Ever since buying the new MacBook Pro, I have wondered about Thunderbolt 4.0 and how it impacts my old accessories. I want to make sure I take advantage of the latest technologies on offer in my MacBook Pro. And like everyone else, the various connectivity options leave me scratching my head. During my quest for answers, I ended up on the blog for the accessory maker, Satechi. They have a good breakdown that answers some of these questions as we transition to Thunderbolt 4.0.
In case you were wondering, Thunderbolt 4.0 is:
….is the most recent version of the Thunderbolt line by Intel. It comes with a range of benefits including backward compatibility with USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3.0. All the cables that are Thunderbolt 4.0 certified can work with everything including USB 2.0, USB 3.1, USB 3.2, and USB 4.0.
So what is USB 4.0?
USB 4.0 is the latest specification or version of USB that’s housed within the USB Type-C cables. It takes over from USB 3.2 and 3.0 and offers either 40 GB/s or 20 GB/s of data transfer speed. Just like Thunderbolt 4, it uses the same Type-C reversible and rounded connector. A thunderbolt 4.0 cable can also be called a USB 4.0 cable but the opposite is not true because not all USB 4.0 cables are Thunderbolt 4.0 certified.
All the acronyms and standards are so confusing, something highlighted by veteran writer Glenn Fleishman in his excellent piece, USBefuddled.
What is the difference between USB 4.0 and Thunderbolt 4.0? How are they similar? Should you care? And what should you look for before buying devices that are certified for one or the other?
Both USB 4.0 and Thunderbolt 4.0 use the same USB Type-C connector which is reversible and rounded. The USB 4.0 is also based on the very same underlying protocol as Thunderbolt 4.0, and both types are tightly connected. All thunderbolt devices come with USB 4.0 support which means if you have a device with Thunderbolt 4.0 connectors you can use USB 4.0 cables. However, not all the devices with USB 4.0 connectors will be as powerful as the ones that are fully Thunderbolt 4.0 certified. But the good thing about USB 4.0 is that it’s cheaper than Thunderbolt 4.0.
The article was good enough to consider buying their new Thunderbolt 4.0 dock. Sadly, it is sold out.
PS: More often than not, corporate blogs are bland. More often than not, they are marketing fodder posing as content. However, the linked blog post did a great job of helping me as a reader and was also good marketing for the brand, and it made me want to try out their products.
2 thoughts on “What’s the difference between USB 4.0 & Thunderbolt 4.0”
In a similar vein, some of the OWC blog entries regarding Thunderbolt3/4 and USB variances are well worth a browse (such as https://eshop.macsales.com/blog/78294-thunderbolt-3-vs-thunderbolt-4-and-m1-macs/), their latest Thunderbolt docks and discussions of cabling such are great.
Ironically OWC products have been the biggest disappointment for me. I bought one of their docs and their SSD drive. Sadly, despite me asking them on multiple occasions via support forums, they never responded to a simple question: Can/will this work with Apple’s XDR display or do I need to use separate power. I ended up returning the product because it didn’t do the job it was supposed to do.
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