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What is a Thunderbolt Cable? | Applications, Features and Benefits

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What is a Thunderbolt cable? A Thunderbolt cable is a super-speed data/video/sound interface developed by Intel and Apple.

This new high-speed cable system has gained popularity amongst third-party manufacturers due to its worldwide popularity, ease of use, and speedy transfer rates.

This article will focus on the history of Thunderbolt, what it is capable of, and what you need to know before making your purchase.

What is a Thunderbolt Cable?

A Thunderbolt cable is a high-speed data transfer cable that delivers speeds of up to 40 Gbps when connected to the latest versions of Thunderbolt supported devices.

It is small and lightweight. It looks exactly like a USB-C cable and passes both data and power through the same cable.

In short, a thunderbolt cable is the ideal video, data, and power solution for your Mac, computer monitor, hard drive, PC, or even your TV. It is made with premium quality materials to ensure years of reliable service.

Thunderbolt cable in the air

Why Is It Called Thunderbolt Cable?

The first time you plug this cable into your computer, you will see an image of a lightning bolt on the USB connector.

And here is why it is called Thunderbolt Cable. It compares its speed to that of the speed of lightning itself.  Thunderbolt cable is a name that means fast. And because it's Thunderbolt, the cable will allow people to connect devices as fast as the speed of lightening.

What is the Average Length of a Thunderbolt Cable?

An average Thunderbolt cable is 4 meters. The cables are longer than most HDMI, DVI, or USB cables.

  • Thunderbolt 1 cable length is 2 m (7 ft). Some brands make their Thunderbolt 1 & 2 cables with lengths of 3 meters and more
  • Thunderbolt 2 and 3 can reach lengths of 4 meters and above

What Is the Purpose of Thunderbolt Cables?

A thunderbolt is one tool that can improve all aspects of your business. If you are not using the best tools when dealing with data, you are basically depriving yourself of profits, efficiency, quality services, and customer satisfaction.

The Thunderbolt Cables are applicable not only in business but in-home smart devices, industrial, medical, automotive, military, marine and aerospace systems.

They can be used in conjunction with Apple computers and devices that come with Thunderbolt ports, such as the Apple Thunderbolt Display.

Connect Devices

Thunderbolt is an interface that’s been adopted by almost all of the major computer hardware manufacturers. The cable itself can be used to connect a host of devices including digital audio, video, and hard drives.

Thunderbolt graph

Transfers Data

A Thunderbolt cable carries video, audio, and other documents which makes it ideal for performing tasks like backing up the hard drive on your computer or transferring high definition videos to an external portable storage device. The transfer speed of Thunderbolt is considerably faster than that of USB 3.0.

Can be Used to Charge Devices

With the increasing use of electronic devices like computers, cell phones, laptops, and tablets, many people are using thunderbolt cables for charging their equipment.

These cables have been in use for the last few years and they have slowly become a standard for ensuring that your devices run without any power problems. They feature a durable design that can withstand frequent connections and disconnections to your computer.

Supports High Resolution

Another use of Apple's Thunderbolt cable is to display the video output of 4096 by 2160 pixels on supported devices such as computer display, the iMac, the MacBook Pro computers, and some ultra-high-definition televisions.

Using this tool helps to send high-definition resolutions, including support for multiple displays. Multiple devices can be connected to thunderbolt cables since these cables have the capability of daisy-chaining, which means that thunderbolt cables have the potential to connect multiple devices together in a sequential manner.

Which Devices Is Thunderbolt Cable Suitable for?

The Thunderbolt cable is suitable for all devices that have Thunderbolt ports and they include;

  • A Thunderbolt cable is used for Apple products like MacBook Pro and iMac
  • Computer monitors
  • Laptops
  • Hard drives
  • Smartphones
  • TV and other smart home devices

What is the Thunderbolt Pinout Diagram?

The Thunderbolt Pinout Diagram is a visual representation of the pinouts on a Thunderbolt cable. In the above image, the pins are labeled from top and bottom with numbers.

What Is the Thunderbolt Input Look Like?

The Thunderbolt 3 port is similar in appearance to a standard USB Type-C port but is distinguished by a lightning bolt icon printed next to it. It is oval-shaped and has pins inside it.

What Is the Appearance of a Thunderbolt Cable?

The latest Thunderbolt 3 cables are smaller, thinner, lighter, and more flexible than previous generation cables. One side of the cable is for plugging it in, the other side allows you to connect peripheral devices.

After plugging the Thunderbolt cable into a device, there's no need to secure it or screw it into place. There's an audible click when you plug in the cable, but only if the software has recognized that you've connected a Thunderbolt device.

What is the History of Thunderbolt Ports?

The history of the thunderbolt cable is pretty cool. And it could be said that it has changed the world of technology forever. Today, this cable is recognized around the globe for its speed and capability.

The Thunderbolt was developed by Apple and Intel and launched in 2011. It was the super high-speed interface developed for computers and was initially named Light Peak.

It was first featured in MacBook Pro and iMac computers then later adopted by many companies such as Apple, HP, Dell, Asus, Acer, Toshiba, Lenovo, MSI, and many more to enable users to transfer information at speeds up to 40 gigabits per second.

Who Invented Thunderbolt Cables?

They were developed jointly by Apple and Intel as a high-speed alternative to USB 2.0.

What are the Types of Thunderbolt Cables?

There are 4 types of Thunderbolt cables available on the market. These types can be differentiated by their features, length, and price and they are;

  1. Thunderbolt 1
  2. Thunderbolt 2
  3. Thunderbolt 3
  4. Thunderbolt 4
Black thunderbolt cable in a laptop

1. Thunderbolt 1

Capable of carrying data of up to 10 Gbps, the thunderbolt cable offers faster transfer speeds than USB 2.0 or Firewire 800.

Thunderbolt 1 offers the ability to connect one device to another with a maximum distance of 3 meters; it carries both video and audio signals and can support connections in a daisy chain fashion.

It supports resolutions of 2560x1600 @60 Hz

2. Thunderbolt 2

The more recent Thunderbolt 2 standard is twice as fast, capable of 20 GBPS. It was incorporated in the Macbook Pro plus other Apples. As more companies adopt the technology, there are more accessories available for it e.g., graphics adapters, adapters.

It supports resolutions of up to 4k and allows connections of up to 5 devices.

3. Thunderbolt 3

Thunderbolt 3 cable is a high-performance cable, capable of transferring data at up to 40Gbps. To give a bit of perspective on just how fast this is, it’s twice as fast as the Thunderbolt 2 or USB C cables which have speeds of 20Gbps, and four times as fast as the original Thunderbolt interface.

It supports resolutions of up to 4k @60Hz or 5K.

Thunderbolt 3 cable

4. Thunderbolt 4

When it comes to speed, Thunderbolt 4 ports have a 40Gbps bidirectional bandwidth. Basically, this means you can transfer an enormous amount of data very quickly through the cable. It supports a resolution of 4k @120 Hz.

What are the Security Vulnerabilities of Thunderbolt Cables?

Security researchers have long been wary of the Intel Thunderbolt interface as a potential security issue.

These vulnerabilities include:

  • Unauthorized access and data theft enabled by unprotected devices and cables
  • Denial-of-service attacks are enabled by overloading a Thunderbolt hub with too many peripheral connections.

Vulnerability to DMA attacks 

Thunderbolt technology is supposed to support features that prevent data reading while the cable is plugged in. However, these features are not enabled on some Thunderbolt cables.

This makes them vulnerable to DMA attacks or Direct Memory Access. DMA attacks are possible by plugging in a malicious device with an EEPROM chip on the other side of the cable, which enables it to bypass the PCIe bus locks. To prevent these attacks, avoid plugging compromised devices.

Vulnerability to Data Exposure Attacks (Thunderspy) 

Thunderspy is a hacking device designed to brute force Thunderbolt devices registered on the network while leaving no trace on the proximate computers. It will also provide remote access via the backdoor password.

Data exposure attacks are possible because Thunderbolt is poorly implemented by many hardware vendors, who simply did not bother to build in support for authentication. To prevent this kind of attack, install antimalware on your device or secure your devices with a firewall.

Vulnerability to Option ROM attacks

A Thunderbolt cable connecting a computer to a peripheral can be compromised via a malicious device connected to the cable. The option ROM contents of the peripherals are modified by an attacker-supplied device.

Such modifications can grant an attacker much higher levels of privileges on a target, or provide access to peripheral internals, all without requiring physical access to the computer. Do not connect a device that you feel is compromised plus install an antivirus on your computers or scan your devices for malware before connecting them.

What are Cable Bandwidths of Thunderbolt?

 Cable bandwidth is the speed at which data can be transferred to and from a device. The Thunderbolt cable bandwidths include:

Thunderbolt 1

Thunderbolt 1 10 GBPS is a huge step forward. Now you can transfer a full-length film in just a few seconds, all while daisy-chaining up to six devices together—keyboards, hard drives, displays, and more.

Thunderbolt 2

The 20 GBPS Thunderbolt 2 lets you move huge files faster than ever.

Thunderbolt 3

Providing up to 40 Gbps of bandwidth, Thunderbolt 3 technology reduces the time it takes to transfer data from external storage devices and makes large file transfers easier than ever.

Thunderbolt 4

Transfer data at blazing speeds of up to 40 Gbps with Thunderbolt 4 port and cable-the fastest connection to any dock, display, or device.

What Resolutions Do Thunderbolt Cables Provide?

There are various resolutions provided by Thunderbolt;

  • 5K (5120x2880) supported by Thunderbolt 4
  • 4K (4096x2304) supported by Thunderbolt 2 and 3
  • 2K (2560x1600) supported by Thunderbolt 1
Laptop with two thunderbolt cables

What are the Prices of Thunderbolt Cables?

The price for a Thunderbolt cable is actually quite variable. Its cost can be anywhere from $12 to over $300 or more depending on both the length and brand name of the cable.

Other factors that may affect the cost of this type of connector is make and model, desired portability, and desired thickness.

What is the Market Share of Thunderbolt Cables?

According to our research, the Thunderbolt 3 cables market size is expected to reach USD 1.76 Billion by 2022 growing at a rate of 45.3% from 2016 to 2022.

The major players in the Thunderbolt cables market such as Apple Inc., Alcatel-Lucent, Belkin International, Inc., Cable Matters, Canare, C2G, D-Link Corporation, Dell Inc., EVGA Corporation, Falconreach, Griffin Technology, and Hewlett Packard Company are constantly increasing their manufacturing efforts of the cables and investing in expanding their product portfolios and making acquisitions and mergers to build a sustainable competitive advantage over the rest of the competitors.

What are the Thunderbolt Cable Specifications? 

Here are the Thunderbolt cable specifications, according to its versions;

Thunderbolt 1

  • It offers a daisy connection of up to 6 devices
  • Offers speeds of 10 GBPS
  • Supports resolution of 2560 x 1600 @60 Hz

Thunderbolt 2

  • It supports daisy-chaining
  • Offers speeds of up to 20 GBPS
  • It supports a resolution of 4K

Thunderbolt 3

  • Transfers data at a speed of 40 GBPS
  • Can connect up to 6 devices
  • Supports resolution of 4K

Thunderbolt 4

  • It supports daisy-chaining
  • Supports resolutions of up to 5K, or 4K @120 HZ
  • Offers speed of 40 GBPS

What are the Benefits of Using Thunderbolt Cables?

Here are the benefits of using Thunderbolt cables;

A man hand holding a thunderbolt cable
  • Use Thunderbolt cables to connect Thunderbolt-enabled devices. They are ideal for connecting devices, such as external hard drives, computer monitors, digital cameras, scanners, printers, and others
  • The newest Thunderbolt 3 has up to 40 Gbps throughput, which is four times faster than USB 3.
  • Thunderbolt cables are versatile in that they can carry both power and data
  • Support high resolutions which means you can transfer HD movies in seconds rather than minutes
  • They also support DisplayPort, USB 2.0, and are compatible with USB 3.0 devices for even greater compatibility.

  • The Thunderbolt cables are made from high-quality materials to enable the cables to withstand repeated and rigorous use without degradation in performance.
  • Furthermore, the lightweight nature of these cables make them great for anyone who travels

What are the Cons of Using Thunderbolt Cables?

There are a few flaws to take into consideration before deciding if Thunderbolt is your future cable. First, not many laptops and desktops have this technology.

They are being integrated into new computers so it can be hard to find them on some old models. This means you will need to make sure your computer has a Thunderbolt port or be prepared to buy an adapter to use with certain types of devices.

The second concern involves price: the cables and adapters are a bit expensive. However, once invested in this type of accessory, you will not want to switch back to USB or HDMI.

Grey thunderbolt cable and a laptop

What are the General Problems and Solutions about Thunderbolt Connection?

Here are some problems that you may encounter when using the thunderbolts plus their solutions.

Devices Are Hooked Up Nothing Is Working

After the thunderbolt cable is inserted into the computers, it may still show "cable not detected" or "failed to connect." In this case, please check if the cable is broken or inserted badly, or if there is a foreign object between the cable and USB interface of the device.

Please also check whether the computer is off. If so, please turn it on again. If this does not help, try and change the Thunderbolt cable.

Can Thunderbolt Connection Use for Monitors?

Yes, Thunderbolt can be used for monitors. This allows you to connect the Thunderbolt device to the monitor with a single cable (see all conection types). It integrates data, video, audio, and display capabilities into a single interface.

Offers the Highest Speeds

The latest version of ThunderBolt connection technology provides ultra-fast transfer speeds up to 40 Gbit/s, perfect for connecting your Thunderbolt-equipped laptop, Mac with your monitor (see monitors for MacBook Air and Mac Mini).

Also, it gives you the ability to connect a 4K display or four 1080p displays, with additional video outputs for Blu-ray Disc players or game consoles (see also HDMI vs DVI for gamers). This allows easy collaboration among colleagues without worrying about unplugging and replugging cables, with up to six devices connected at once with daisy chaining capability.

What is Thunderbolt Dock? 

Open your door to the world of high-speed connections with a Thunderbolt Dock. A dock connects your laptop to multiple peripherals via a single cable at the same time, delivering high-speed data for audio, video, and even power.

It supports mini DisplayPort as well as USB 3.0 devices such as digital cameras, external hard drives, and more.

What is Thunderbolt Adapter? 

A Thunderbolt Adapter is designed to convert one signal to a Thunderbolt, allowing you to utilize the high speed of this interface without compromising on any video or audio transfer.

With support for 4K displays and with the largest number of Thunderbolt-compatible devices on the market, you will need this adapter.

HDMI to Thunderbolt Adapter

DisplayPort to Thunderbolt Adapter

Convert a DisplayPort video output to a Thunderbolt port. With this adapter, you can attach your DisplayPort-equipped computer to a Thunderbolt-enabled display in order to enjoy high speeds of data transfer and high resolutions.

HDMI to Thunderbolt Adapter

Conveniently connect your HDMI device to a Thunderbolt port with this HDMI to thunderbolt adapter. Works on any device that has a thunderbolt, including iMacs and MacBook Pros.

And unlike other adapters that use analog conversion, this adapter uses the highest quality digital decoding for high definition video and sound signals.

How to Convert Thunderbolt to Type-C?

Here is how to convert Thunderbolt to Type C;

  1. You will need to buy a Thunderbolt to Type C adapter
  2. Plug in one end of the adapter to a Thunderbolt-enabled laptop and the other end to a Type-C device.

How to Convert Thunderbolt to HDMI? 

Convert your computer's Thunderbolt port to work with your HDMI-enabled TV or Bluray Player with this simple step-by-step guide.

  1. You will need to purchase a Thunderbolt to HDMI adapter
  2. Plug in one end of the adapter to your computer’s Thunderbolt and the other to your HDMI-enabled device.

How to Convert Thunderbolt to DisplayPort? 

It is a very common problem not to be able to connect a Thunderbolt device to a DisplayPort device. In this case, you can use a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort converter to overcome this problem. Here are the instructions to follow.


  1. Buy a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort converter or adapter
  2. Plug in one end of the converter cable to a Thunderbolt port and the other to a DisplayPort input.

How to Convert Thunderbolt to VGA? 

Here is how to do the conversion if you want to use your analog device such as a CRT monitor.

Convert Thunderbolt to DisplayPort
  1. Buy a Thunderbolt to VGA converter
  2. To connect your thunderbolt laptop to a VGA device, you have to plug one end of the connector into your laptop's Thunderbolt port and the other side of the connector to your VGA device.

What is the Difference Between Thunderbolt and USB-C?

A Thunderbolt and a USB-C may seem like the same thing at first, but they are actually quite different. Here is how they differ from each other.

  • Thunderbolt offers up to 40Gbps of bandwidth. USB C highest data rate is 20Gbps
  • Some Thunderbolt ports have a lightning sign while USB-C ports do not have
Thunderbolt cable in a computer

What is the Difference Between Thunderbolt and Mini DisplayPort?

The Thunderbolt ports have many similarities to Mini DisplayPort, but there are also differences which are;


The maximum resolution supported by a DisplayPort interface is 3840 x 2160 pixels while for Thunderbolt is 5K.

Transfer Speed

The main difference between Mini DisplayPort and Thunderbolt is the transfer speed. The Thunderbolt standard offers the ability to transfer data at a faster rate than a Mini DisplayPort connection.

Provide Power

Ask any computer expert and they'll tell you that Thunderbolt is more advanced than Mini DisplayPort. Thunderbolt can charge your devices while Mini DisplayPort cannot.

 Put simply, if you want the latest and greatest technology on the market, then don't settle for outdated Mini DisplayPort; upgrade to the new and innovative Thunderbolt 3 monitor or display.

Two cartooned thunderbolt cables

What is the Difference Between Thunderbolt and USB 3.0? 

The main difference between Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 is that Thunderbolt can move HD data very quickly, which makes it ideal for transferring High definition video.

This makes it a good option for professionals who need to use many high-bandwidth devices on their machines at once, including video cameras, external hard drives, and more.

What is the Difference Between Thunderbolt and DisplayPort?

Thunderbolt is an interface technology developed by Intel, while DisplayPort was developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA).

Thunderbolt is an advanced video connection technology that transfers data faster than DisplayPort.

About Dusan Stanar

I'm the founder of VSS Monitoring. I have been both writing and working in technology in a number of roles for dozens of years and wanted to bring my experience online to make it publicly available. Visit https://www.vssmonitoring.com/about-us/ to read more about myself and the rest of the team.

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