What is Thunderbolt 4? Complete Guide to Thunderbolt 4

Intel announced Thunderbolt 4 at CES 2020, the next version of Thunderbolt 3 protocol. Thunderbolt 4 still uses the USB type C form factor, and it is compatible with older versions of Thunderbolt. But it does a bunch more: It can carry a video signal using the DisplayPort protocol, charge connected devices, and allow for data transfers at speeds beyond what simple USB can manage.

Thunderbolt 4 ports have been designed to make connecting devices easier, keeping your desk space neat and manageable, freeing up ports for wider availability, and allowing you to connect all the devices you want without complications. Before we get into the specifics of the new Thunderbolt 4, let’s first back up and explain what Thunderbolt is and does.

What is thunderbolt?

Thunderbolt is a connectivity protocol created by Intel from 2011 that supports fast data transfer, high-resolution video and charging, all at the same time. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 used a Mini DisplayPort connector before moving on to a USB-C connector with Thunderbolt 3/4. Over the years, Thunderbolt has evolved.

Thunderbolt 1 port first showed up on a MacBook Pro in 2011. The physical form of the port was a mini DisplayPort connector with a little lightning-strike icon next to it. Using the same physical port, Thunderbolt 2 doubled the bandwidth to 20Gbps and added DisplayPort 1.2 support, giving the interface the ability to drive a video signal to a 4K display.

Thunderbolt 3 doubled the data rate—again—to 40Gbps. Another big change: Thunderbolt 3 no longer used the mini DisplayPort connector as its physical interface, dropping it in favor of the USB Type-C port, At the same time, it also has more powerful functions of USB C.

Version Release date Speed Connector
Thunderbolt 1 2010 10Gbps mini DisplayPort
Thunderbolt 2 2013 20Gbps mini DisplayPort
Thunderbolt 3 2015 40Gbps USB Type-C
Thunderbolt 4 2020 40Gbps USB Type-C

Thunderbolt and USB-C look the same because both have the same reversible port, but they are different. Thunderbolt ports technically are backward-compatible with USB-C devices. However, not all USB-C ports support Thunderbolt technology.

What is Thunderbolt 4?

Thunderbolt 4 isn’t a speed play; it is more about minimum requirements than maximum speeds. Here’s what you need to know about Intel’s Thunderbolt 4.

Thunderbolt 4 is compatible with plenty of connections including DisplayPort, PCle and USB 4. Better yet, it is backward compatible with previous versions of Thunderbolt. It’s the one cable connection to rule them all.

When it comes to speed, Thunderbolt 4 ports have a 40Gbps bidirectional bandwidth. You’ll find that Thunderbolt 3 delivers the same speeds, which allows data to be moved to and from external drives at high speeds and up to five Thunderbolt devices to be connected. However, Thunderbolt 4 stands out by increasing Thunderbolt 3’s minimum PCIe data requirements from 16Gbps to 32Gbps. What does this mean? More room for higher transfer rates and better performance.

As an additional perk, Thunderbolt 4 allows a laptop to be brought out of hibernation with peripherals, such as a mouse or keyboard, that are connected through a docking station. It’s hardly a game-changer, but it’s the little things that make using a laptop all the more efficient.

Last and certainly not least, especially for laptop enthusiasts, Thunderbolt 4 is capable of charging various devices. This includes smartphones and lightweight laptops that require less than 100W of power, meaning owners won’t need a separate power supply to juice up their device.

Thunderbolt ports on Mac

The Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port is available on some newer Intel-based Mac computers. Mac computers with Apple silicon have either the Thunderbolt / USB 4 port or the Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) port , depending on the model. The ports allow data transfer, video output and charging through the same cable.

You can use the Thunderbolt port on your Mac to connect a display, a TV or a device, such as an external storage device. And with the appropriate adapter, you can connect your Mac to a display that uses DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI or VGA.

Thunderbolt 4 vs. Thunderbolt 3: What’s the Difference?

Thunderbolt 4 doesn’t offer any headline-grabbing improvements over Thunderbolt 3. On the surface, the two protocols appear very similar. Both use the USB Type-C physical connector. Both offer a maximum throughput of 40Gbps. Both offer at least 15 watts and up to 100 watts of charging power. And both offer support for that 10Gbps networking.

Underneath the surface, however, Thunderbolt 4 has a number of significant advantages.

The minimum video and data requirements

For starters, it doubles the minimum video and data requirements of Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt 4 will support sending a video signal to two 4K displays, or to one 8K display, where Thunderbolt 3 is required to support only a single 4K display. And where Thunderbolt 3 systems have to support only a 16Gbps data rate via PCI Express, Thunderbolt 4 will double that requirement to 32Gbps. That added bandwidth will certainly be put to good use by anyone who regularly transfers gigantic files of high-resolution video and other large data sets from storage drives to their PC for editing.

External Upgrades

Thunderbolt 4 will also lead to more capable external Upgrades. You’ll see Thunderbolt 4 docks and monitors with four Thunderbolt 4 ports, double the two ports, at most, you’ll find on Thunderbolt 3 devices. New thin-and-light laptops that need less than 100 watts to charge will be required to offer USB Type-C charging on at least one of their Thunderbolt 4 ports. And when a Thunderbolt 4 laptop is connected to a Thunderbolt 4 dock, it must be able to wake from sleep from a connected keyboard or mouse. Thunderbolt 4 cables will also support 40Gbps throughput at up to two meters in length, up from the 0.5-meter maximum of a passive Thunderbolt 3 cable.


One last advantage that Thunderbolt 4 offers over Thunderbolt 3 is better security against Thunderspy attacks, which may seem peculiar to the general PC user. VT-d based DMA protection helps prevent security threats by remapping requests from external devices and checking for proper permissions.

Thunderbolt 4 vs. USB4: The Key Differences

Thunderbolt and USB-4 are a communication standard, or protocol, that provides a set of features for a computer to interact with devices through that USB-C connection.

Now, in practical fact, it’s easy to confuse Thunderbolt 4 and USB4. They both use the USB Type-C connector. They both offer a maximum bandwidth of 40Gbps. They are both getting introduced with Intel’s new 11th Generation “Tiger Lake” Core processors. And Thunderbolt 4 supports USB4, meaning you can connect a USB device to your laptop’s Thunderbolt port. Thunderbolt 4 is also backward compatible with Thunderbolt 3. In both instances, however, the connection will default to the slower speeds of USB4 or Thunderbolt 3.

Thunderbolt 4 is basically a guarantee that you are getting the best version of USB4. While USB4 offers the same 40Gbps speed as Thunderbolt 4, there is also a slower 20Gbps version of USB4. Thunderbolt 4 also guarantees you can run a pair of 4K displays at minimum and transfer data at up to 32Gbps. With USB4, you are guaranteed only the minimums of running a single display and a 16Gbps data rate. A USB4 hub also lacks the mandatory charging and wake-from-sleep requirements of Thunderbolt 4, as well as 10Gbps networking.

  Minimum Speed Maximum Speed Minimum Video Requirements Minimum Data Requirements
Thunderbolt 4 40Gbps 40Gbps Two 4K displays @ 60Hz 32Gbps
USB4 20Gbps 40Gbps One display @ 60Hz 16Gbps

USB4 does have one advantage over Thunderbolt 4: logos that are more informative. With USB4, you should see “USB 20Gbps” and “USB 40Gbps” logos next to USB Type-C ports that will tell which flavor of USB4 you are dealing with. A Thunderbolt logo is a Thunderbolt logo is a lightning bolt, with no way to tell just by glancing at the side of your laptop or your desktop PC’s I/O panel whether a port is version 1, 2, 3, or 4 of Thunderbolt.

Is USB 4 compatible with Thunderbolt 4?

Yes. Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 products will use the same underlying protocol specification. This means all USB 4 devices will be compatible with Thunderbolt 4 as well as Thunderbolt 3 devices. Keep in mind that not all USB 4 devices will also work with Thunderbolt 4 or Thunderbolt 3 devices.

Can I plug a USB-C cable into a Thunderbolt 4 port?

Yes, Thunderbolt 4 ports will accept any cable with a USB-C connector. However, to get the benefit of Thunderbolt performance, you need to connect one Thunderbolt device to another. A Thunderbolt port will negotiate data rate, power and video capabilities with the connected device and “fallback” to the USB protocol if the device is not Thunderbolt-enabled.

Durable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 cables Wholesale

If someone wants to wholesale Thunderbolt cables they might as well buy a universal Thunderbolt 4 cable since it is backwards compatible with everything, and they have the benefit of future-proofing their cable.

As a leading and professional manufacturer of USB cables, ByteCable has been working hard to develop new technologies. We wholesale high-quality Thunderbolt and USB cables.

USB 4.0 Type C Cable Bulk (50/80/100cm)

USB 4.0 Type C Cable Bulk (50/80/100cm)

USB 4.0 Coaxial Cable Features:

  • Long or short Thunderbolt 4 cable in stock: 50/80/100cm.
  • USB C port is integrated tensile design, and pins are made of copper-
  • plated 15um, which has reached the highest standard in the industry.
  • Built in smart CPS CPS8821B chip.
  • Coaxial data cable, more stable output video, audio or data transmission.
  • Support customization, such as length(2M), braided or connector materials.
  • Materials are certified by ROHS and Reach.

Thunderbolt 3 USB C Cable (30/60/90/120cm)

Thunderbolt 3 USB C Cable (30/60/90/120cm)

Ultra High Quality Thunderbolt 3 USB C to C Cable

  • USB C port is integrated tensile design, and pins are made of copper-plated 15um, which has reached the highest standard in the industry.
  • Upgraded 3D aluminum connector.
  • Built in smart Cypress CYPD2704 chip.
  • Coaxial data cable, more stable output video, audio or data transmission.
  • Support customization, such as length(2M), braided or connector materials.
  • Materials are certified by ROHS and Reach.

[Intel Certified] Thunderbolt 4 USB C Coaxial Cable (80/100/120cm)

[Intel Certified] Thunderbolt 4 USB C Coaxial Cable (80/100/120cm)

Thunderbolt 4 USB C Coaxial Cable:

  • Long or short Thunderbolt 4 cable in stock: 80/100/120cm.
  • USB C port is integrated tensile design, and pins are made of copper-plated 15um, which has reached the highest standard in the industry.
  • Upgraded 3D aluminum connector.
  • Built in smart Etron EJ903W chip.
  • Intel Thunderbolt™4 certification.
  • Coaxial data cable, more stable output video, audio or data transmission.
  • Support customization, such as length(2M), braided or connector materials.
  • Materials are certified by ROHS and Reach.

For more information, please feel free to contact us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *