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What is Thunderbolt? All you need to know about Thunderbolt 3

Apple is a major adopter of Thunderbolt tech, originally conceived by Intel, which has now evolved all the way to Thunderbolt 3 - the best version yet. This is the one port that Apple wants to rule them all.

On the surface, Thunderbolt 3 is just another kind of port found most commonly these days on Apple devices. But dive beneath the surface and you'll discover a universal connection that could help all of our devices quickly and effortlessly communicate. Thunderbolt 3 is faster for data transfer, quick for power delivery and offers better video output than before too.

Here’s what you need to know about Thunderbolt 3.

What is Thunderbolt 3?

Thunderbolt 3 is a connectivity system originally created by Intel that allows for fast data and high power transfer through a single port.

The latest Thunderbolt 3 tech works with the USB-C port design, meaning it can transfer enough power to charge a laptop while also offering enough bandwidth to connect multiple devices, like monitors, via a single port. It is also backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 2 via an adapter.

Thunderbolt 3 is twice as fast

Apple has managed to make the jump from Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 worthwhile by doubling in the amount of data that can be transferred. This is thanks in part to a doubling of the bandwidth of data that can be transferred - now at a whopping 40Gbps.

While this is twice as fast as Thunderbolt 2 it’s actually a mind-melting eight times faster than USB 3 which tops out at 5Gbps.

That equates to about seven Full HD movies transferred in under a minute. Or in that same time 25,000 photos or 10,000 songs.

The key here isn’t just that this is fast but that it has bandwidth. As such that means Apple can put a single Thunderbolt 3 port on its devices, like the super thin MacBook, and you're then covered for both data transfer and power. You’ll need to buy a hub too but that will have enough capacity to power multiple devices and transfer data as well - all the while remaining compact enough to keep your laptop mobile.

Thunderbolt 3 supports up to 5K screens

All that extra bandwidth is made for the designer sorts that use Apple for work. As such a whopping 5K resolution display, or two 4K screens, can be connected via one Thunderbolt 3 port.

The new MacBook Pro, thanks to its Thunderbolt controllers, can even output to dual 5K screens at 14.7 million pixels each and at 60Hz - showing just how much capacity this connection offers.

Of course, if you want to connect an HDMI, DVI, VGA, DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort cable, you know, the connections that you’ve already invested in, you’ll need an adapter. But aside from this small hardware speed bump Thunderbolt 3 is totally compatible meaning it’s still a simple plug and play process to get going.

Thunderbolt 3 can fast-charge

One of the great things about Thunderbolt 3 adopting the USB-C connector is that it can transfer up to 100 watts of power. This means that single port is able to transfer enough electricity to charge your laptop, without the need for a huge power block.

But it works the other way too, sending out power from the laptop, say, at up to 15 watts at a time. So you can charge a phone from the laptop simply by using the right cable.

Thunderbolt 3 is on more than Apple

Since adopting that new USB-C connection, which is Intel friendly, more companies have added it to their devices as well.

Some examples include the Asus Transformer 3 Pro, HP’s Spectre x360, Dell’s XPS 13, the Lenovo ThinkPad Y900, Alienware 13 and more.

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