Whether you are using a desktop or a laptop, the chances are that you have multiple input and output ports on the side or the back, depending upon your device. All these ports and connectivity options are used for connecting all kinds of devices. While some of them are made for connecting peripherals and some for connecting displays, all of them have specific usage.
This is where ports like Thunderbolt 3 stand out because of their high versatility and performance. In case your laptop or desktop also has a Thunderbolt 3 port, then you might be interested in getting the most out of it. Thus, today we will be taking a look at the best uses for Thunderbolt 3. You can simply go through this guide to learn more about Thunderbolt 3 and use it to its full potential.
What is Thunderbolt 3?
To get the most out of your PC’s Thunderbolt 3 ports, it is always a great idea to know more about the port and its functioning in general. You can consider Thunderbolt 3 as an all-in-one port that offers very high speeds of up to 40 Gbps which are much higher than any other port on your computer.
As for its physical connector, Thunderbolt 3 uses a USB type C connector which is not only reversible and highly common in modern devices but also offers a sturdy connector for longevity. On the inside, Thunderbolt 3 also shares the PCI-E lanes of your computer, allowing it to provide all kinds of functionality, as you will see later on down below.
Difference between USB Type C and Thunderbolt 3
As mentioned previously, the Thunderbolt 3 port uses the USB Type C connector as its physical interface. But when it comes to their functioning and features, they are completely different. Just per the name, a USB type C port is nothing more but a USB port with the Type C interface. Because of this, its speeds are also limited to 10 Gbps in most devices and 20 Gbps with the newer USB 4 connection.
On the other hand, Thunderbolt 3 offers much higher speeds of up to 40 Gbps. It also shares PCIe lanes which allow it to have lots of functionality that USB type C doesn’t. Talking about their cross-compatibility, while a USB type C device will work just fine on a Thunderbolt 3 port, a Thunderbolt 3 device will not function in a USB type C port.
Best Uses for Thunderbolt 3
After checking all the various essential details of the Thunderbolt 3 connector, you must be interested in knowing more about its uses. And because Thunderbolt 3 is highly versatile and different users can have different uses for it, we have stated some of the most common best uses for Thunderbolt 3 here. You can simply check out them in detail and learn more about the things you can do with the Thunderbolt 3 port of your computer:
If you have a modern thin and light laptop, then the chances are that it only offers a couple of Thunderbolt 3 ports and nothing else in terms of its port selection. Fortunately, this should not be an issue at all since you can use Thunderbolt 3 for port expansion as well. Whether you want a USB type-A port, HDMI port, DisplayPort connection, ethernet, SD card reader, or virtually any other port that you find in computers, all of them can be accessed using the right adapters or hubs. You can find a wide range of Thunderbolt 3 adapters and hubs out there that are ideal for port expansion for your laptop.
Even if your laptop does offer multiple input and output ports including HDMI ports, it is most likely a basic one. Most laptops come with only HDMI 2.0 ports that are limited to 4K 60 Hz monitors in terms of their compatibility. As a result, if you wish to connect 5K monitors, high refresh rate 4K monitors, or ultrawide monitors, then you will be quite limited.
Thankfully, Thunderbolt 3 also supports video output without the need for an adapter. You can simply use a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 3 cable along with a supported monitor to directly use it with your computer. In fact, you will not even need an adapter or Thunderbolt dock for using such monitors.
Apart from video ports like HDMI and DisplayPort, many laptops also offer ethernet ports for your networking needs. Unfortunately, similar to video ports of your laptop, such ethernet ports are quite basic and only offer Gigabit speeds.
While this is decent enough for connecting to the internet, you will be highly limited when it comes to network storage speeds. This is where you can use Thunderbolt 3 to get much higher networking speeds with your laptop. You can find a lot of Thunderbolt 3 to ethernet adapters or networking cards that offer 10 Gigabit speeds which is quite great for network storage.
A lot of PC users use their laptop as their primary computing device alongside a wide range of peripherals. This can include peripherals like keyboard and mouse, monitors, networking, storage devices, and more.
While you can connect all of these directly to your laptop, it can be quite time-consuming and cluttering especially if you also want to disconnect your laptop and take it home or work. Thankfully, Thunderbolt 3 offers a great solution to this in the form of Thunderbolt 3 docks. These allow you to connect all of your peripherals and devices to a single central hub.
You can then connect this hub or dock to your laptop over a single Thunderbolt 3 cable without losing any functionality. In many cases, these Thunderbolt 3 docks will also support power delivery for charging your laptop so that you do not even have to connect your laptop charger separately.
External NVMe Storage
Almost all modern and high-performance laptops these days come with an NVMe SSD inside them. In comparison to standard hard drives or even SATA SSDs, these NVMe SSDs offer much higher transfer speeds.
Whether it is the operating system of your PC or any programs installed on it, all of them will feel much snappier. On the other hand, traditional external drives like portable hard drives are much slower. But thanks to Thunderbolt 3, you can also find external NVMe storage which offers superb speeds that are much higher than what you will ever need.
This is possible thanks to the fact that Thunderbolt 3 has access to your computer’s PCIe lanes which are required by NVMe SSD storage drives.
External Graphics Card
Another benefit of Thunderbolt 3 and its ability to share PCIe lanes is that you can also connect external graphics cards using it. While you will need a graphics card dock or an eGPU enclosure for the same, this allows you to connect high-end graphics cards to even thin and light laptops.
And the best part is that with Thunderbolt 3, these external graphics cards act as plug-and-play devices. Once connected, you can expect much better gaming performance from your laptop. You can also use such external graphics cards for video editing, 3D modeling, CAD, and much more.
Active and Passive Thunderbolt 3 Cables
Now that you know more about Thunderbolt 3 and its uses, the chances are that you are already interested in getting Thunderbolt 3 devices for your PC. And along with these Thunderbolt 3 peripherals, you might also want to get Thunderbolt 3 cables. While you can find a wide range of cables out there, it is quite important to check whether they are active or passive cables.
Starting with a passive Thunderbolt 3 cable, these are simple copper cables with nothing else in them. Because of this, they are generally not the best performer and do not offer the full 40 Gbps speeds supported by Thunderbolt 3. On the other hand, with active cables, you get an integrated chip that efficiently handles all the data being transmitted for the full Thunderbolt 3 speed and performance. In short, you should prefer going with active Thunderbolt 3 cables and devices for optimum compatibility and performance.
Upon checking all these details regarding Thunderbolt 3, you must have a pretty great idea about Thunderbolt 3 and its functioning. We have also discussed the physical connector of this port and how it differs from USB type C. But most importantly you can find some of the best uses for Thunderbolt 3 up above.
With these in mind, you can use your computer’s Thunderbolt 3 connector to its full potential. Depending on your needs, you can use Thunderbolt 3 accordingly thanks to its high versatility. If you have gone through all these best uses for Thunderbolt 3, make sure to share your thoughts in the comments section. You can also post any questions down there if you have any!