Thunderbolt 3: Apple interface for USB C, video, data, power and all kinds of gadgets

Thunderbolt 3, USB C 3.1, VGA, HDMI, 40 GBit / s, 4K display, 5K monitor, data transfer

Thunderbolt 3 is the third generation of the interface developed by Apple and Intel, which in its current form (e.g. on MacBook Pro 2016) is not only compatible with USB C (USB 3.1), but can also transmit image, sound, power and data at the same time. In this post I would like to show you the specifications of Thunderbolt 3, show the compatibility or downward compatibility and add further explanations. So you are fully informed about the topic.

Image source:
Image source:

What exactly is Thunderbolt?

Thunderbolt is an interface that should not only ensure fast data exchange, but also the use of numerous peripherals, the supply of electricity, the establishment of networks and so on. So it's a multi-function connector that comes very close to USB and is also compatible with USB. Thunderbolt ensures that, especially on mobile devices such as the MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and similar devices from Apple, as well as on Windows laptops and PCs, only a few interfaces are required for the maximum number of possible uses.

How long has Thunderbolt been around, who invented it?

The driving forces behind the development of Thunderbolt are Intel and Apple. Intel named Thunderbolt back in 2009 at an internal event Intel developer forum (IDF). The interface came to the public in 2011 with the Apple MacBook Pro of the previous generation. In addition to USB, Thunderbolt is also backwards compatible with the DisplayPort. The further development brought Thunderbolt 2012 onto the market in 2 and finally Thunderbolt 2015 in mid-3. This standard can simultaneously fulfill several tasks with one or more devices each: data, image, sound and energy transmission.

Thunderbolt 3 datasheet and specifications

  • Compatibility (plug and cable): Thunderbolt 1, 2 and 3; USB-C; DisplayPort 1.2 (each with adapter if necessary)
  • Data transfer: max. 40 GBit / s
  • Data transfer via USB 3.1: max. 10 GBit / s
  • Thunderbolt network: Ethernet with up to 10 GBit / s
  • Image transfer via PCI Express and DisplayPort
  • Multi-stream is possible: even two 4K displays with 30 bit and 60 Hz can be supplied at the same time
  • Video transmission to DVI, HDMI and VGA possible via adapter
  • Power supply: max. 100 watts

Infographic from Intel /

On the website Intel informs about the technological and development standard of the interface. In addition to an extensive FAQ Intel also offers this infographic on the site (click to enlarge):

Thunderbolt 3 info graphics, specifications, features, compatibility, USB C 3.1, DisplayPort, VGA, HDMI

What do you think of the all-rounder interface?

Is Thunderbolt a sensible and desirable alternative to USB, VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort and so on for all computers? Or should you rather connect each additional device to a port in case one fails? Do you already use the all-rounder connection excessively? Feel free to leave your experiences and opinions as a comment :)

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2 Responses to "Thunderbolt 3: Apple interface for USB C, video, data, power and all kinds of gadgets"

  1. I've been using the "all-rounder" for about 2 months and I'm just thrilled!
    I had previously operated a Belkin Thunderbolt 2012 Dock on the MacBook Pro retina 1 and was thrilled at the time.
    However, back then with a 1920 × 1200 @ 60Hz external screen ...
    I then replaced this with a 24″ 4k DELL but only operated it at 30Hz on the “old” retina MacBook Pro.

    Then I finally updated to the new MacBook Pro 15 ″ in full equipment! Great laptop !!!
    Now I use 4k @ 60Hz plus a 2nd monitor (25 ″ 2560 × 1440 DELL @ 60Hz) for BootCamp and VM on the new one for my previous setup Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock and only have a single cable which also charges the MacBook! PERFECT!!!

    1. Hi Julian! Oh that sounds good. I will soon get my new MacBoook Pro 15 inch and was already thinking about whether the dock was good for something. I also hate all the cabling that is currently attached to my MBP. That way it would of course be much tidier! But where in God's name did you get the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock ??? It won't be officially released until July, right? LG! Jens

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