These days, it seems like there’s always a new I/O port on the horizon. Not surprising considering the high bandwidth lives we all lead. Two of the connections announced in the past year or so are now starting to show up on newer motherboards – USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3. They seem pretty similar, right? Let’s go over USB 3.1 vs. Thunderbolt 3.
So what it USB 3.1?
We’ve covered the confusion that is the current USB landscape here on this blog before, but essentially, USB 3.1 is the successor to USB 3.0. Its benefits include data transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps and 100W of power output – enough to charge a full sized laptop – and 15W to all bus-powered devices (e.g. anything fully powered by USB like hubs, optical drives, and external hard drives). USB 3.1 can come in both Type A and Type C forms, but the Type C connection is the most versatile.
What is Thunderbolt 3?
Developed by Intel and announced in June 2015, Thunderbolt 3 has all of the advantages of 3.1 with a few additions. For one, it features an even higher bandwidth capability than USB 3.1 with data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps – 4x over what we already thought was the breakneck speed of USB 3.1. In real world terms, that’s your average 4K movie file size transferred in less than 30 seconds. Crazy fast. Other features/advantages of Thunderbolt 3 include:
- Connection to dual 4K monitors, driving 16 million more pixels than a standard 1920×1080 display
- Connection with external graphics solutions
- Peer to peer connection at 10 GbE speeds
Where things get a little confusing is Thunderbolt 3 uses the same USB Type C port as USB 3.1, so you’ll often see motherboards advertising one port for both connections. This is true, since Thunderbolt 3 fully supports all USB 3.1 cables and connections, any Thunderbolt 3 port is technically a USB 3.1 port too.
So, if you’re the type concerned with future proofing, routinely move large files, or plan on connecting multiple 4K monitors, you may want to opt for a Thunderbolt 3 motherboard or capable laptop like our ProMagix M17SLI.