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Intel details Thunderbolt 4, here's what you need to know

By Kenny Yeo - on 8 Jul 2020, 9:00pm

Intel details Thunderbolt 4, here's what you need to know

Intel first announced Thunderbolt 4 earlier this year at CES 2020 and now we have more details.

Thunderbolt 4 will be integrated into Intel’s upcoming Tiger Lake mobile processors, much like how Thunderbolt 3 is built directly into existing Ice Lake processors.

Speaking of which, Thunderbolt 4 will use the same USB-C connector and be fully compatible with Thunderbolt 3 devices.

Maximum bandwidth is unchanged at 40Gbps but there’s improved support for driving external displays. With Thunderbolt 4, you can now drive a minimum of two 4K displays – up from just one.

Data transfers will also be faster with Thunderbolt 4 as devices will have to support a minimum of PCIe 32Gbps. In short, consumers can expect Thunderbolt 4 storage devices to deliver transfer speeds of up to 3,000MB/s.

Thunderbolt 4 branding. (Image source: Intel)

On the charging front, machines with Thunderbolt 4 ports will also have to support PC charging on at least one port.

Also, Thunderbolt 4 will follow the USB PD standards for charging. This means maximum charging power is up to 100W.

In the opposite direction, Thunderbolt 4 will be able to deliver up to 15W if you are using your notebook to charge devices like your phone, tablet, or power bank.

Here's a summary:

Intel also announced its 8000 series Thunderbolt 4 controllers. These controllers can add Thunderbolt 4 support where Tiger Lake processors are not used. And they can also be used in Thunderbolt 4 accessories.

Intel says users can expect the first Thunderbolt 4 devices to be released later this year.


What does this mean for USB4?

Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 will use the same underlying protocol, which means Thunderbolt 4 ports will support USB4 devices.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean all USB4 implementations will support Thunderbolt 4 devices.

In short, the situation hasn’t changed surrounding Thunderbolt and USB compatibility hasn’t changed. Thunderbolt 4 ports will be king since they are guaranteed to work with all Thunderbolt and USB devices.


Read next: What is USB4 and understanding USB now

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