large image

Trusted Reviews is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

What is Thunderbolt 4?

Thunderbolt 4 is making its way to more devices than ever, but what exactly is it and what benefits does it provide? Here’s a guide on everything Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt has been making itself known more and more over the last few years, with Apple finally making the move away from Lightning adaptors in some of its devices, and Microsoft finally adopting the technology after holding back for its Surface range.

Since it is cropping up on more devices every day, it’s important to understand what Thunderbolt 4 is and why it’s so useful.

What is Thunderbolt 4?

Thunderbolt 4 is the latest generation of wired connectivity, designed to replace Thunderbolt 3 in supported devices. Thunderbolt 5 will eventually take over, but since the fourth generation is only two years old, we likely won’t be seeing Thunderbolt 5 for at least another year.

The technology was introduced alongside Intel’s Tiger Lake processors, which came out in 2020, though it can already be found on a number of laptops, hybrid laptops and some tablets.

It’s important to note that while Thunderbolt 4 uses the same physical connection as USB-C, they’re not actually the same. Thunderbolt connections offer faster data transfer speeds and added functionality, and is denoted by the zigzag symbol you can see below. You’ll not only find this icon on supported cables, but also sometimes next to a device’s port.

Thunderbolt 4 allows users to transfer data, output to an external display and charge devices all through one connection, making it one of the most accessible features for new devices.

Comparing Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 4, both can transfer data at a maximum of 40Gb/s, but the latest generation has a number of added benefits.

Thunderbolt 4 can support up to two 4K displays at the same time, which is double what Thunderbolt 3 could handle. The latest version can also support an 8K display.

Moreover, Thunderbolt 4 is required to support PCle bandwidth speeds of 32Gbps, which means we could see data transfer speeds increase with SSDs.

The latest version of Thunderbolt can support accessories with up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports instead of the previous cap of two, with universal cables capable of getting up to two-metres long.

Intel has mentioned that Thunderbolt 4 must provide 100W power for laptop charging, which means consumers don’t need to lug around multiple power cables.

Laptops that are connected to a Thunderbolt dock can be woken up by touching the mouse or the keyboard, which was not an option with Thunderbolt 3.

Finally, the Intel VT-ed based direct memory access (DMA) protection helps stop physical DMA attacks, with Microsoft previously being vocal about its security concerns for Thunderbolt.

Why trust our journalism?

Founded in 2004, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have millions of users a month from around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

author icon

Editorial independence

Editorial independence means being able to give an unbiased verdict about a product or company, with the avoidance of conflicts of interest. To ensure this is possible, every member of the editorial staff follows a clear code of conduct.

author icon

Professional conduct

We also expect our journalists to follow clear ethical standards in their work. Our staff members must strive for honesty and accuracy in everything they do. We follow the IPSO Editors’ code of practice to underpin these standards.