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Before the modern ports came into the picture, computer users were entangled in various wires with different compatibilities. Displays improved with time, while the connectivity ports did not keep up. DisplayPort was a step in the right direction, but it hit the wall after a while.
The release of Thunderbolt™ and its eventual combination with USB Type-C paved the way for the future. It offered higher display quality on monitors along with superior data transfer speeds. With the latest Thunderbolt 4 standard, the speeds have gone four times higher than what is offered on USB 3.1 or most SSDs.
In this article, we take a closer look at Thunderbolt’s evolution, its latest offering, and laptops offering the newest technology.
Intel® developed the Thunderbolt port in collaboration with Apple in 2011. It was initially called Light Peak but later changed to Thunderbolt, whose patent was transferred by Apple to the chip-maker giant. The former holds the unrestricted use of the technology and its name in the agreed deal.
Traditionally, computers had separate ports for audio, video, power, and data, which required separate cables. Thunderbolt has replaced them all by supplying everything through a single cable, saving space and money that would have been spent on purchasing different wires. Display high-quality video on monitors or transfer data through the Thunderbolt bridge.
Apple initially introduced Thunderbolt on the new line of MacBook Pro computers. It was based on Mini DisplayPort and not USB, which experts believed to be the best at the time. Leading laptop manufacturers, such as Sony, included the Thunderbolt in a modified form through the Power Media Dock.
The Thunderbolt 2 was developed by Intel, offering backward compatibility for the earlier version, as both generations of Thunderbolt were identical at the physical level. It incorporated a DisplayPort 1.2 supporting 4K video streaming to a single monitor or two QHD monitors.
The third version paved the way for a Type-C, USB-based port with double the bandwidth at 40 Gbit/s. Thunderbolt 3 halved the power consumption and could drive two external 4K displays running at 60 Hz refresh rate (or a single 4K monitor at 120 Hz).
Since the Thunderbolt port moved to USB Type-C from the third generation onwards, finding it on devices has become easier. An accompanying lightning symbol is next to the port, located next to a Type-C port. Currently, only Intel widely supports Thunderbolt, while the certification for the technology is limited and rare to find on AMD-based motherboards.
Desktops with higher-end motherboards, preferably the gaming and content creator segment, will support the Thunderbolt. The cabinet will house it on the front panel, with the wires connected to the motherboard.
Similarly, on laptops, look for the USB Type-C port with an accompanying Thunderbolt logo printed next to it. If there is no indication of the tech, Thunderbolt is not supported, and merely plugging the cable will not add the capability.
Thunderbolt ports have revolutionized the ports segment by unifying data and video streaming through a single cable. Let us look closely at why the joint effort of Intel and Apple is better than other port certifications.
Computer component and laptop manufacturers don't have to make changes in production to bring the Thunderbolt port. It is available through the prevailing USB Type-C connector on computers across the manufacturers, irrespective of the ecosystems.
Users can also add the capability on desktops using an add-on card. Make sure the motherboard supports extension cards. These additional peripherals are generally compatible on mid to higher range boards.
The fastest USB 3.1 connection maxes out at 10 Gbps, whereas Thunderbolt 4 clocks at 40 Gbps. This level of throughput lets users attach an external GPU to a laptop and use it like a dedicated component, turning it into a real gaming rig. The Thunderbolt connect enables a fast connection as if the card is connected directly to the motherboard.
Cut down copy time between devices at a faster speed than most SSDs available in the market over a network of Thunderbolt 4 wires.
With a power delivery of up to 100 watts, Thunderbolt 4 ports can send or receive a considerable amount of power that can charge most laptops and devices. Few higher-end laptops only offer the Thunderbolt as the lone A/C port for power.
Thunderbolt also offers up to 15 watts for USB-powered devices that rely on the host for power to function.
Through the Bus-powered function, many Thunderbolt-based storage options are available. With their swift 40 Gbps, boot times can be reduced to nothing for computers. Thunderbolt enclosures coupled with fast SSDS can significantly increase data transfer and loading speeds.
Add RAID configurations to the mix; you will have the fastest speeds available for a device or network.
Daisy chain up to 6 devices, as a user can connect different computers and devices interacting with each other through the Thunderbolt cables. Content creators and graphics professionals can benefit from the arrangement.
For instance, connect a high-speed external drive and edit files directly without copying them to the system. Connect a 4K monitor with another wire and a third one transferring necessary data to another computer.
Connect two computers using a Thunderbolt cable over a peer-to-peer network and transfer large files at 40 Gbps speed in a short period. This practice is handy when upgrading to a newer system, and large files must be transferred.
Users can also use a high-speed 10 Gigabit ethernet adapter through the same port. The speeds will be slower but will get the job done.
Now that we are familiar with what Thunderbolt 4 offers, let us look at some HP laptops that ship with Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Living true to its name, the HP EliteBook 840 G8 is secured by HP Wolf Security, offering an in-depth security layer. Windows 10 Pro is included with an optional upgrade to Windows 11. Intel's in-house AX120 WiFi 6(2x) and Bluetooth 5 as a combo are offered on the machine.
The 11th gen Intel Core™ i5 powers the laptop with the integrated Intel Iris graphics to get through most graphics-oriented tasks. A single 16GB RAM is included to support the powerful processor, while a slot is empty for doing dual-channel when upgrading RAM. Two Thunderbolt 4 ports through USB Type-C are available on the laptop, and both are positioned together.
A desktop user generally finds the laptop displays a tad underwhelming. The HP EliteBook 860 G9 is here to change that with its 16-inch WUXGA LED display with antiglare (up to 1000 nits option). We get the latest 16GB DDR5 RAM as supported on the 12th generation Intel Core i5 processor.
A total of two Thunderbolt 4 ports through USB4 Type-C with a 40Gbps signaling rate. The EliteBook offers the newer WiFi-6E with a band extending to 6 GHz and Bluetooth 5.2 as a combo. Use the next-generation wireless connectivity for conducting meetings from anywhere through the advanced dual-array microphone that keeps the background to a minimum.
If you can't decide between a laptop and a tablet, then the HP Spectre x360 Convertible Laptop is the answer. The computer is powered by the mighty 11th generation Intel Core i7 with the optional NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3050. The dynamic combination makes it a portable yet formidable gaming machine.
The laptop houses two Thunderbolt 4 with USB4 Type-C ports with the highest signaling rate available for the standard. In the display department, we get 3K and above resolution on a 16-inch IPS display with multi-touch. The screen-to-body ratio is 91%, exuding a tablet feel for most users.
Not everyone is looking to splurge on a laptop, and some are looking to get a value-for-money product without burning a hole in their pocket. HP ENVY Laptop - 17t-ch100 delivers precisely that with an 11th generation Intel Core i7 accompanied by a dual channel 16GB DDR4 RAM. A single Thunderbolt 4 with a USB4 Type-C port is included for fast connectivity and high-end displays.
The 512GB NVMe M2. SSD ensures that bootup times stay under ten seconds in all scenarios. The 17.3-inch full HD IPS panel is a tradeoff for heavier machines.
Finally, we have a laptop from the gaming philosophy imbibed by HP® through the OMEN Laptops series. We start strong with the 12th generation Intel Core i7, backed by an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 for laptops with a dedicated 8GB DDR6 memory. Game on this machine without compromising in frames, and shader quality, amongst other aspects.
Have the edge over others when playing multiplayer FPS on the 144 Hz refresh rate on a 16.1-inch Full HD IPS display with 300 nits. A single Thunderbolt 4 port with a maxed-out signaling rate is included with the laptop.
Thunderbolt 4 is the present and the forthcoming future. It is good to be aware of what it has in store and how you can take advantage of it. The latest offerings from HP® across different customer segments make it easy to get their hands on the fastest hardware interface available to the public.
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