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26 May 2022 · 3 minutes read
· by Josephine Nuamah

Thunderbolt 3 Vs Thunderbolt 4

Docks are the new craze which has taken over the technological realm by storm and we are seeing novel and innovative designs being produced. From CalDigit to OWC and even Satechi, in this blog post we discuss what is truly the difference between Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 so you get the best of your dock.

Let’s start from the beginning…

We have all grown accustomed to our devices being smaller, more portable and more powerful, but as you may recall ports on our devices were never always this convenient.

Over the past 25 years, we have seen traditional computers with large connection types like USB Type-A evolve into many new connection variants like USB Type-C which we now see on many devices today. Our current USB connection types vary from: 

  • Type-A: The thin rectangular connection is famous for two things, being the most widely used USB type and for always being upside down the first time you try to plug it in.
  • Type-B: Usually a square connection often seen on larger peripherals and USB docking stations.
  • Mini and Micro USB: Unidirectional and typically used on smaller or mobile devices.  
  • Type-C: The newest, oval-shaped USB standard. It's small, it's reversible.
  • Thunderbolt: It uses the Type-C connection standard, but it isn't technically itself a USB.

So what is the difference between Thunderbolt 3 and 4?

Thunderbolt 3 vs Thunderbolt 4

Apple announced in 2015 the use of Thunderbolt 3 for their 2016 MacBook Pros which allowed customers to have higher performance and greater versatility without changing or adding the USB-C type ports on their devices. This was subsequently reinforced by the implantation of Thunderbolt 4 on their M1 MacBook.

Both Thunderbolt 3 and 4 exhibit top speeds of 40 Gbps which allows for consistent performance whether using a Thunderbolt 3 port or Thunderbolt 4 on your device. Compared to version 3, Thunderbolt 4 requires the device to present a much stricter set of capabilities in order to be certified.

One main difference between Thunderbolt 3 and 4 is its display ability. Thunderbolt 3 can only support one 4K display with PCIe 16 Gb/s whereas Thunderbolt 4 can double the PCIe Gb/s to allow two 4K or one 8K display connection – drastically improving transfer rates and exhibiting storage speeds up to 3,000MBps.  

Unlike Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4 provides additional security by keeping your data safe by requiring Intel VT-d-based direct memory access (DMA) protection to block peripheral devices from unauthorised access to system memory. 

The ability to wake a computer from sleep can be completed with the shake of a mouse or the tap of a keyboard on Thunderbolt 4 docks. A small requirement, but one that relieves a lot of annoyance for the end-user.

Many of these differences are only particularly evident for Windows PCs and not Macs which should provide less limitation between the two Thunderbolts. It should be noted that the latest MacBooks with Apple’s own M1 chip do have a significant limitation: they can’t run more than one external display natively and therefore, DisplayPort (link OWC item) have been manufactured to provide a solution to this problem. 

More differences are listed below:

Thunderbolt 4 Hubbing

Daisy-chaining devices through Thunderbolt docks has become very popular for users to extend their workflow. However, in a potentially long chain, removal of one device (except the last one in the chain) can result  in all other devices becoming unusable until the chain is re-established. 

Now, with Thunderbolt hubbing, each Thunderbolt port in a hub or dock creates a separate “branch” that can be disconnected without affecting any other Thunderbolt devices connected in the other ports.

Here are some of our bestselling Thunderbolt 4 and 3 Hubs and Docks available at Megamac:

We have many more docks available. Check out all our docks here at Megamac.

Published 26 May 2022 by Josephine Nuamah
Josephine Nuamah
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