During Intel's press event at Computex 2015 in Taiwan, Thunderbolt 3 has been announced as the company's fastest, most connected port yet. But what exactly does that mean? And how does it stand up to USB 3.1?
Well, it stands head and shoulders above it actually.
It has also moved some distance away from the last generation connection, and the form of Thunderbolt 2, having adopted the new USB Type-C connector shape. The end result is a port that will offer faster connections and a broader range of devices that are compatible with it. Here's why.
How fast is Thunderbolt 3?
In the words of Intel: "In Thunderbolt mode, a single cable now provides four times the data and twice the video bandwidth of any other cable, while supplying power".
That means Thunderbolt 3 can manage to shift a whopping 40Gbps making it double the speed of Thunderbolt 2. It will also be able to support USB 3.1 meaning you can plug in a gadget with that connector and still get speeds of up to 10Gbps.
On top of that the new Thunderbolt will also feature a USB Type-C connector so cables can be inserted either way up and they will still slide in easily. No more bending over the back of the computer poking in the dark hoping your cable is the right way up then.
How compatible is Thunderbolt 3?
Since the new port is USB Type-C shaped it'll be friendly with any device that uses that connector. That means not only Thunderbolt 3 connections but USB 3.1 as well as Mini DisplayPort 1.2 compatibility all via the same port.
The new 12-inch MacBook, for example, has the right USB Type-C shape for many a gadget. So if Apple adds this Thunderbolt 3 port in the next generation, any peripherals bought now for the current model should also work on the new device, theoretically.
Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 devices will need an adapter as they have different shapes.
What will Thunderbolt 3 be used for?
In the age of 4K bandwidth cable connections are still important - especially as wireless is more and more the connection of choice. 4K demands a lot of bandwidth so having Thunderbolt 3 should mean connecting to a 4K monitor, or two, doesn't put a strain on the port.
Crucially Thunderbolt can also be used to charge larger devices like laptops. This means smaller chargers while still powering up a laptop at speed.
In fact from one Thunderbolt port, with an adapter, you can connect – deep breath: two 4K displays at 60Hz, up to 100W of power for laptop charging and 15W for bus-powered devices, USB, Thunderbolt, PCI Express and DisplayPort, and get data of up to 40Gbps. Not too shabby.
While USB Type-C will come in different forms, it looks like Thunderbolt 3 may be the most powerful of them all. And now it's adopted a market friendly shape it may finally become the go-to port of choice.