Today, Intel announced the next revision to Thunderbolt, aptly entitled Thunderbolt 3. While it’s no surprise that the revision brings increased bandwidth (40Gbps vs 20Gbps) to the specification, the biggest news is the adoption of the new USB Type-C connector.

Instead of using Mini DisplayPort, which Thunderbolt has used since its inception, Intel is “skating where the puck is headed” and jumping to USB Type-C. This presents many potential benefits to the end user.

For starters, USB Type-C will likely be more widely adopted than Mini DisplayPort ever was. So we’ll see more peripherals and more hardware that supports the spec. Two of the industry’s biggest players, Apple and Google, already have products available for purchase that use USB Type-C, and I see this trend continuing.

What does this all mean for those of us who have already adopted plenty of Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 devices and cables. At the least, there will be an inconvenience. We’ll no doubt see adapter dongles to bring support for legacy connectors, but that’s never an ideal situation.

But that inconvenience will be well worth it in the end. Thunderbolt 3 will support all sorts of peripherals, displays, even 4K and 5K displays. It will also support up to 100 watts of power, which means that in theory, you could have a single docking station with a single cable that handles absolutely everything. That’s downright amazing. Think about this for a second. A single cable that support everything you do. I personally can’t wait.

Benefits of Thunderbolt 3

  • Uses USB Type-C
  • 40Gbps bandwidth
  • Half the power consumption
  • Supports up to 100 watts of power
  • Can support two 4K displays or one 5K display
  • Supports PCIe 3.0, HDMI 2.0, and DisplayPort 1.3 (4K and 5K resolutions at 60Hz)

USB Type-C is the future. Apple has bet on it, Google has bet on it, and now Intel is betting on it. This is great news for consumers, as it means less confusing ports, and more potential compatibility. This means that you’ll be able to plug in your Thunderbolt 3 cables and your USB cables into the same port. You’ll just need to look for the Thunderbolt logo on the cables to be able to differentiate them from USB.

Thunderbolt 3 is slated to begin shipping closer to the end of 2015. What do you think? Are you excited about the changes?

  • would that mean thunderbolt is on all usb-c devices?

    • From what I understand, the hardware that make TB work is actually self-contained in the cable itself. I’m still trying to gain clarification on this, though.

      • yeah this is where i am confused at, will it be contained through the cable or will you need a special kind of usb-c chipset in order to use TB3

    • Sharukh Mastan

      From what I understand, Thunderbolt is a technology that is incorporated with that style of the port, for example, USB 3.0. It looks similar to the 2.0 port but they both are there as separate ports in your machine. I hope this makes sense.

      • from what im getting from your post is that thunderbolt will still need special chipset instead of it being integrated to regular usb-c, correct?

  • Jordan Lewis

    It’ll be interesting to see if a company releases a notebook with just Thunderbolt 3 ports, for Data and Power, so the left side can be
    [Thunderbolt 3 (Supports Charging)]–[Thunderbolt 3]–[Thunderbolt 3]–[3.5mm Headphone Jack]
    and the right side
    [Thunderbolt 3]–[Thunderbolt 3]–[Thunderbolt 3]

    Although I’d image you’d run out of PCIe lanes before you could get that many Thunderbolt 3 ports

  • Jordan Lewis

    The only problem is, laptops will never be as powerful as desktops, so for heavy duty computing, you’ll still need a decent sized box under your desk for processing.
    If only laptops were as powerful as desktops, then this single Thunderbolt 3 port would be the only thing needed ever for laptops.

    • Yes, but it also means that I could run around town with my MacBook, and come home and dock it with a full desktop-class GPU for power. Best of both worlds.

  • HEELPeople

    waiting for the new macs with thunderbolt 3

  • Newgunnerr

    The new iPhones will have USB-C (because of the new europe law)

    • Jeffrey


    • Which law? Apple has historically always used proprietary connectors because they make a load of money off of accessories…

      If Apple needs to use more open and standardised connectors then this is great news for consumers.

    • 5723alex .

      The new Google Nexus will have USB-C replacing mini-HDMI.

  • M2

    Can usb-c eventually replace hdmi cables? Like connect TV to satellite or Xbox-assuming both are compatible in the future.

  • iGod

    thanks to intel israel..

    • 5723alex .

      Thank you Apple which has developed both Thunderbolt and USB-C.