what is thunderbolt 4 used for

What Is Thunderbolt 4 Used For

Thunderbolt 4 is a groundbreaking innovation as it redefines connectivity standards. Developed by Intel, it is a powerhouse of versatility and performance that caters to a wide range of needs.

In this article, we’ll go over the impressive capabilities of Thunderbolt 4. From high-speed data transfer to multi-display support, this article will guide you through everything Thunderbolt 4 has to offer, and why it’s a game-changer in modern computing.

What is Thunderbolt 4?

Thunderbolt 4 is the latest iteration of Intel’s connectivity standard, pushing the boundaries of what was previously possible with Thunderbolt technology. It’s not just an upgrade in speed or power; it’s a holistic enhancement that brings unparalleled efficiency to data transfer, power delivery, and video signal processing.

Thunderbolt 4 stands out with its ability to deliver power, data, and video signals over a single connection. This simplification and unification of various functions into one port spell a new era of convenience and efficiency in computing. Whether you’re a professional content creator, a hardcore gamer, or someone who enjoys a streamlined and productive workspace, Thunderbolt 4 is designed to meet and exceed your demands.

Key Features of Thunderbolt 4

Thunderbolt 4 stands at the forefront of connectivity solutions, offering an array of features that enhance the functionality of modern laptops and external devices. Here’s a closer look at its key features:

High Bandwidth

Thunderbolt 4 boasts a remarkable 40 Gbps bandwidth for both data and video. This high bandwidth capacity is ideal for high-performance devices, facilitating rapid data transfer and smooth video streaming. Whether you’re transferring large files or streaming high-definition content, Thunderbolt 4 ensures that speed is never a bottleneck.

Power Delivery and Charging

One of the standout features of Thunderbolt 4 is its support for quick charging. It can deliver up to 100W of power, which is sufficient to charge most laptops, and also provides up to 15W for powering connected accessories. This feature is particularly beneficial for users who want to minimize cable clutter and enjoy a single-cable solution for both power and connectivity.

Display Support

Thunderbolt 4 excels in display capabilities, supporting up to two 4K 60 Hz displays or a single 8K 60 Hz display from one connection. This feature is essential for content creators and professionals who require high-quality, multi-display setups for their workflows.

Daisy Chaining and Hub Support

Users can connect multiple Thunderbolt devices in a daisy chain, thereby enhancing the capability to connect various devices through a single port. Additionally, Thunderbolt 4 supports the use of hubs and docks, allowing for a consolidated connection of multiple devices, thereby creating a clean and efficient workspace.

External Graphics and Storage

With Thunderbolt 4, connecting external graphics cards and storage drives becomes seamless. The high bandwidth and direct memory access (DMA) support of Thunderbolt 4 make it possible to use external GPUs for enhanced gaming or creative work, and external drives for expanded storage without compromising on storage speeds or performance.

Enhanced Cable Flexibility

Thunderbolt 4 cables offer enhanced flexibility, with lengths of up to two meters, providing users with more options in setting up their workstations and gaming setups.

PC-to-PC Networking

This feature allows for setting up quick and secure file-sharing networks between Thunderbolt-enabled computers, facilitating faster data transfer than traditional networking methods.

Thunderbolt 4 vs Thunderbolt 3

When comparing Thunderbolt 4 to its predecessor, Thunderbolt 3, several key advancements become apparent:

  1. Consistent Bandwidth: Both Thunderbolt 4 and Thunderbolt 3 offer a maximum bandwidth of 40 Gbps. However, Thunderbolt 4 ensures consistent 40 Gbps across all devices and cables, whereas Thunderbolt 3’s performance could vary.
  2. Display and Data Transfer: Thunderbolt 4 can support up to two 4K displays or one 8K display, a significant upgrade over Thunderbolt 3, which could support only a single 4K display. This enhancement in display support makes Thunderbolt 4 more suitable for professionals requiring high-resolution, multi-display setups.
  3. Improved Power Delivery: Thunderbolt 4 provides better power delivery compared to Thunderbolt 3. With up to 100W charging capability, it can efficiently power more demanding laptops and accessories.
  4. Minimum Requirements for Certification: Thunderbolt 4 sets stricter minimum requirements for certification. Every Thunderbolt 4 device must support the full 40 Gbps bandwidth, PCIe data transfer, and charging capabilities, ensuring a uniform and reliable experience across all Thunderbolt 4 devices.
  5. Daisy Chaining and Accessory Support: Thunderbolt 4 enhances the daisy-chaining feature, allowing users to connect up to five Thunderbolt devices in a chain. This improvement, along with better dock and hub support, offers greater flexibility in connecting multiple devices.
  6. Security and Compatibility: Thunderbolt 4 comes with mandatory Intel VT-d-based direct memory access (DMA) protection, enhancing security against Thunderspy attack vulnerabilities found in some Thunderbolt 3 devices. Additionally, Thunderbolt 4 offers broader compatibility with a range of USB-C and Thunderbolt devices, making it more versatile.

The Difference Between Thunderbolt 4 and USB-C

Understanding the difference between Thunderbolt 4 and USB-C is crucial, as they share the same physical connector but differ significantly in capabilities:

  1. Bandwidth and Performance: While both Thunderbolt 4 and USB-C use the USB-C connector, Thunderbolt 4 offers a consistent 40 Gbps bandwidth. In contrast, USB-C’s performance varies depending on the standard (like USB 3.2 or USB4) and the capabilities of the connected devices.
  2. Power Delivery and Charging: Thunderbolt 4 supports up to 100W of power delivery for charging laptops and 15W for powering accessories. USB-C also supports power delivery, but the maximum power and efficiency can vary based on the specific USB standard and device capabilities.
  3. Display Output: Thunderbolt 4 can support up to two 4K displays or one 8K display on a single connection, a feat not achievable by all USB-C connections. The display output capability of USB-C depends on the specific USB standard and the device’s hardware.
  4. Data Transfer and External Device Support: Thunderbolt 4 guarantees high-speed data transfer and support for external graphics, storage, and PCIe enclosures. USB-C’s data transfer speeds and support for external devices are less consistent and depend on the specific USB standard and device compatibility.
  5. Cross-Compatibility: Despite these differences, Thunderbolt 4 and USB-C devices are cross-compatible. For instance, a USB 3.2 device can be connected to a Thunderbolt 4 port, but it will operate at USB 3.2 speeds and capabilities.
  6. Cable Length and Flexibility: Thunderbolt 4 cables offer more flexibility with lengths of up to two meters, maintaining high performance over longer distances compared to standard USB-C cables.

Uses of Thunderbolt 4

Thunderbolt 4’s advanced features make it a pivotal tool for various user groups, enhancing productivity and performance in numerous ways:

For Gamers

Gamers can leverage Thunderbolt 4 for connecting high-performance external graphics cards, enabling enhanced gaming experiences even on laptops that might not have the most powerful built-in GPUs. The ability to connect to external displays with high resolution and refresh rates further elevates the gaming experience.

For Content Creators

Content creators benefit greatly from Thunderbolt 4’s ability to support multiple high-resolution displays, essential for video editing, graphic design, and other creative work. The high bandwidth ensures quick transfer of large video and image files, streamlining the creative process.

For Professionals

In professional work environments, Thunderbolt 4’s daisy-chaining capability allows for a clean and efficient workspace. Connecting multiple devices like storage drives, monitors, and docks through a single port helps maintain an organized desk. The quick data transfer rates are also beneficial for tasks that involve large file sizes or require frequent data transfers.

External Drive Usage

With Thunderbolt 4, using an external drive doesn’t mean compromising on storage speeds. It enables fast read and write speeds, making it ideal for backup or additional storage without slowing down workflow.

Networking and File Sharing

The PC-to-PC networking feature of Thunderbolt 4 allows for setting up quick and secure networks for file sharing, especially beneficial for sharing large files between computers faster than traditional networking methods.

How to Identify Thunderbolt 4 Devices and Accessories

Identifying Thunderbolt 4-enabled devices and accessories is crucial to ensure you are harnessing the full potential of this advanced technology. Here are some tips to help you recognize a Thunderbolt 4 device:

  • Look for the Thunderbolt Logo: A Thunderbolt device or cable typically bears the Thunderbolt logo – a symbol resembling a lightning bolt. This logo is a quick identifier that differentiates Thunderbolt 4 from other USB-C-type connectors.
  • Check the Specifications: When purchasing a new device or accessory, carefully read the specifications. Manufacturers usually specify if a device has Thunderbolt ports. For laptops, this information can often be found in the product description or technical specifications section.
  • Cable Length and Quality: Thunderbolt 4 cables are known for their enhanced length and quality, supporting distances of up to two meters without loss of performance. High-quality build and certification markings can also indicate a genuine Thunderbolt 4 cable.
  • Operating System Compatibility: Thunderbolt 4 is compatible across various operating systems including Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS. Devices with these operating systems that advertise Thunderbolt 4 compatibility are likely to support the full range of Thunderbolt 4 features.
  • Manufacturer’s Website and Support: For additional verification, you can visit the manufacturer’s website or contact their customer support. Many manufacturers provide detailed information about the ports and types of connections supported by their devices.

Retail and Online Store Filters: When shopping online or in retail stores, use filters or search queries for “Thunderbolt 4” to find devices and accessories specifically designed for Thunderbolt 4 compatibility.

Back to blog