwidth for seamless audio and video transmission at once. It can transmit video and audio signals through DisplayPort standard without any delay. Importantly, if you want to connect a 4K monitor with 120Hz or a 5K monitor with 60Hz, then you can only connect one.

High Power Delivery

With Thunderbolt 3, you can enjoy a high power delivery as it has a maximum power supply capability of 85W. The high power delivery will not only let you connect and power most peripheral devices but also charge most laptops.

Many modern laptops, especially models with thin form factors, are currently utilizing Thunderbolt 3 port as their power source. However, some laptops, especially gaming ones, can’t utilize this port as they require more watts than this protocol’s power output.

Enhanced Bus Power

Thunderbolt 3 comes with the feature of delivering 15watt of power to bus-powered devices. This is why you can connect your laptop to high-end NVMe SSDs, professional-grade cameras and portable monitors without requiring them to power separately.

High-Speed Network Connectivity

One of the major reasons that tech giants like Apple are utilizing Thunderbolt 3 in their laptops is that it offers an ethernet connection of up to 10Gbps.

With this port, you can connect two laptops and enjoy super high-speed peer-to-peer networking. It serves as a better alternative to standard ethernet ports and allows you to transfer data between networks within a few seconds.

Seamless Daisy Chaining

Daisy chaining is one feature that helped Thunderbolt 3 to get more popular users. Through daisy chaining, it allows a single Thunderbolt 3 port to connect up to 6 devices like, monitor, SSD, network and any peripheral device.

Basically, using a Thunderbolt 3 cable, you can connect your laptop to a PC, then a monitor and from there to an SSD and a sound box. Due to this, you won’t have to cloud all the ports in your laptop and utilize them for connecting other devices.

Ease To Connect Device Supporting USB-C Port

Thunderbolt 3 is based on Type C ports and has the same reversible connector. Due to this, you can connect every device to your laptop having USB Type-C connectivity.

However, you might not get all the capabilities of Thunderbolt 3 cables, but it will get the job done. You should also remember not every USB Type C cable and port will support Thunderbolt 3.

The Availability of Thunderbolt Lightning Bolt Logo

Every wire and peripheral device that come with Thunderbolt port supports gets a Lightning Bolt logo for identification.

Even connectors come with a Lightning Bolt logo on them which will help you identify which connector or port in your laptop offers Thunderbolt technology. The makers prohibit users from using non-certified connectors and cables to utilize Lightning Bolt in their product.

Active and Passive Thunderbolt 3 Cables

When it comes to Thunderbolt 3 cables, you will come across active and passive cables. These cables are different due to their build quality and data transfer rate capability. Thunderbolt 3 is known for high-data transfer, and to fully utilize its 40Gbps transfer rate; you will have to utilize the active cables. The active Thunderbolt 3 is quite expensive and comes with a 2m cable length as speed is degraded in length.

Passive Thunderbolt 3 cables, on the other hand, comes with an affordable price point but can only deliver a transfer rate of 20Gbps at a 2m cable length. Most of the cheap Thunderbolt 3 cables available in the market are passive cables and also lack build quality.

Bottom Line

Without a doubt, Thunderbolt 3 has brought a revolution in the market as it has allowed manufacturers to deliver high speed and better power delivery. Although not all manufacturers haven’t adopted this port in their devices, they are slowly following the trend started by Apple. Whether you use your computer for large data transfer, professional gaming or any other high-end work, Thunderbolt 3 cale fits right into every task.

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