Thunderbolt 3, what it is and why it is revolutionary

Thunderbolt 3, what it is and why it is revolutionary


With the advent of 4k monitors and TVs, and with the arrival of increasingly faster SSD drives on the market, the need to use high-performance connection interfaces, capable of delivering content in a satisfactory way, will be increasingly felt. The notebooks, on the other hand, become increasingly compact and light, often sacrificing the connectivity aspect.

Today available ports and cables do not allow you to keep abreast of the ever increasing demand for bandwidth.


Thunderbolt 3 Changes Everything and revolutionizes the scenario. The interface now uses-in its third version-the new USB Type C Connector thus allowing the connection of all kinds of devices.


Thunderbolt was designed in 2011 by Intel in conjunction with Apple. At the time, the USB 3.0 interface was capable of transferring data up to 5 Gbps (or 640 MB/s) while the first Thunderbolt generation had a dual bandwidth (10 Gbps).

Thunderbolt, then, unlike USB, allows you to transfer multiple types of data: it is not limited, therefore, only to a serial transmission of data to storage media and hardware devices but allows you to transfer video signals to monitor and display in general.


The Thunderbolt interface allows, furthermore, to activate a daisy link: This means that you can connect, for example, a data storage unit to your computer and then connect a display to it. Each device will work in the expected way.


Originally designed to extend the possibilities of USB 3.0, Thunderbolt used a mini DisplayPort connector that Apple immediately inserted into its MacBook Pro in 2011.

Also due to production costs, the use of the Thunderbolt connector was always a “niche” choice and few systems were to embrace it.


What is the USB Type-C connector?


USB Type-C is the new connector designed to replace the ubiquitous Micro usb that is found, for example, on every Android smartphone as well as in many other devices.

The goal, over time, is also to replace the popular USB connector Type-A, by all known as the USB connector par excellence.


The USB Type-C connector is compact and small but the main prerogative is that it is now reversible: there is no longer a “verso” for the insertion of the USB cable.

In addition, USB type-C can possibly power the connected devices by transferring more energy: it switches from 2.5 W of USB 2.0 and from 4.5 W of USB 3.0 to 7.5 and 15 W of USB Type-C. However, these values are “default”: Where necessary, in fact, USB Type-C can transfer up to 100 W allowing to power and recharge even the notebooks.


In the article recognizing USB ports, USB Type-A and type-C we have highlighted all the major differences between USB Type-C and predecessors.


With USB Type-C smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can recharge very quickly and the same cable that you use to power a notebook may be used to connect many devices.

Theoretically, you can recharge your smartphone by connecting it to a tablet, notebook or other mobile device: So, you can reboot your device immediately if the battery autonomy is not sufficient for its ignition.


Thunderbolt 3 plus USB Type-C connector: The dawn of a new era


Instead of the initially selected mini DisplayPort connector, Thunderbolt 3 uses USB Type-C. It is an epochal choice and certainly apt for several reasons:


USB C vs Thunderbolt 3“Si release” from the niche sector which was initially linked. Apple is the only company that has really supported the Thunderbolt interface. Thanks to the use of the USB Type-C connector, however, things are now destined to change.


Thunderbolt started today to show itself in multiple laptops and ultrabooks; As a result, a strong increase in the products that support it implies an increase in compatible devices.


-a more widespread spread of Thunderbolt 3 is also good news for USB Type-C. The USB Type-C cables, at the end, allow you to transfer more energy and are equipped with a reversible connector. Thanks to Thunderbolt, however, their potential widens enormously.


It must be said that not all USB Type-C ports are Thunderbolt 3 compatible: Hardware that does not use Intel Skylake processors does not have Thunderbolt controllers (most mobile devices do not use Intel technology).

If you connect a USB Type-C device to a Thunderbolt 3 port, it will work but cannot use the Thunderbolt interface’s own features.

Similarly, a Thunderbolt 3 device connected to a USB Type-C Port will work but will not take advantage of Thunderbolt features.


Support for Thunderbolt 3 was included in the Intel Skylake chipsets that saw the light in the last part of 2015.


Thunderbolt 3 Features


Thunderbolt 3 allows you to perform an infinity of operations with a single cable: Extremely versatile, the interface allows the connection of displays, storage units and much more.


Since Thunderbolt 3 supports the latest DisplayPort specifications, you can use a single cable to handle two 4k displays at 60 Hz (4k monitors are dual-resolution compared to 1080p “Full HD”).

Unless you use the daisy connection, the cables must then be separated to reach the two monitors, but only one Thunderbolt cable is connected to the computer.


The Thunderbolt 3 interface is then unbeatable because of data transfer speeds. You can even evaluate the purchase of a case outside the computer (like this; not yet available on Amazon Italy) that accommodates two hard drives or SSDs and allows you to activate a RAID configuration (avoid data loss: How to configure RAID).


With the Thunderbolt 3 connection, data transfer rates of up to 785 MB/s can be achieved by simultaneously sending streaming content to the connected 4k monitors.

If you want to concentrate on storage needs, you can obtain data transfers up to 5 GB/s; Performance 8 times better than USB 3.0 and 4 times compared to USB 3.1.

The bottleneck may at this point reside in the performance of the disk drives and not in the cable and in the interface itself.


Improve the performance of your PC’s graphics card with an external box


Products like Razer Core (see the most powerful video card you connect via cable: Razer box) Well highlight the possibilities offered by Thunderbolt 3.


The Razer Core is a eGFX box i.e. an external device that extends the capabilities in terms of the graphical processing of the system in use. The connection is via Thunderbolt 3 interface: A compact and lightweight notebook can instantly turn into a powerful 3d rendering machine and video game.

Although the band offered by Thunderbolt 3 is not even remotely comparable with the PCIe interface, devices such as Razer Core can dramatically increase performance, for example, of any notebook.