What is the Thunderbolt port used for?

Thunderbolt is a brand name of a hardware interface developed and introduced by Intel in collaboration with Apple that provides the connection of a computer externally. Both Thunderbolt 1 & 2 use Mini Display Port (MDP) whereas Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C connector. Thunderbolt is the one and only interface by which one can connect six different devices with one another to communicate which is a very unique concept and technology. No other interface can able to do this even now. If any manufacturer wants to utilize this interface on their products then they have to pay some royalty to Intel.

History of Thunderbolt

The hardware interface Thunderbolt was initially named “Light Peak” in 2009 when it was very firstly developed as a prototype by Intel. In that time, this Light Peak technology was fully optical based and all the data transfer was used to be done by optical fibre cables but after some time in 2010, Intel switched it to electrical connections to reduce the expenses and to supply up to 9.9 watts of power to the connected devices that means they switched optical fibre cables to copper wires to supply power to the devices that are connected to PC with Thunderbolt.

Connectors

 In 2011, when Light Peak was commercially introduced to the market as the new name Thunderbolt, it provided speed up to 10 Gb/s which was really awesome for that time and was faster than USB interface. Thunderbolt 1 & 2 are used in a connector just like Mini Display Port and only difference is that the connector has a “Thunder” sign on it which identifies that it is a connector of Thunderbolt and that’s all. You can connect almost everything with Thunderbolt like monitors, external SSD, external hard drives and any type of devices. With an adapter, one can connect with USB, Firewire or Ethernet. Thunderbolt uses the display port and PCI express lanes to work and also supply power to the connected devices as the transmission wire is made of copper.

 Thunderbolt 1: – First introduced in 2011 as the name “Thunderbolt” for the very first time. This interface provides the maximum speed of 10 Gb/s that means 1.25 GB/s which is even now a great speed to utilize in today’s world. With this interface, you can connect displays, SSD, hard drives, etc. The connector of Thunderbolt 1 is just like Mini Display Port and the only difference is that there is a logo of thunder in the connector of this interface to identify that particular connector for that particular interface.

Thunderbolt 2: – First introduced in 2013, this interface has a double amount of speed as compared to the previous version, Thunderbolt 1. Thunderbolt 2 provides a maximum speed of 20 Gb/s that means 2.50 GB/s which is really a huge speed to utilize for all the users. There is also the same Mini Display Port connector used for Thunderbolt 2 just like the previous version.

Thunderbolt 3: – The latest version Thunderbolt 3 was first commercially introduced in 2015. This is also the most advanced version with many more facilities and features in comparison with both the previous versions. Thunderbolt 3 provides a maximum speed of 40 Gigabit/s and if we convert it into GigaByte per second, it will be 5 GB/s which is a really spellbound speed to utilize. But this version of Thunderbolt has a speciality in its connector. It uses USB type-C connector to run whereas we have already known that Thunderbolt 1 & 2 uses Mini Display Port connector for using. With the help of Thunderbolt 3 using USB type-C connector, you can supply power to the connected devices up to 100 watts which is really huge, right?

Photo Credit: Windows Central

When only there were Thunderbolt 1 & 2, mostly Apple uses these interfaces but after the release of Thunderbolt 3 and its utilization with the USB type C connector, it has become common for almost every manufacturer company to apply it in their expensive laptops like HP, Dell, Asus, etc. And also, in desktops, if the motherboards support it. Even with the help of Thunderbolt 3, you can connect your laptop with a different monitor and you can get the display of it in your connected monitor but the most surprising thing is, your laptop will be charged fully by that connected monitor (In some particular conditions). Also, you can run the monitor by using the in-built battery of your laptop (In some particular conditions). So, there will be many scenarios with this interface.

If you have to backward compatible to connect Thunderbolt 1 or 2 rather than Thunderbolt 3, you have to purchase an adapter.

Benefits of Thunderbolt 3

  • Thunderbolt 3 uses a very popular connector named USB type-C which is the connector that most of the users consider.
USB Type C
  • Thunderbolt 3 provides speed a maximum of 40 Gb/s which is the fastest speed regarding the connection of external devices and no other interfaces provide speed as fast as this.
  • Thunderbolt 3 also provides daisy chaining by which you can connect multiple devices with one another and for this reason, there will be no trouble regarding cable mess.
  • By using Thunderbolt, you can charge your connected devices and there will also decrease the chance of cable hazard.
  • One of the biggest benefits of using Thunderbolt 3.0 is, you can connect two 4K 60 Hz monitors together in a single port. Not only you can connect but also you can get the audio support from the two different connected monitors by using daisy chaining. So, you can see how amazing and awesome this particular benefit is.
  • Another excellent thing that Thunderbolt 3 provides i.e. Ethernet that has a 10 Gb/s speed. If you want that data transferring speed, then you have to purchase a very costly network card but if you have a Thunderbolt port in your device, then just purchase an adapter and you can easily get 10Gb/s Ethernet by using Thunderbolt 3 (Thunderbolt 1 & 2 also).

So, these are the benefits that actually make you “WOW” when you read this. You can see how advanced science and technology invents a versatile hardware interface like Thunderbolt 3. Day by day, we will notice more people considering to use this interface and it will be more popular from time to time.

An important point to note regarding Thunderbolt 3 is, if you have USB type c port, that doesn’t mean that your device has the support of Thunderbolt 3 interface. That is fully depended on the manufacturer of this particular device. If a particular device has the support of Thunderbolt 3 then there must be a logo of “Thunder” beside the port.

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