All the things you can do with USB Type-C and Thunderbolt

USB Type-C does a whole lot more than just provide a reversible plug connector for devices.

By - February 27, 2016 Share on LinkedIn
Intel Thunderbolt 3 connector

The USB Type-C specification has made headlines recently for its ability to not only provide a reversible plug for devices, but deliver an array of uses through a single cable.

New devices like Apple’s 2015 MacBook, Google’s Chromebook Pixel, and Asus’s 15.6-inch portable companion monitor all use the standard.

What makes the Asus monitor standout is that its USB-C connection is used for both power and video transmission.

Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 hardware interface, which uses a USB-C connection, also allows for multiple uses through a single port, as detailed below.

USB Type-C, USB 3.1, and Thunderbolt 3

With the launch of any new set of technical specifications, terminology can become conflated.

The development of USB 3.1 at roughly the same time as USB Type-C added to this confusion, along with the addition of the launch of Thunderbolt 3.

Here are the differences:

  • USB Type-C: A physical connector, which uses a reversible plug and related port (as pictured above).
  • USB 3.1: A technology standard that can transfer data up to 10Gbps.
  • Thunderbolt 3: A hardware interface that uses the USB Type-C connector.

What Thunderbolt 3 can do

Intel describes Thunderbolt 3 as “the fastest, most versatile connection to any dock, display, or peripheral device”.

“Thunderbolt was developed to simultaneously support the fastest data and most video bandwidth available on a single cable, while also supplying power,” said Intel.

It features:

  • Data transfer rates of up to 40Gbps
  • Drive two 4K (3,840 × 2,160) displays at 60Hz
  • System charging up to 100W
  • USB 3.1 compatible
  • 4 lanes of PCI Express Gen 3
  • 8 lanes of DisplayPort 1.2
  • 15W to bus-powered devices
  • 10Gb Ethernet connection between computers

High-end gaming laptops like the Razer Blade Stealth, and the Asus Z170-Premium motherboard already make use of Thunderbolt 3 – with more products set to follow in 2016.

More on USB

Warning: cheap USB-C cables can kill your PC

New 480GB USB flash drive unveiled

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