What is Thunderbolt 4

Thunderbolt 4 is the latest iteration of the Thunderbolt interface, which is known for its flexible connectivity and blazing-fast data transfer speeds. 

You can connect monitors, video capture devices, storage devices, webcams, microphones, expansion docks, and other multimedia devices to your laptop to take your gaming, live streaming, or video editing experience to a whole new level altogether with Thunderbolt 4. 

Thunderbolt 4 is often confused with USB-C, as they share the same physical port type. Let’s take a look at the new Thunderbolt interface and how it differs from USB-C.

What is Thunderbolt 4?

What is Thunderbolt 4What is Thunderbolt 4

Thunderbolt is a hardware interface, which has been around since 2011. A Thunderbolt-certified device combines data, video, and power signals into a single port or cable for unparalleled versatility. 

Thunderbolt 4 is the latest generation, announced in 2020, which lets you connect up to five devices on a single connection. 

This interface also allows you to connect all Thunderbolt-compatible and USB devices without worrying about interoperability issues. You can charge your laptop in minutes, connect an SSD (solid-state drive) for fast file transfers, or enjoy immersive visuals in jaw-dropping 8K quality. 

Thunderbolt 4 redefines the peripheral interface experience. It’s a perfect and nimble setup for video, gaming, and streaming professionals who need a clutter-free workspace without compromising on performance. 

Who needs a Thunderbolt 4 laptop?

As a technology certification, Thunderbolt 4 specifies certain minimum requirements, including for compliant peripherals. A Thunderbolt 4 laptop will support a constant 40 Gbps total bandwidth for peak data transfer performance on a single port, unlike other ports that offer variable speeds. This certification ensures you get a consistent bandwidth for throttle-free performance.

Let’s say you want to watch your favorite movie in pristine quality on a big external monitor. Your laptop battery is about to die, so you need to be plugging it in, but, alas - there’s only one free port on your laptop, putting you in a fix! If it’s a Thunderbolt 4 port, you can connect the 4K monitor to your laptop, while allowing your laptop to charge from the same port. Now that’s a godsend, right?

Thunderbolt 4 offers up to 100W of power for charging your laptop and 15W for peripherals that draw power from your laptop. It also expands video display possibilities, as you can benefit from 8K support at 60 Hz.

You can explore Thunderbolt 4 gaming laptops from HP to take your productivity and creative vision to new heights. OMEN gaming laptops feature an array of expansion ports including Thunderbolt 4, and are packed with fast refresh rate monitors and the latest CPU and graphics cards for trailblazing performance.

Differences between Thunderbolt 3 and 4

Thunderbolt 4 and 3 share the same port but have significant differences. Thunderbolt 4, being the newer standard, has higher minimum certification requirements. The minimum data transfer bandwidth is 16 Gbps in the older standard, which is doubled to 32 Gbps in Thunderbolt 4. You’ll see much faster file transfers with the new standard.

While Thunderbolt 3 only supports one 4K monitor, Thunderbolt 4 lets you connect two 4K monitors simultaneously, or a single 8K monitor to your laptop.

While both support laptop charging, Thunderbolt 4 makes it mandatory for compatible devices to support up to 100W power delivery. 

Thunderbolt 4 vs USB-C: Are they the same?

It’s very easy to confuse Thunderbolt 4 with USB-C since they’re both physically identical. Both standards use the same ports, but they’re vastly different, as Thunderbolt 4 places mandatory requirements for certification, unlike USB-C.

With a USB-C connection between a monitor and a laptop, you have no control over the actual display quality. Thunderbolt 4 necessitates best-in-class 4K and 8K video transmission for supported media files, so you’ll immediately notice a stark difference in visual quality.

This interface also guarantees faster file transfers than USB-C, mandating a 40 Gbps total bandwidth, which is shared between the connected devices on a single connection.

Because of its ultra-high bandwidth, Thunderbolt 4 is also suitable for connecting fast external graphics cards. This is ideal if you have a lightweight laptop without a GPU you’d like to use for high frame rate (HFR) gaming.

USB, with its myriad of formats (including the newest USB4), is cross-compatible with Thunderbolt 4, so you can mix and match them all without worries. A Thunderbolt 4 hub will easily connect a USB 3.2 hard disk drive.

Embrace lighting-fast, versatile connectivity

Thunderbolt 4 is nothing short of a revolution. It seamlessly enables fast data transfer speeds to reduce waiting times on large 4K files.

Gamers can enjoy playing on high-res monitors and even use a dual monitor setup to amp up the experience. If live streaming is your thing, you can connect webcams, mics, video capture devices, musical instruments, and other digital devices over a Thunderbolt 4 connection. The possibilities are literally endless. 

Explore endless creative possibilities with Thunderbolt 4 laptops from HP to see this versatility in action.

About the Author: Vidhu Jain is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. A Fortune 500 experienced brand storyteller, she’s a voracious reader who loves traveling and exploring the world.