What does the little lightning or thunderbolt icon placed above your charging port means? The icon signifies that the port in question is Thunderbolt. In this article, we are going to see what these ports are and how good is it when compared to good old fashion USB-C. In this battle, Thunderbolt 3 vs USB-C, we will discuss some of the most important parameters that can dictate your buying decision.
What is Thunderbolt?
Thunderbolt is a new technology built to support high frame-rate and resolution displays through a single port. It transfers data faster than your normal USB-C allowing the user to connect different devices via a single port. It is especially useful for users who like to multitask and gamers who want to connect their computers to a high frame-rate monitor. It has the ability to spit out 10 GB worth of data in a second, making it apt for power users. After this, we will be discussing the difference between Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C cables for you to have a better understanding of the same.
Read: What is USB-C? How to add USB-C Port to a Windows laptop?
Thunderbolt 3 vs USB-C cable
It’s always confusing to choose ports and cables and then decide which one is better, therefore in this article, we are going to discuss and compare Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C on the basis of the following parameters, you can opt for the one whom you redeem better.
- Transfer rate
- Whether it can be used as a charger or not
Let’s discuss them in detail.
1] Transfer rate
The first thing you want your cable to have is a fast transfer rate so that you won’t have to wait long for your data to be transferred; therefore very first thing we are going to discuss is how fast these cables can transfer the files.
If we differentiate Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C on their transferring rate, Thunderbolt is unarguably better than USB-C. The former offers high-speed data transfer where you can send big-size files like 40GB each second; however, that’s not the case in the latter. USB-C offers a transfer rate half of what Thunderbolt 3 offers, and it also depends on which USB port you are using.
If you are a gamer, Thunderbolt 3 should be your pick as it amps up your peripheral’s response time; however, you can only achieve this rate when the Thunderbolt 3 cable is connected to the Thunderbolt 3 port and not a USB-C cable to Thunderbolt 3 port. That being said, I think Thunderbolt 3 wins this round as it offers a better transfer rate so that you won’t have to get bored while transferring files.
I’m quite sure that when you look up a cable or port, you want to know the one that not only provides better speed but also functions pretty well. How well do both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C work when connected to the external screen? In this section, we are going to discuss it and more.
Thunderbolt 3 allows you to connect external screens and offer better performances, unlike USB-C, which does not reach that level and drops FPS when playing games. Some USB-C ports don’t even support a high refresh rate or high-resolution monitor. Thunderbolt 3 allows the Monitor to run at a constant Frame Rate which little to no lag between the monitor and the device it is connected to.
If we talk about high resolution and higher refresh rates, Thunderbolt 3 is superior to USB-C. So, Thunderbolt 3 gets second thumbs up compared to USB-C cable, and it looks like Windows and macOS users will agree with us on this.
3] Whether it can be used to charge or not
Lastly, we need to know whether we can use these cables for purposes other than transferring data, such as charging laptops, phones(iPhones and Android), etc. In some cases, Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C have similar features regarding charging aspects, and we’ll discuss them here.
The maximum power for Thunderbolt 3 charging is 15 watts, and on the other hand, you’ll get 2.5-watt charging power in USB-C, the same as the standard USB-A. However, if the device connected to either of the port has Power Delivery Protocol, then you’ll get the same charging efficiency in both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C.
Read: How to download or update USB Type C Drivers on Windows 11
How can you tell the difference between Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C?
It can get confusing when you have to figure out whether the connecter is Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C because to some, they look the same, whereas geeks can clearly tell the difference between the two cables. You can look at the cable’s end for a symbol that may signify that the cable or the port is Thunderbolt, as the cable head on both ends of the Thunderbolt 3 is imprinted with lightning bolts, and some manufacturers also add a ‘3’ to the end.
However, if you have a gaming laptop with mixed ports or Macbook with no labels, then read the device’s instructions manual or specification guide to know more.
- Laptop has only USB C Port; How do I use other devices
- USB-C not working, charging or recognized on Windows
Can I use a normal USB-C cable for Thunderbolt 3?
Yes, you can use a normal USB-C cable for the Thunderbolt 3 port. This convenience is because Thunderbolt 3 has adopted the USB-C format. However, the speed at which the data will transfer depends a lot on the quality of that USB-C Cable. Your USB-C Cable should not be more than 1.6 feet for you to get a 40 Gbps data transfer speed. In case you have a cable longer than 1.6 feet, the maximum data transfer rate will be 20 Gbps. If you don’t want all this confusion, just get an official Thunderbolt 3 cable and you will be good to go. You can also check the power output of your USB port using this guide if you are curious.
Also Read: How to fix USB-C problems on your Windows computer.