Thunderbolt 3: What it Can Do for Your Next Computer

Thunderbolt 3 connects many different peripherals in one port

Thunderbolt 3 connections | Source:

Let’s face it: Computer shopping is complicated. If you’re being hasty or not paying careful attention to the little details, it’s easy to make one of the many common PC shopping mistakes. While you’re busy looking at what kind of hardware is inside the computer, like a high-power Intel processor or a whopping 64GB of RAM, it can be easy to forget about things that won’t be in the computer, and particularly the ports that connect those things to your computer. Today, we’re going to look at one port you’re probably going to hear about more and more, and one you should be thoroughly excited about: Thunderbolt 3.

Thunderbolt 3 is everything at once

A hub for Thunderbolt 3

Thunderbolt 3 hub | Source: Plugable

Because a single USB-C port using Thunderbolt 3 will be able to interface with multiple peripheral types at once and supply power, it’s going to allow computers — particularly laptops, ultrabooks, and the like — to get a lot smaller without sacrificing the ability to pair up with peripheral devices and accessories. Before, if you had a laptop with one USB port, you were going to be in a bind over how to use it. Unless you bought a hub, you’d have to swap your mouse out to plug in a thumb drive, and then pop that out to plug in a Wi-Fi dongle or whatever else you might need. If you did use a hub to turn that USB port into more, you could find yourself quickly met with bandwidth limitations. Even then, you’d still need other ports for any external display, your power, and Ethernet.

Now, Thunderbolt 3 isn’t exactly about to solve the issue of one port being just one port, but is going to help you forget about some of the problems. A single Thunderbolt 3 cable running from the computer out to a hub can bring in power, transfer data, transmit video, and maintain a high-speed Ethernet connection. That a bunch of space in your computer that can be trimmed or put toward extra battery, and a bunch of cables running out of your computer that are now consolidated.

Fast with a capital ‘F’

Thunderbolt 3 speeds compared to USB and others

Thunderbolt 3 speed comparison | Source:

Transfer speeds over Thunderbolt 3 can hit as high as 40Gbps. That enough to transfer a 4K movie in a minute. That bandwidth can be used to run two 4K displays (both at 60Hz). That’s offering a lot more than USB 3.1 or standard USB-C. If you have previous experience with Thunderbolt, the new format is twice the speed of Thunderbolt 2, and quadruple the speed of the original Thunderbolt. It’s eight times faster than USB 3.0, and about 80 times faster than the USB 2.0 ports you can still find on a lot of computers today (albeit hopefully for the purpose of a mouse, keyboard, or other low-bandwidth peripheral).

When it comes to computers, speed is great. Whether we know it or not, we want speed from our computers. That’s all plain and simple, but what’s particularly exciting about Thunderbolt 3 is what doors its high speeds open up.

Making more possible outside your computer

Gamers and video editors (and anyone that needs high-end graphics), this one’s for you. Because of the high speeds of Thunderbolt 3, and in part thanks to official support from manufacturers, it’s now possible to run PCIe devices externally, as Thunderbolt 3 is able to handle PCIe 3.0 x4. Long story short, that means you can run a full desktop graphics card externally.

The Razer Core enclosure for Thunderbolt 3

Razer Core external GPU enclosure | Source: Razerzone

Laptops have often been second fiddle when it came to needing a high-performance workstation or gaming rig. High-end laptops invariable come with a sky-high price tag and more of than not a lack of ability to upgrade components, leading to a short lifespan. Being able to run as essential a component as a graphics card external to a laptop will make them far more viable as gaming machines and graphical workstations.

With manufacturer support, a laptop with Thunderbolt 3 will be able to connect to an external GPU enclosure, like the Razer Core, and from there the rendered video can be sent back into the laptop display our out to an external monitor. This means you’ve got your laptop for when you want to get up and go, and when you’re back home you can dock it for a full-powered experience. (And if you’re worried that PCIe 3.0 x4 will bottleneck a high-end graphics card, don’t worry, as TechPowerUp has found the performance dip is negligible in most cases.)

It’s also just easy

the icing on the cake (or cake under the icing, depending on your preference) is just the simplicity of Thunderbolt 3 working with a USB-C jack. This jack is reversible, so you never have to worry about plugging in a cord upside-down. Great. It’s also a standard, so if you want to plug in a non-Thunderbolt USB-C device, that’s going to work just fine. And because it’s such a versatile port, a simple adapter will be all you need in most cases to plug in an earlier USB device, DisplayPort, HDMI, and more.

If you’re looking for versatility and performance from a new computer and its peripherals, Thunderbolt 3 should be high on your list of priorities.

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