Intel has announced details of the new Thunderbolt 4 standard, which is nearing its finalization. Thunderbolt 4 builds on the USB4 standard and extends it. Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 products will use the same underlying protocol specification to improve compatibility for USB-C based products. Thunderbolt 4 is expected to be the most feature-rich implementation of USB-C, and will outperform USB4 in capabilities.
Thunderbolt 4 has the same maximum data rate as Thunderbolt 3/USB4 of 40 Gb/s, but offers more extensive functionality than Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt 4 supports up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports (Thunderbolt 3: two ports) - once IN, 3x Out - for example on docking stations or monitors connected to the computer via Thunderbolt 4 and the connection of at least two (Thunderbolt 3: one) 4K or one 8K monitor. In contrast to USB4 (here 40 Gb/s are only optional and 20 Gb/s are standard) Thunderbolt 4 always guarantees a maximum transfer speed of 40 Gb/s.
Thunderbolt 4 cable compared to other standards
Thunderbolt 4 uses the twist-proof USB-C connector like Thunderbolt 3 and the future USB4. Universal cables specified for 40 Gb/s can now be up to 2 meters long and in the future even 5 to 50 meters (Thunderbolt 3 specified only 0.8m maximum cable length for maximum speed).
Thunderbolt 4 is backward compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and is therefore compatible with all Thunderbolt 3 cables and devices. Like the USB4 standardized over a year ago Thunderbolt 4 will also be able to deliver up to 100W of power to connected devices.
Thunderbolt 4 Port compared to other standards
Intel wants to position Thunderbolt 4 as an above-standard, giving users the security of always offering the maximum transfer speed and range of functions - in contrast to the various USB 3/4 implementations with their optional features and widely varying speeds. Thunderbolt 4 also enables other network topologies, as Thunderbolt 4 devices can now be connected in parallel via multi-ports rather than just in series.
Thunderbolt 4 configurations
The first computers and other devices with Thunderbolt 4 ports will be on the market this year, starting with Intel&s next 11th generation of processors ("Tiger Lake").
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