Difference Between 4 Types of Thunderbolt (1,2,3,4)

Thunderbolt 4 is the latest high-speed I/O interface from Intel which replaces the older DisplayPort and USB Type-C with a single connector. With time the thunderbolt technology has evolved and currently, there are four different types of Thunderbolt(Thunderbolt 1,2,3, and 4), and each one has some different features.

Fun Fact: One of the most outstanding features of Thunderbolt is its ability to transfer DisplayPort graphics as well as PCI Express data simultaneously through serial conversion. 

Difference between Thunderbolt 1, 2, 3, and 4

Given below is the table that compares all 4 types of Thunderbolt.

FeaturesThunderbolt 1Thunderbolt 2Thunderbolt 3Thunderbolt 4
Year of Launch2011201320152020
Connector typeMDP (Mini Display Port)MDP (Mini Display Port)USB-CUSB-C
Bit Rate 20 Gbps (10 Gbps per channel)20 Gbps (total)40 Gbps (bidirectional), 80 Gbps (one way)40 Gbps
Number of pins20202424
Protocol4 x PCI express 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.1a4 x PCI express 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.24 x PCI express 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI-2 and USB 3.1 Gen-2 4× PCI Express 3.0, DisplayPort 2.0, USB4
Difference between Thunderbolt 1, 2, 3 and 4

Different types of thunderbolts support different data rates and cable lengths. Let’s see each of them in detail.

Thunderbolt 1

Thunderbolt 1 cable
Thunderbolt 1 cable

As it is obvious, Thunderbolt 1 is the first product in the series that was integrated into the MacBook Pro laptop in the year 2011. It achieves a data rate of 20Gbps in such a way that it bears four channels of 10 Gbps each for data transmission. It uses the architecture of the Mni-DisplayPort connector under the protocol 4 x PCIe 2.0 DisplayPort 1.1a.

Thunderbolt 2

Thunderbolt 2 cable
Thunderbolt 2 cable

The next version of Thunderbolt entered production by June 2013. It is a frequently searched question whether Thunderbolt 1 and 2 are the same. Let’s clear this doubt.

Difference between Thunderbolt 1 and 2

Although Thunderbolt 2 is physically identical to its previous version, it stands out with the feature of channel bonding to simultaneously display as well as transfer a complete 4K video. While Thunderbolt 1 has 4 channels, Thunderbolt 2 combines two channels so overall it has two channels, each of 20Gbps.

Thus with the same bandwidth as Thunderbolt 1, Thunderbolt 2 causes less overhead and enables more efficient transfers.

Thunderbolt 3

Thunderbolt 3 cable
Thunderbolt 3 cable

Thunderbolt 3 shares close similarities with the USB Type C connector. It supports a connection speed of 40Gbps per second. It is capable to supply two 4K displays simultaneously and transfer the audio as well as video files at the same time. Quick Notebook charging is another attractive feature. It was launched in the market in late 2015. Later, USB 4 was released in August 2019 based on the specification of Thunderbolt 3.

Thunderbolt 4

Thunderbolt 4 cable
Thunderbolt 4 cable

Released in July 2020, Thunderbolt 4 is physically similar to that of Thunderbolt 3 (Link the case of Thunderbolt 1 and 2). It also offers the same speed as that of Thunderbolt 3, i.e., 40Gbps. Still, it is the upgraded version due to some added advantages.

  • The minimum bandwidth requirement for a PCIe link is 32Gbps.
  • Supports 8K display or dual 4K displays, which is double the capacity of Thunderbolt 3.
  • Safe from DMA attacks with Intel VT-d based protection.
  • It supports Alternate Mode USB hubs apart from daisy-chaining.

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