How To Tell The Different Between Thunderbolt 3 Port And USB Type-C Port

How To Tell The Different Between Thunderbolt 3 Port And USB Type-C Port

Current or lets say the most recent laptops or desktops often come loaded with a port that accepts a reversible plug (though phones this days also come loaded with that) and supports very fast transfer speeds. Question is, do you know what I'm talking about? If you guessed the Thunderbolt 3, you are very right, and if you guessed the USB-C port, you’re probably right, and therein lies the ultimate problem.

Both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C aka USB 3.1 aka USB Type-C data transfer protocols use the same connector, but their potential uses vary greatly. It can however be difficult to understand the differences between the two ports and whether your laptop is loaded with one or the other.

Now, there has been a lot of debate in the tech world, especially for those who finds it difficult to understand the difference between thunderbolt technology and usb type-c technology and on majority of the occasions, they confuse the two technologies to be the same thing.

Once you understand the difference, however, it’s easy to figure out which port is which and how to use them.

Today, I'm going to simplify the difference between the two technology as well as tell you how to easily identify which is which. If you knew anything at all about the two technology, you would already know that they have the same port and looks exactly identical.


First thing first. What is Thunderbolt 3?

Thunderbolt 3 is an Intel's new technology that delivers traditional data and video (4K) faster than traditional usb cord or usb type-c cord. According to Navin Shenoy, vice president in Client Computing Group and general manager of Mobility Client Platforms at Intel Corporation: Thunderbolt can deliver two 4K displays, fast data, and quick notebook charging.

It also fulfills the promise of USB-C for single-cable docking and so much more. Intel's Thunderbolt technology has been around for quite sometime (since 2015) and they have developed from thunderbolt, to thunderbolt 2 and now to thunderbolt 3.

What does this really mean to consumers or end-users? It means at 40Gbps, it is the fastest connection to your computer. You can transfer a 4K movie in less than 30 seconds. Yes you heard me right. IN JUST 30 SECONDS.

Thunderbolt 3 Features

1. Can Transfer data upto 40Gbps (40 gigabite per second). Double the speed of previous version (Thunderbolt 2 which can only transfer upto 20Gbps).

2. With Thunderbolt technology, a single cable now provides four times the data and twice the video bandwidth of any other cable, while supplying power. It’s unrivaled for new uses, such as 4K video, single-cable docks with charging, external graphics, and built-in 10 GbE networking. Simply put, Thunderbolt 3 is USB Type-C in steroids.

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3. You can connect two 4K displays with nearly 16 million more pixels than a FHD or HDTV.

4. Best Single-Cable Docking - one compact port provides Thunderbolt 3 data transfer, support for two 4K 60Hz displays, and quick notebook charging up to 100W with a single cable. It’s the most advanced and versatile USB-C docking solution available.

5. This is mostly good news for gamers - you can now connect plug ‘n’ play external graphics to a notebook to enjoy the latest games at recommended or higher resolution settings.

6. And so much more.



Consequently, I don't want to go into USB Type-C descriptions because I assume you're already familiar with that. But before I show you how the two technologies (Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C) differs, let me touch a little bit on USB Type-C.

Well, USB Type-C or USB-C is the latest physical USB connector. It's replaced micro-USB connectors previously used by most Android phones and will eventually even replace USB Type-A, which is the traditional usb everybody thinks of when they hear "USB".

So how do Thunderbolt differ from USB-C.....

A. Thunderbolt 3 can transfer data of upto 40Gbps while USB-C can only transfer data of upto 10Gbps. This means is 4X the speed of USB-C

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B. Thunderbolt has the same shape of port with USB-C but features are different. While a Thunderbolt port can take a USB-C cable and performs all the features, a USB-C port can also take Thunderbolt cable and perform basic task familiar to USB-C and cannot perform the features of Thunderbolt cable, like: Transfer speed of 40Gbps, 4K displays etc.

C. For Thunderbolt to work with its numerous features, the laptop or desktop connected to it has to have Intel Processor since Thunderbolt is Intel's technology. But USB-C can work in any computer system. Though Thunderbolt can also work in systems without Intel processor but it will only have the function of ordinary USB-C.

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D. You can connect two PCs together using a single Thunderbolt 3 port and get upto 10Gb Ethernet connection. That's 10 times faster than most wired Ethernet ports. So, if you need to quickly copy a giant file to your co-worker's laptop, you'll be able to do it at really high transfer rates. And USB-C hmmm, not so much.

E. Because Thunderbolt 3 use the USB Power Delivery standard, they can send or receive up to 100 watts of power, which is more than enough to charge most laptops.

F. Now, speed is not even the main selling point for Thunderbolt 3. Their main selling point is the ability to Daisy Chain up 6 devices. With Thunderbolt 3, you can connect up to six different computers and accessories to each other using Thunderbolt 3 cables. Imagine connecting your laptop to a high-speed hard drive then sending another wire out to a monitor and a third wire from the monitor to a high-speed camera. If all the devices in the middle of the chain have two ports (one for in and one for out), you can do it.

That is the main selling point and that why is far far better than USB-C ports and cables.

How To  Differentiate Between a Thunderbolt Cable & Port With That Of USB-C

Now, to identify a Thunderbolt port, you will see a lightning symbols just beside the port and for the cable, you will also see a lightening symbol on top of it. Like the picture below. And in the case of USB-C, you will see the same identical port and cable without the lightening symbol.



NB: Mostly the high end laptops comes with the thunderbolt technology and if you are prepared to get it, you gonna have to spend some bucks. But if you don't want to break the bank, is best you stick with USB-C.

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