[sg_popup id=”1″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]USB 3.1 vs Thunderbolt

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.

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Josh Covington

Josh has been with Velocity Micro since 2007 in various Marketing, PR, and Sales related roles. As the Director of Sales & Marketing, he is responsible for all Direct and Retail sales as well as Marketing activities. He enjoys Seinfeld reruns, the Atlanta Braves, and Beatles songs written by John, Paul, or George. Sorry, Ringo.

9 thoughts on “USB 3.1 vs Thunderbolt 3

  • May 21, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    Good article, thanks. You may want to correct the last sentence though…thunderbolt 3 not FireWire 3.

    • May 25, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Oops! Corrected.

  • September 21, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    I thought Thunderbolt was all Apple? Is Intel playing the $10K a year to build devices? (USB signup for ID)

    • September 22, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      Intel and Apple co-designed the first Thunderbolt but Intel actually holds the IP and name trademark. Apple predominantly uses the Thunderbolt port, or at least has in the past, so most people do think of one when they think of the other.

  • May 25, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Your article is informative, but there are significant technical errors that need correction. I think you meant to say “Gbps” instead of “GBps” throughout the article.
    This is when syntax is important, because B = byte = 8 bits, while b = bit.
    The use of “GBps” implies the speed is 8 time faster than what you meant to say.


    • June 5, 2017 at 7:14 pm


      You’re correct. Good catch! I have made this correction.

  • July 13, 2017 at 3:46 am

    So is that to say that Thunderbolt 3 = USB 3.1? Or is it more correct to say that USB 3.1 is a subset of Thunderbolt 3?

  • September 25, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Will a Thunderbolt 3 port support USB 3.1 Gen 2 device connected to its port using the Gen 2 10Gbs speed?

  • December 4, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Will my port (USB C 3.1 Type1 ) will work with Thunderbolt?
    Like, external GPU’s and such.


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