Thunderbolt 4 vs. Thunderbolt 3 vs. USB4 vs. USB 3: All the differences detailed

Suppose you’re buying around for a brand new laptop computer or some wired equipment. In that case, you have, in all probability, encountered a complete bunch of various names for what appears to be the identical factor. With Thunderbolt 4 slowly changing Thunderbolt Three and USB4 coming into fashion as the following large USB specification, the phrases are crowding collectively right into a little bit of a tangled mess. We break down how all these different applied sciences and specs evaluate one another to get what you want.

Thunderbolt Four is taking up for Thunderbolt 3

Thunderbolt is a form of its factor, know-how developed by Intel with assistance from Apple. It is more of a model title than a specification, and Intel has been pushing it ahead with Ultrabooks since 2011. Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C kind issue and consists of nearly every little thing you want in a single cable, together with USB 3.1, DisplayPort 1.2, and PCIe. That is why it may be used to attach screens, equipment, exterior storage, and a complete lot of different gadgets.

Thunderbolt Four is taking up for Thunderbolt 3. It consists of help for the brand new USB4 specification, DisplayPort 1.2, and PCIe. Thunderbolt Four can be appropriate with nearly everything else, together with all Thunderbolt variations (with the correct adapter for Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2) and USB.

The successor nonetheless depends on the versatile USB-C kind, and it nevertheless has a 40Gbps bandwidth. Regardless, a lot of its capabilities and minimal efficiency ranges have been improved over Thunderbolt 3.

Thunderbolt 4 Comparison

Minimal video help has been upped, with Thunderbolt Four now boasting no less than help for 2 4K shows at 60Hz or one 8K show at 30Hz. Thunderbolt Three can deal with twin 4K shows with the suitable setup; however, it solely must deal with not less than a single 4K show to be referred to as Thunderbolt 3.

Thunderbolt Four takes issues to the following degree with a brand new set of minimal efficiency necessities for video help, PCIe bandwidth, and extra.

Additionally, there’s double the quantity of PCIe bandwidth required, bumping Thunderbolt Four as much as 32Gbps from Thunderbolt 3’s 16Gbps. If you typically use detachable storage — like one thing from our best external hard drive assortment — it is best to see theoretical switch speeds as much as about 3,000MB/s with Thunderbolt 4. This additional bandwidth may even assist anybody who uses an external GPU to show their Ultrabook right into a gaming machine.

The best Thunderbolt 4 docking stations add help for as many as three downstream Thunderbolt Four ports. It provides Direct Reminiscence Entry (DMA) safety through Intel’s Virtualization Know-how for Directed I/O (VT-d) to assist cope with threats. You can pull your PC out of hibernation simply by touching the equipment when you have a desktop setup. Thunderbolt Four may even work with cables that measure as much as two meters, with more extended help anticipated sooner or later. And laptops under the 100W charging mark might want to embody not less than one portable to charge.

The underside line right here is that laptops with Thunderbolt Four can assure higher port efficiency. Thunderbolt Three remains a remarkable difference and might do a complete lot; however, shopping for Thunderbolt Four is the way to go if you need the best choice heading into the longer term.

USB4 is the following high-performance USB normal

USB4 replacest to the Common Serial Bus (USB) normal, as named by the USB Implementers Discussion board (USB-IF). Earlier USB variations have been on a wild naming journey, with USB 3.1 Gen 1 turning into USB 3.2 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 turning into USB 3.2 Gen 2. Additionally, a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 ordinary launched extra not too long ago with speeds as much as 20Gbps. In any other case, you have been taking a look at 5Gbps and 10Gbps, respectively, for the primary two requirements.

See how complicated that is? At the least, the USB-IF was variety sufficient to add extra digestible names. SuperSpeed USB is USB 3.2 Gen 1, SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps is USB 3.2 Gen 2, and SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps is USB 3.2 Gen 2×2. And now comes USB4, which is backward appropriate down to USB 2.0.

USB4 is constructed on the spine of Thunderbolt 3, giving it lots of similar capabilities.

USB4 was made partly attainable by Intel, basically giving up its Thunderbolt Three rights for use without all of the licensing. USB4 is constructed on a Thunderbolt Three spine, so a lot of its capabilities are identical. Whereas USB 3.0’s most acceptable model hit a ceiling of 20Gbps, USB4 can 40Gbps, similar to Thunderbolt 3 (and 4). And while you can nonetheless discover each USB-A and USB-C kind for USB 3.0, USB4 goes strictly with the USB-C kind issue.

Earlier USB variations cut up bandwidth between all linked gadgets and relied on cut-up lanes for information and video with no crossover. With USB4, the streets will be shared for no matter goal, permitting you the potential to hit the bandwidth ceiling with, say, the best laptop docking stations. USB4 will enable twin 4K shows or a single 5K show, in addition to as much as 100W of charging energy. Similar to Thunderbolt 3.

The primary takeaway right here is that USB4 needs to unify ports throughout gadgets. It is about time every little thing switches to USB-C, with high-performance capabilities on par with Thunderbolt 3.

How is Thunderbolt Four different from USB4?

USB4 branding

There may be one other factor to think about. USB4 has four different variations, although the two we’ll primarily see are USB4 Gen 2×2 and USB4 Gen 2×3. The model names, respectively, are USB4 20Gbps and USB4 40Gbps. In contrast to Thunderbolt Three and 4, which assure a certain degree of efficiency, you will have to pay shut consideration to which model of USB4 you are getting.

USB4 solely must hit 20Gbps, and there is not any minimal show decision help required. Knowledge should solely beat not less than 10Gbps through USB 3.2, whereas with Thunderbolt Four, you are assured the 10Gbps through USB 3.2 and 32Gbps PCIe efficiency. Port energy necessities drop down to a minimal of seven.5W for USB4, while you’re assured 15W with Thunderbolt 4. And you do not get the additional Thunderbolt goodies and ensures with USB4.

Thunderbolt Four and USB4 are appropriate; however, solely Thunderbolt Four ensures this sure efficiency ranges that energy customers want. USB4 is advantageous in licensing rights. Intel must get cash if you wish to use Thunderbolt 4, whereas USB4 is usually accessible for anybody to make use of.


There’s so much to unpack right here because the port panorama continues to evolve. Are you going straight for Thunderbolt Four, or will you stick it out with USB4 or Thunderbolt 3? Tell us within the feedback part.

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