What Is Thunderbolt 3? Everything Explained In This Guide!

| Published On:
NeoGamr.net is supported by its audience. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More
What Is Thunderbolt 3 Port

Over the past couple of years, we have been seeing an increase in devices that are shipping with the now-famous Thunderbolt 3 port. This seemingly small port has raised a lot of questions as well, and well, has gone a lot of notoriety.

Don’t worry, there is nothing about the port; the opposite is the case, actually as it is one of the best inventions in the tech world

In case you are wondering what is Thunderbolt 3? I am here to help you sort that out. Don’t worry, while it might seem like an overwhelmingly difficult thing, Thunderbolt 3 is a lot simpler than one might think.

Still, we are going to look at it from every side, so you know that getting a Thunderbolt 3 device is one of the right things that you are going to do. It should not come as a difficult process, so you are in the right hands.


What Is Thunderbolt 3?


While it is really easy to explain what Thunderbolt 3 is; there is a slight confusion because a Thunderbolt 3 port looks exactly like the USB Type-C port and this makes everyone think that a USB Type-C port is the same as a Thunderbolt 3 port due to their physical similarities, but that is not the case.

Sure, a Thunderbolt 3 port is going to be able to do everything a USB Type-C port does but only better since it is much faster. For those wondering, Thunderbolt 3 is considered a superset of USB Type-C.

Image of a Black Thunderbolt 3 Port

This means that you can go ahead and plug a USB Type-C only device into a Thunderbolt 3 supported computer, and it will work just fine.

So, where is the magic?

Well, for starters, Thunderbolt 3 is going to let you transfer data at up to 40Gbps, which is insane and is twice as fast as the maximum throughput that is offered by some of the USB Type-C ports, and it is also four times faster than the original Thunderbolt interface that I do not get to see anymore.

However, it does not just end here. Sure, Thunderbolt 3 can help you transfer data to and from a compliant external hard drive quicker than a simple USB Type-C port. But it also brings a plethora of other cool techniques and capabilities that make it such a viable option.

For starters, you can connect external monitors as well as expansion docks through a Thunderbolt 3 port. For those wondering, a USB Type-C port that is compliant with the Thunderbolt 3 standard will be able to let you use a single cable to transmit large amounts of information.

Showing the io ports of iMac

Such as video data for two or more 60Hz 4K external monitors. Not just that, a Thunderbolt 3 can also handle 4K at 120Hz, which is an impressive and difficult resolution and refresh rate to achieve for normal cables.

There have been countless companies that have taken advantage of the Thunderbolt 3 interface a lot sooner than others. For starters, Apple has been using Thunderbolt 3 for some time, and these ports have become commonplace on all the late-model Mac desktops as well as laptops.

Video output capabilities vary from system to system, but some iMacs can support dual 6K Apple Pro Display XDR monitors that are connected via Thunderbolt 3 cables, so this alone is one of the most impressive things about this interface.

More and more Windows-based systems are shipping with Thunderbolt 3 port, and soon, I am finally going to see Thunderbolt 3 become the standard for all the modern computers available in the market.

More knowledgeful guides to help you understand other things are below:

What Is Screen Tearing & How Do You Fix It In 2021?
What is Mouse Acceleration? And How To Turn It Off?
How To Check RAM Speed In Windows 10? – (Step-By-Step Guide)
How To Fix Steam Content File Locked? (The Right Way)


Why Is Thunderbolt 3 Better?


I have seen this question pop up all the time, and to be honest, there is nothing wrong with this, in the first place. You see, the Thunderbolt 3 is a great offering for anyone who is looking for something different, and Thunderbolt 3 is a great port, to begin with.

Image of Thunderbolt 3 cable

It is not as difficult to implement as well, mainly because it is a superset of the USB Type- C. The good news is that if you are going to go ahead and get it started, you will have a lot easier time figuring this out.

Below, I have mentioned some reasons that make Thunderbolt 3 a better port than some of the other options.

  • Multiple Displays: One of the main reasons is that a Thunderbolt 3 port is going to allow you to connect multiple displays with ease. With a whopping bandwidth of 40Gbps, you can easily drive some of the highest-end monitors and displays with high refresh rates and resolution with ease. This should never be an issue for you, and you will be in safe hands when you go for it.
  • Offers High-End Networking: If you are looking for high-end networking with the help of Thunderbolt 3, it is entirely possible thanks to all that bandwidth that is available. I understand that this might not be for everyone, but the option is there in case you want to use it.
  • Super-Fast Storage: Another reason you can start picking up Thunderbolt 3 is that it offers super-fast storage. Now, the need for fast storage is something that has become a lot more common than it used to be, and more and more people are opting for it. If that is the case, using Thunderbolt 3 supported devices is the way to go because you will not be let down at all.

What Is Thunderbolt Technology?


It is very easy to mistake Thunderbolt as something that has only started to come out, but the truth is that the technology is a lot older than some might know.

For those wondering, the technology was developed by Intel in collaboration with Apple, this appeared first in the commercial scene back in 2011 when Apple announced that the new line of MacBook Pros will bring Thunderbolt.

showing the charging ports of the macbook

Thunderbolt 1 used the same connector shape as Mini DisplayPort but had a tiny thunderbolt symbol next to the port.

The first generation of Thunderbolt was still very impressive as it offered 10Gbps of data transfer speeds as well as video through the same port. Something USB 3.0 was not able to handle at that point.

However, thanks to the ever so increasing risk, it did not take long for the Thunderbolt 2 to hit the scene. This happened when USB 3.1 Gen 2 managed to catch up to the original Thunderbolt in terms of data transfer speeds.

But by then, Thunderbolt 2 was already introduced in Apple’s updated MacBook Pro in 2013. While it was still using the Mini DisplayPort as the connector, Thunderbolt 2 did bring double the speed, now running at 20Gbps.

This speed allowed for video streaming to a single 4K monitor or dual QHD monitors. Thunderbolt 2 was another big leap forward.

However, companies realized that the next version is going to need a connector that was more universal in terms of connectivity, and that is when the change happened.

In 2014, we finally saw the debut of the USB Type-C, a revolutionary designed that worked on the same principle as Apple’s Lightning connector. Ever since then, the USB Type-C connector is becoming the commonly used option for almost every device.

Image of a laptop io ports

However, it was not up until 2015 when the game-changing Thunderbolt 3 hit the market. The reason why I am calling it a game-changer is that it did what no one ever thought would be able to. It was more or less a single cable to rule them all.

Thunderbolt 3 cables were based on USB Type-C, and a single Thunderbolt 3 cable was able to transfer data at an insane speed of 40GBps. This means you could use a single Thunderbolt 3 connection to power almost every device and still have some legroom for stretching.

To put things in perspective, a Thunderbolt 3 port can transfer data 8 times faster than a USB 3.0 and deliver 4 times more pixels than the HDMI 1.4. Thunderbolt 3 can transfer a 4K movie in less than 30 seconds, connect two 4K displays with nearly 16 million more pixels than HDTV.

It can even provide 85-watt power to charge your devices, and all of this at the same time. This is what makes Thunderbolt 3 such an impressive offering for everyone, and this is why manufacturers are going after it.


Can I Connect USB Devices To A Thunderbolt 3 port?


For those wondering, the Thunderbolt 3 can easily handle all the USB device that is connected to it.

This is all thanks to the fact that Thunderbolt 3 is shaped just like a USB Type-C, so if you do have a USB device that uses the same port, you can go ahead and connect it.

What most people do is that they use an expansion hub connected to the Thunderbolt 3 port, and that allows them to have countless USB ports of all sizes and standards.

Which is an excellent way of increasing the number of ports you have because a lot of the times, people just overlook that.


Is Thunderbolt 3 Backwards Compatible With Thunderbolt And Thunderbolt 2?


Yes, for those who are looking forward to using the older Thunderbolt devices with the latest Thunderbolt 3, this can be possible. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

For starters, you might need a converter or something like that because of the Mini DisplayPort interface on the older generation.

Another thing to know here is that the Thunderbolt 2 and the original one are going to be limited to their speeds. Therefore, if you are connecting them, you will be limited to 20Gbps or 10Gbps, respectively.

This is not entirely a bad thing, but I believe it is valid to let the users know about these limitations.


What Are The Video Formats Supported By Thunderbolt 3?


This question gets asked all the time, and people are curious to know about the video formats that are supported by Thunderbolt 3.

Well, Thunderbolt 3 is based on DisplayPort 1.2 specifications and can support up to 2 streams (eight lanes) of DisplayPort 1.2 video bandwidth.

This means a single cable can now provide four times the data and twice the video bandwidth of any other cable while also supporting up to 100-watts of power.

One 4K display, 30-bit at 120Hz, One 5K display, 30-bit at 60Hz. Two 4K displays, 30-bit at 60Hz, can all be supported by Thunderbolt 3, and this is one of the most impressive achievements.


Why are More Laptops Using Thunderbolt?


While Apple could be considered as the original company that brought Thunderbolt to the laptop market.

Over the past couple of years, more and more laptop companies have been introducing laptops that have support for Thunderbolt.

Most recently, I can name all the modern ultra-books that have full support for the Thunderbolt 3 interface, and the best part is that running this technology is not that difficult either as you can easily manage things.

Before you buy a laptop, just check for support to have a proper idea.


Final Verdict:

While it is not new at all, a lot of companies are still catching up as far as implementing Thunderbolt 3 ports in their devices is concerned. But I have reason to believe that it is not going to take a long time before Thunderbolt 3 becomes a standard.

We are already aware of the fact that Thunderbolt 4 is just around the corner, so I am looking forward to seeing the generational leap that it brings. But for now, if you do have Thunderbolt 3 on your laptop or your computer, you should be sure to use it to its max potential.


Frequently Asked Questions

#1 – Is Thunderbolt 3 the same as USB-C?

From the physical dimensions and looks, a Thunderbolt 3 looks the same as a USB Type-C. However, in terms of technical specifications, the Thunderbolt 3 is a lot faster and serves as a superset to the USB Type-C port, allowing for better and easier connection options.

#2 – What is a Thunderbolt 3 port used for?

A Thunderbolt 3 port might look like something that is simple and small, but in reality, it is a lot more powerful than one might think and can be used for countless applications ranging from connecting expansion docks, displays, chargers, and more. It is small, simple, and efficient.

#3 – Why do I need Thunderbolt 3?

Honestly, all the modern, high-end laptops ship with a Thunderbolt 3 port, and over the past couple of years, it has become a port that is extremely useful and works well, too. You cannot go wrong with this port at all and definitely should have it on your laptop.

#4 – Do I need Thunderbolt 3 on my laptop?

While it is not an absolute necessity, having a Thunderbolt 3 port on your laptop can give your laptop superpowers. I am not kidding, you can connect anything from external displays to even external GPU docks with ease, and you will not have any problems at all.

#5 – Is USB 3.2 the same as Thunderbolt 3?

This is something that has been causing some commotion in the tech world. Technically, they might look like they are the same, but in reality, Thunderbolt 3 is a lot more superior as it can deliver a lot more features than a USB 3.2, making it a more viable option.

#6 – Can I plug a USB into a Thunderbolt 3 port?

Yes, considering how a Thunderbolt 3 port is a superset of USB Type-C, all USB Type-C devices or other devices with a converter can be plugged into the Thunderbolt 3 port. There will be limitations, of course. But overall, you will be able to use your Thunderbolt 3 device for a lot of reasons.

#7 – Can I add Thunderbolt 3 to my PC?

Most modern motherboards do ship with Thunderbolt 3 ports on the back, so you do have access to them on your PC, but adding an expansion card with the Thunderbolt 3 port on the back is not something that has been made possible, at least yet.

#8 – Can Thunderbolt 3 replace HDMI?

Thunderbolt 3 has already replaced HDMI. However, it is important to know that HDMI 2.1 is capable of transferring more data than Thunderbolt 3 but does not have the same range of uses as Thunderbolt 3 at the moment.

#9 – What does a Thunderbolt 3 port look like?

A Thunderbolt 3 port looks exactly like your standard USB Type-C port. However, it normally has a thunderbolt icon next to the port to make it easier.

#10 – What is the Thunderbolt connection?

Thunderbolt 3 connection, to be specific, is the superset of the USB Type-C. It is a standard that enables faster data transfers and a host of other features.

Your Author



Leave a Comment