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Intel’s Jason Ziller talks Thunderbolt™ 3

Both USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt™ 3 offer a greater level of flexibility and performance compared to the iterations that came before them, but what are the major differences?

USB 3.1 has doubled its throughput compared to USB 3.0, from 5Gb/s to 10Gb/s.
Thunderbolt™ has done the same and doubled from 20Gb/s to 40Gb/s.

Why would anyone need such incredible throughput? USB 3.1 can now power and charge devices and offers much faster transfer speeds for external hard drives. The same goes for Thunderbolt™ 3. The fastest speeds a Thunderbolt™ 2 external drive could achieve was 1375MB/s. The latest version of Thunderbolt™ can surpass that, which means that external RAID storage devices can go far beyond what was possible.


One of the biggest new features of USB 3.1 is the ability to connect a display to a USB Type-C port. USB 3.0 was not capable of powering a display, and was predominantly used for storage devices and accessories.

Thunderbolt™ 3 now has the ability to support up to two streams of DisplayPort 1.2 video bandwidth. It can be two 4K@60Hz monitors simultaneously or one 5K@60Hz. Previous generations of Thunderbolt™ only allowed users the ability to support one 4K@60Hz monitor or up to two 4K@30Hz monitors in the entire Thunderbolt™ daisy chain. Thunderbolt™ 3 provides professional users a simple way of connecting two displays thanks to the 40Gb/s throughput.


USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt™ 3 provide up to 100W of power. This allows expansion docks like the CalDigit USB-C Dock the ability to power and charge the computer it is connected to.


One feature only available on Thunderbolt™ 3 is peer-to-peer networking at 10 GbE speeds in order to transfer files and to even share storage.


Thunderbolt™ 3’s 40Gb/s throughput is so powerful that users can even connect external graphics cards to their laptops in order to achieve faster graphical performance for their older laptops.


As with previous generations of Thunderbolt™ users can daisy-chain up to 6 devices to a Thunderbolt™ 3 daisy-chain.


USB-C cables can be shared between USB 3.1 Type-C and Thunderbolt™ 3 computers. However, if you are using a Thunderbolt™ 3 device on a Thunderbolt™ 3 computer you must use a Thunderbolt™ USB-C cable in order to utilize the full 40Gb/s throughput.

In order to tell if a USB-C cable is a Thunderbolt™ cable there will be a Thunderbolt™ logo on the cable. If a USB-C cable does not have a Thunderbolt™ logo it will be a regular USB Type-C cable.

USB 3.1 Device Thunderbolt™ 3 Device Thunderbolt™ 2 Device
Max. Throughput 10Gb/s (Gen2) 40Gb/s 20Gb/s
Support 4K@60Hz Display Yes Yes Yes
Connect 5K@60Hz Display No Yes No
Power Laptop Yes Yes No
Compatible w/t USB-C
(USB 3.1 Gen1/Gen2) Computer
Yes No No
Compatible w/t Type-A
(USB2.0/3.0) Computer
Yes No No
Compatible w/t Thunderbolt™ 1 & 2 Computer No Yes. With use of an Adapter Yes
Compatible w/t Thunderbolt™ 3 Computer Yes Yes Yes. With use of an Adapter
Daisy-Chain No Yes (6 Devices) Yes (6 Devices)
Expandability Through USB Hub Daisy-Chian up to 6x TBT3 devices or ends with USB device Daisy-Chain up to 6x TBT 1/2 devices
10 GbE Networking No Yes Yes
Ideal For Bus-Powered Storage,
Docking Stations,
Charging Computers,
4K / 5K / 8K Workflows,
RAID Storage,
Networking, Docking Stations, PCIe SSD, Gaming
4K Workflows,
RAID Storage,
Networking, Docking Stations, PCIe SSD