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.
- 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.