A few months ago, we published a full article here explaining the differences between the protocols USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt and we suggest, at the end of the text, that the arrival of USB4 it would serve to unite the best of both worlds and eliminate the differences between the two priests. Well, apparently the Intel Thunderbolt brand owner has something to say about it.
After the preliminary announcement at the last Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the microchip giant today launched the Thunderbolt 4, the new generation of the protocol that equips all recent MacBooks Air and Pro (and several other computers and devices in the world). The launch, which uses the same USB-C connector, brings several practical benefits for advanced and professional users, but as remarkable as what it is at the brings: its transfer speeds are the same as the Thunderbolt 3.
More precisely, the Thunderbolt 4 is capable of transferring data up to 40GB / s, same rate as its predecessor. Intel believes that the speed is already sufficient to satisfy the needs of basically all users, and instead of increasing it, it preferred to work on other fronts of technology such as the fact that universal cables can now have up to 2 m without loss of speed (previously, the limit was 0.5m).
Other Thunderbolt 4 specifications include support for a monitor 8K (or two 4K) and PCI Express technology, which allows storage devices of the type to transfer data at up to 3,000MB / s. In addition, the Thunderbolt 4 docks can bring up to four ports of the type (one with up to 100W of power, to recharge all types of laptops) and communicate with the external keyboard and mouse, allowing the user to wake the computer by moving one of the peripherals.
The protocol is compatible with USB4, Thunderbolt 3 and other USB standards; That is why Intel is selling the launch as "the standard to bring all the standards together" in the manufacturer's words, just identify a Thunderbolt 4 port on your device and you will be assured that any accessories or peripherals that connect there will work perfectly.
Obviously, that's not the whole story: Thunderbolt is still a licensed technology, which means that manufacturers (like Apple) will need to pay to put it on their products as opposed to USB, which is an open and free standard to be used by anyone. company.
Therefore, the trend is that devices with Thunderbolt 4 continue to be a minority on the market, while those with USB4 should dominate the shelves in the near future. At least, the two technologies “talk” not yet the total convergence we dream of, but something.
The first devices with Thunderbolt 4 will start to appear at the end of the year, on laptops equipped with the new processors of the family "Tiger Lake". As for Apple, of course, we will have to wait a little longer, even to know how the transition to the Apple Silicon handles this type of integration, it is worth remembering that the Mac mini of the company's transition kit, equipped with A12Z Bionic chip, has ports USB-C at the rear, instead of the usual Thunderbolt 3.
That is, it is very likely that Apple will follow the USB4 standard in its future computers. We'll see.
Update 07/08/2020 s 19:35
Contrary to our expectations, Apple confirmed that Macs with own chips will, yes, support the Thunderbolt protocol. We publish a new article with all the details.