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Thunderbolt 5: Everything you need to know about the connectivity standard

Thunderbolt 5 is slated to take over from Thunderbolt 4 as the next-generation connectivity standard. Here is everything you need to know about Thunderbolt 5, including the ultra-fast transfer speeds and updated external display support.

Intel released Thunderbolt 4 back in 2020 and it has become a must-have in terms of features, as it allows users to connect up to two 4K monitors to their device and provides reliable and speedy transfer data, ideal for productivity workers, gamers, and creatives alike.

It looks as though Intel is already working on the next generation of the technology, which many have dubbed Thunderbolt 5. While the exact details have not been ironed out yet, we already have plenty of rumours to go off as well as some leaked details from Intel itself.

So, without further ado, here is everything you need to know about Thunderbolt 5. Make sure to bookmark this page and come back soon, as we will be updating it as more information comes out.

What is Thunderbolt?

Thunderbolt was developed by Intel as a hardware interface that would allow users to better connect peripherals to their PCs. Thunderbolt 3 introduced the USB-C port, moving away from the Mini DisplayPort connector that was used originally.

Thunderbolt helps to enable features like plug-and-play external GPUs and is essentially an upgraded cable connection that can power your devices.

As the technology was developed by Intel, it could originally only be found on Intel devices. However, the company has since shared the technology as part of USB4, meaning it can now be found on Apple devices, such as the Apple MacBook Pro 2021, and is more commonplace on AMD Ryzen platforms, making it significantly more accessible.

What is Thunderbolt 5?

While we can’t definitively claim what Thunderbolt 5 will include, we do have a few ideas on how it will improve on its predecessor. It’s important to note that Intel is not yet calling this technology Thunderbolt 5, instead sticking with the “next-gen” moniker, but we will be referring to the latest upgrade as Thunderbolt 5 until the official name is announced.

One of the biggest upgrades arriving with Thunderbolt 5 is the maximum bandwidth increase, which should be doubling from 40Gbps to 80Gbps bi-directional bandwidth.

This means that the latest technology will use four lanes of data, each supporting 40Gbps, with special configurations being capable of reconfiguring the data so users experience 120Gbps of bandwidth in one direction and 40Gbps in the other direction.

Thunderbolt 5 bandwidth specifications
Image Credit (Intel)

Simply put, this will allow users to connect more than one display, even those with a high resolution, with Intel claiming that it should result in up to two times faster data transfer speeds between future devices that support Thunderbolt 5.

Plus, this new bandwidth limit will even be available on existing Thunderbolt 4 passive cables that are at least one metre in length thanks to the latest signalling technology; provided that your devices support Thunderbolt 5, this means that you won’t need to replace your Thunderbolt 4 USB-C cables to get the full benefit of the next-gen technology.

Intel Thunderbolt 5 specifications
Image Credit (Intel)

Moreover, Thunderbolt 5 will support DisplayPort 2.1 standards as well as USB2 version 2 data tunnelling. The latest DisplayPort 2.1 is more efficient than its predecessor and will be capable of connecting to an 8K display at 60Hz, making it ideal for creatives and gamers who require a massive amount of power through just one cable.

The support for PCle bandwidth will also undergo improvements since Thunderbolt 5 will have support for PCle 4.0. This means that devices like external GPUs will have more bandwidth, with Intel claiming that it will double the PCle data throughout, again ideal for gamers who are looking for even more power.

When will Thunderbolt 5 be released?

Intel has been pretty tight-lipped about when Thunderbolt 5 will be officially released, but we can assume that it will make its debut soon.

Interestingly, Intel chose not to introduce the technology alongside its latest 13th-generation Intel Raptor Lake desktop processors, which went on sale in October of last year. However, since Thunderbolt is best suited to expanding the capabilities of a laptop by expanding the displays and data output – a feature that’s not as important on a desktop – the company may be waiting to release the technology alongside the upcoming 13th-generation Intel mobile processors.

Intel Thunderbolt 5 pros and advantages
Image Credit (Intel)

Which devices will support Thunderbolt 5?

Since Thunderbolt 5 has still not made its official debut, we can’t be sure which devices it will crop up on. However, we can expect that the newest Intel laptops will come with the technology, with laptops from Apple also being likely contenders.

Furthermore, since passive Thunderbolt 4 cables up to one metre in length will have forward compatibility for Thunderbolt 5, users will still be able to use their old cables with new devices to get the benefit of the next-gen technology.

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