Yesterday, Intel announced details of the new Thunderbolt 4 specification which is expected to become available in laptops later this year. Some of the key highlights:

  • Double the minimum video and data requirements of Thunderbolt 3
  • Video: Support for two 4K displays or one 8K display
  • Data: PCIe at 32 Gbps for storage speeds up to 3,000 MBps
  • Support for docks with up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • PC charging on at least one computer port (for laptops that consume 100W or less)
  • Wake your computer from sleep by touching the keyboard or mouse when connected to a Thunderbolt dock
  • Required direct memory access (DMA) protection (such as Intel VT-d and others) that helps prevent physical DMA attacks
  • Availability of longer Thunderbolt cables (both passive and active)

Thunderbolt 4 provides a superset of USB and Thunderbolt functionality and standardizes important features, which is a huge compatibility benefit. Whether with coming USB4 devices, or using any prior generation of USB device — with a Thunderbolt 4 laptop, all USB devices can “just work.”

Much of this is due to Intel and Apple’s leadership of Thunderbolt 4, and Thunderbolt 4’s stricter testing and compatibility requirements. USB4 provides many exciting new technology features, some of which are optional in ways that devices may not always work together. Thunderbolt 4 builds on Thunderbolt 3 and USB4 to guarantee a common set of functionality. So, for example, if you’re looking for a laptop dock that provides two 4K 60Hz displays for gaming — a Thunderbolt 4 laptop will always be capable of driving both displays, where a USB-C or USB4 (and even many popular Windows Thunderbolt 3) laptops may only support one.

For comparison, on some Thunderbolt 3 PCs, certain Thunderbolt features are optional and can vary from model-to-model and even from port-to-port depending on design choices from your computer manufacturer—check out the compatibility tables on our TBT3-UDV product page which reflect how complicated these optional feature implementations can make things. (Apple Thunderbolt 3 systems don’t have this varience; all Mac Thunderbolt 3 ports are full-featured. Hallelujah.)

Plugable Technologies is a leader in USB, Thunderbolt 3, and now USB4 and Thunderbolt 4 devices. Our breakthrough line of USB4 and Thunderbolt 4 products is launching in 2020 and 2021, and we’ll have product announcements soon along with additional technical details on our Thunderbolt 4 page.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments below and we’ll be happy to help!

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