In any laptop or desktop, you can find a wide range of input and output ports which are handy for different kinds of uses. While some of them are basic USB ports, others might be high-performance video ports like DisplayPort. But none of them are versatile or offer high-performance numbers as Thunderbolt does. And even if you are using Thunderbolt 3 ports, it will offer more than enough performance on your laptop.
However, if you want the best performing Thunderbolt port with all the latest features, then you should consider going with Thunderbolt 4. In fact, this newer version of Thunderbolt 4 is already available in laptops and desktops which offers various benefits over Thunderbolt 3.
Hence, we are here with all the details regarding what is Thunderbolt 4 and a complete guide for 2021 regarding Thunderbolt 4. You can simply go through this guide till the end to learn all the features and performance numbers of Thunderbolt 4 and its differences when compared with other connectors.
What is Thunderbolt 4?
Those of you who are not familiar with the previous versions of Thunderbolt like Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3 might be interested in knowing more about this port in general. To get an idea about the performance of the Thunderbolt 4 port, it is rated for speeds of up to 40 Gbps. In contrast, most USB ports only offer up to 5 Gbps or 10 Gbps speeds which is much lower.
Other than being a high-speed port, it is also highly versatile because it not only supports data transfer, but can also offer power delivery, networking, display output, and even eGPU support. Thunderbolt 4 is able to offer all of this as it directly shares the PCI-E lanes of your computer. Coming to the physical connector used by Thunderbolt 4, it also relies on USB type C which is the same as Thunderbolt 3 and USB 4.
Differences between Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4
Even though Thunderbolt 4 is the more recent version, there are still a lot of laptops out there that come with Thunderbolt 3. Because of this, you might want to learn the differences between these and know the benefits of going with Thunderbolt 4. Not only that but if you are upgrading from an older Thunderbolt 3 laptop, you might be interested in knowing the new benefits that you will get. Unfortunately, the performance or the data transfer speeds of Thunderbolt 4 are not higher than Thunderbolt 3.
Instead, you get a few additional features with Thunderbolt 4 because of which it might not be worth the upgrade for everyone. These features include things like 2 meters long 40 Gbps cables, USB 4 compliant, compulsory charging support, at least dual 4K display support, and a higher 32 GB/s PCIe data speed requirement. In other words, there are not many differences between Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 and if you are already using the older version, you will not see many improvements.
Differences between Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4
As you know, Thunderbolt 4 also uses a USB type C connector for its physical connection. Because of this, many people get confused between modern USB versions like USB 4 and Thunderbolt 4 as they both use the same physical connector.
Although, their performance numbers are completely different as Thunderbolt 4 can go up to 40 Gbps whereas USB 4 only offers up to 20 Gbps speeds. Other than that, USB 4 also lacks PCI-E lanes which means that you cannot use external graphics cards which is the case with Thunderbolt 4 allowing it to use external graphics cards and high-resolution displays.
Benefits of using Thunderbolt 4
By now you must have a pretty good idea about the performance numbers of Thunderbolt 4 and the various features that it offers to the user. And if your laptop also has Thunderbolt 4 or you are planning to get one, you might want to know about its benefits. You can check the following uses or benefits of Thunderbolt 4 to get the most out of it:
Many modern laptops offer very thin and compact designs which are excellent for portability and on-the-go usage. Although, due to this, most of them have very limited port options on the side which can be quite frustrating. Thankfully, Thunderbolt 4 allows you to easily access all the missing ports on your laptop. This can be done with the help of adapters and hubs.
With such adapters, you can convert a single Thunderbolt 4 port into multiple ports like USB, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, SD card reader, and more. And since most of these hubs are quite small and compact, you can take them with your laptop everywhere you go.
Connect High-Resolution Monitors
Even though you can find many laptops with high resolutions 2K or 4K displays, laptop displays are still quite small when compared to a full-size monitor. And while your laptop may offer an HDMI port on the side, in most cases, it will not work with high-resolution monitors.
This is where Thunderbolt 4 proves to be a much better option than HDMI ports as it can easily handle 4K monitors, 5K monitors, high refresh monitors, ultrawide monitors, and more. You simply need a monitor that supports Thunderbolt 4 connectivity to get high-resolution output from your laptop without any performance loss.
Other than connecting high-end displays to your laptop, you can also use Thunderbolt 4 for high-performance networking. While the inbuilt ethernet port of your laptop is good enough for basic internet connectivity, such gigabit ethernet ports are quite limited for network storage and local file transfers. On the other hand, with the right Thunderbolt 4 adapter, you can easily enjoy 10-gigabit network speeds on your laptop which should be more than enough for most.
There might be a lot of cases where you might want to use your laptop along with a monitor, keyboard, and a mouse on a desk for better productivity. Although, connecting all these devices alongside a network cable and your laptop charger can be quite cumbersome and time-consuming.
To overcome this issue, you can simply connect a Thunderbolt 4 dock for your laptop. With these docks, you can simply connect all of your peripherals and network cables to a single hub or dock. This dock then connects to your laptop over a single Thunderbolt 4 cable for ease of use. In fact, most of these Thunderbolt 4 docks also charge your laptop at the same time allowing you to easily use your laptop without needing your laptop charger.
High-Speed External Storage
A lot of PC users have external storage drives like flash drives and hard drives for easily transferring files with other users. Although, most of these external drives are quite slow in terms of their file transfer speeds. Thankfully, that is not an issue at all if your laptop has Thunderbolt 4 ports in it.
This is due to the reason that Thunderbolt 4 supports external NVMe SSD storage drives. These drives can easily offer file transfer speeds of 3 GBps or similar which is much higher than what most users will need. On the other hand, a typical external hard drive only offers 100 MBps or similar transfer speeds. Even if you have an external SATA SSD drive, that will also be limited to 500 MBps or so. Due to this, Thunderbolt 4 is a much better option for high-speed external storage.
Whether you want to play games on your thin and light laptop or want to run heavy video editing, 3D designing, or graphic designing programs, you will need a powerful graphics card for all these uses. Since thin and light laptops cannot have powerful dedicated graphics cards inside them, Thunderbolt 4 allows you to add one externally.
While you will need to use an eGPU enclosure for the same, you can add any high-end graphics card to your laptop using Thunderbolt 4. This is possible as Thunderbolt 4 has PCI-E lanes shared with your computer allowing you to use a graphics card as a plug-and-play device.
After you have been through this complete 2021 guide regarding Thunderbolt 4, you must know a lot of things about this high-performance connector. Other than basics like what is Thunderbolt 4, you can also find detailed comparisons between Thunderbolt 4, Thunderbolt 3, and USB 4. In fact, we have also stated a few benefits and uses of Thunderbolt 4 that you can consider using with your laptop.
All of these benefits or uses are possible as Thunderbolt 4 is a high-performance port with various handy features which were not available even in Thunderbolt 3. If you have gone through this complete 2021 guide on what is Thunderbolt 4, make sure to share your thoughts in the comments section. You can also post any questions down there if you have any!