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Why does the Thunderbolt port look exactly the same as Type-c, and what's the difference?

Views: 0     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-05-11      Origin: Site

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Let's start with the conclusion: Thunderbolt port and Type-C are not the same.

USB-C (or USB Type-C) is a physical connector used to transfer data, video, and power. The confusion arises because the Thunderbolt and USB standards both use the USB-C connector, but have different data, video, and power capabilities.

But they look almost identical and perform almost the same function. On most devices, the cables and ports are compatible, so you can connect either cable to either port. But Thunderbolt connectors transfer data much faster than USB-C. If you connect a USB-C cable to a Thunderbolt port or a Thunderbolt cable to a USB-C port, the speed will default to the weaker standard of USB-C.


Thunderbolt and USB-C also have the same 24-pin connector, so the only way to visually distinguish Thunderbolt from USB-C is toidentify the trademark lightning bolt symbol near the port or cable connector. The most obvious difference is that while we all know the logo next to the USB port, the Thunderbolt port has a completely different logo, a lightning bolt, and as soon as you see it, you understand that it is plugged into the Thunderbolt port, while the USC-C (Type-C) does not have a lightning bolt logo.


The physical appearance of the Thunderbolt connector is now mostly Type-C interface. Generally speaking applying the existing physical interface can be used in compatibility. The Thunderbolt interface is driven by the Intel controller chip and is available through PCI-E x4, DisplayPort bus and system chipset and can also be connected directly to Intel processors core graphics card for DisplayPort output. The transfer mechanism based on the PCI-E protocol makes it easier to transfer data, eliminating the need for conversion steps, while also being able to accommodate a wider range of combinations.Thunderbolt ports are more expensive because they must have a Thunderbolt controller chip and Intel certification.

USB-C, formally known as USB Type-C; often abbreviated as Type-C

Is a Universal Serial Bus (USB) hardware interface form, the most important feature in appearance is that its upper and lower ends are identical to the Micro-USB Compared to Micro-USB, it no longer distinguishes between the front and back side of USB.

USB-C Specification 1.0 by USB Developer Forum ( USB-IF ) and was completed in August 2014. Compared to USB 3.1 specifications are roughly the same. However, USB-C is only one interface and does not necessarily support USB 3.x or Power Delivery (many phones still use USB 2.0 for USB-C). Since the release of the USB-C specification in 2014, many new Android mobile devices , and laptops , and desktop and even game consoles and other 3C devices are starting to use this connection port. Windows 10 Native support for USB-C. The USB-C port measures 8.3 x 2.5 mm, which is smaller than the current PC USB port, but slightly larger than the micro-USB port with dimensions of 6.85 x 1.8 mm used by many cell phones. As for power transmission specifications, the wire standard is DC 5V, 5A, while the connector is 3A. Type-C requires additional design of adapter devices as it is not compatible with any existing types. The world's first USB 3.1 master and device side prototype was presented by ASMedia at the 2014 USB-IF annual meeting.

Brad Saunders, Chairman of the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, said in an interview, "While USB technology is most popular for device connectivity and device charging, we still realize we need to develop a new connector to meet evolving design trends, such as advances in device size and usability. The new USB-C connector will cater to the market and lay a foundation for future versions of USB."

USBType-C was announced at the end of 2013 and mass production products started to be launched in 2014, and after years of development, it has now become the mainstream USB interface.

Now not only the newly launched smartphones basically support Type-C connectors, but also laptops, digital cameras, smart speakers, mobile power and other devices are also starting to use Type-C specification USB ports. For example, Apple has completely changed its MacBook laptop to a pure USB Type-C interface to allow users to transfer data or charging. There are even market rumors that Apple will also use USBType-C interface on the future iPhone.

And USB-IF released on September 3, 2019, the USB4 standard is announced, will only support Type-C connection.


Type-C is, to put it simply, an upgraded version of our most common USB interface before, with Type-A, Type-B, Type-C, of which Type-A is what we often call the USB interface; currently, it is generally more common to have Type-A, and another version of Type-A: USB3.0 (blue), and Type-C Type-B is more common in the printer field.


At present, we often say Type-C interface generally refers to: in addition to the Thunderbolt port all the use of USB Type-C this form of hardware interface interface.

Both can be integrated USB4, can also be just integrated with USB2.0 or USB3.0, or even Thunderbolt 3 / Thunderbolt 4 protocol, so the same Type-C interface, the performance may vary widely

In short: the functionality and performance of USB-C (Type-C) ports that come standard with digital electronic devices depends on their hardware configuration and the type of compatible protocol

The advantages of the Type-C interface are very obvious: more compact, which can make the thin and light book do thin and light; more convenient, support front and back plug;

In addition the full-featured Type-C function is very powerful: 

The other features of USB-C (Type-C) are as follows:

  1. Optional integration into DisplayPort, HDMI, MHL.

  2. Optional set into Thunderbolt.

  3. Optional integrated USB4

Therefore Type-C currently supports up to 40Gbps bandwidth and is able to provide up to 100W of power to the computer stably, including charging, data transmission, video transmission and audio transmission, etc. Another advantage of the Type-C interface is its bi-directional compatibility, which can support both Type-A and Type-B devices, so that users can use any kind of interface device without having to worry about the direction of the plug. The full-featured Type-C can theoretically kill all other interfaces, so that the computer to, monitor, cell phone interface to get unified, an interface can basically do all the work of the interface

Thunderbolt port

The current mainstream is Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4

Thunderbolt 3 and USB4 are very close to each other and are compatible with each other, Thunderbolt 4 is a bit more demanding and is an upgrade from Thunderbolt 3


Can I plug a USB-C cable into the Thunderbolt 4 port?

The Thunderbolt 4 port will accept any cable with a USB-C connector. However, to get the benefits of Thunderbolt performance, you need to connect a Thunderbolt device to another device, such as a Lenovo Yoga 9i laptop to a Thunderbolt-enabled display or docking station.

Can I plug a USB-C device into the Thunderbolt 4 port?

The Thunderbolt port will negotiate the data rate, power, and video capabilities with the connected device, and "fallback" to the USB protocol if the device is not Thunderbolt enabled. This fallback mode also allows Thunderbolt devices to connect to a non-Thunderbolt USB-C port and still function, albeit at the USB3 level.

How is a Thunderbolt display different from a USB-C display?

Thunderbolt monitors have a USB-C Thunderbolt port. Thunderbolt allows you to daisy-chain two 4K monitors, so at least one monitor needs two Thunderbolt ports, one for the signal from the host and a second for relaying video to the second monitor. Displays with Thunderbolt ports can also charge higher power devices such as laptops.

What's the point of Thunderbolt and USB-C?

USB-C and Thunderbolt are used to charge devices, transfer data, and connect computers to peripheral devices such as monitors or external hard drives. The main difference is that Thunderbolt has faster transfer speeds.

Professionals who work with large files benefit from Thunderbolt's high-speed data transfer between their computers and external hard drives. If you want to format your hard drive, you should always back it up first. The Thunderbolt connection will do this faster. After formatting, learn how to speed up your PC and clean up your computer to keep it running optimally.

Thunderbolt also reduces the need for separate power supplies, reducing clutter and expanding availability. Fewer cables mean less dust when physically cleaning your PC. Thunderbolt ports can connect external 4K displays and Thunderbolt extension hubs to your computer. This allows you to dramatically increase the number and type of ports available (e.g., Ethernet, HDMI, etc.). If you want to use the daisy chain feature, you should choose DisplayPort with HDMI.

People often confuse Mini DisplayPort with Thunderbolt - after all, they have the same shape and connector. But Mini DisplayPort is different from Thunderbolt in large part because its only function is to carry audio/video signals.

USB-C is more widely used than Thunderbolt, allowing users to connect a device to a laptop or desktop computer, or to connect two devices together. USB-C is also used to charge portable devices such as cell phones.

Which is better, USB-C or Thunderbolt?

Thunderbolt is more advanced than USB-C. But the best choice for you depends on your preferences and what you're using the connector for. Given the cost, Thunderbolt is not needed if you are using basic peripherals like printers. the main value of Thunderbolt is its fast data transfer speed.

For most users, USB-C and Thunderbolt are interchangeable, which means you can use either connector and not compromise your user experience. They are both compatible with most devices, but if you combine cables and ports for each technology, you will only get speeds equal to those of the slower USB-C. Budget PCs typically include only US-C ports.


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