If you’re looking to buy a top end laptop, you’ll likely see the term Thunderbolt 4 appear on its specs sheet in the ports section, but what is it and why is it important?
In a nutshell, Thunderbolt 4 is a new upgradable specification that was introduced by Intel in 2016 with the purpose of connecting computers and other peripherals for high-speed data transfer over a single cable. To this day it remains a badge of quality for Intel and a key requirement for any laptop wanting to use its Evo certification.
The technology is based on standard IEC 62481 connector standards and offers significant bandwidth options that are up to three times faster than the older USB 3.1 Gen 1 (10Gbps) and 10 times faster than USB 2.0 (480Mbps).
We can personally attest to the port’s speed having tested numerous laptops with the hardware. During our checks we’ve found it offers an even greater level of speed and performance across different devices as well as peripherals – hence its growing popularity among professional users who require ultra-fast connectivity for their high-end equipment.
When did Thunderbolt come out?
The standard was first announced by Intel in 2011, and was originally named Light Peak. The name was later changed to Thunderbolt, and was trademarked in 2013. The standard was first introduced with the Intel Core iMac in October 2012.
The first generation of Thunderbolt was released in 2013 and was backward compatible with the previous Thunderbolt 1.0 specification. The main reason behind the popularity of Thunderbolt is the fact the data transfer rate is not just limited to one direction.
While most devices with the Thunderbolt connector support bi-directional transfer, it is not the norm. The main advantage of using Thunderbolt is that you can connect multiple devices to your computer and transfer large amounts of data without bottlenecking your bandwidth.
What is new in Thunderbolt 4?
Thunderbolt 4 leverages the same physical connector, but increases the bandwidth to up to 20Gbps. This provides an increase in bandwidth compared to Thunderbolt 3, as this new standard encompasses Thunderbolt 3 functionalities. The maximum bandwidth is 20Gbps and can work as an internal or external cable.
The new standard also allows for daisy-chain connections, which allows multiple devices to be connected to the same computer with a single cable. The Thunderbolt 4 standard is backwards-compatible with older Thunderbolt devices, therefore you can use the new standard with anything that has a Thunderbolt port.
Other advantages of Thunderbolt 4 include:
- It can support multiple 4K displays
- It can transfer data at a much faster rate than USB 3.0, making it ideal for video editing
- It can be used as either an external or internal cable, so it can be used behind your computer or in a dock
- It can support multiple 4K displays
- It can be used as an external or internal cable, so it can be used either behind or in your computer
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Laptops with Thunderbolt 4
Thunderbolt 4 is a key requirement for Intel’s latest Evo certification, which aims to guarantee a minimum standard on key things like usability, portability and battery life. This means it’s a staple sight on most premium laptops including the Razer Blade 14, XPS 13. Microsoft also uses it an many of its Surface devices. You can see a selection of Thunderbolt 4 devices in our best laptops guide. If you want a wider selection also check out our which laptops are Intel Evo guide, which details every device with the certification that’s currently available.