USB C vs Apple Thunderbolt Difference

At one time, we had little choice of USBs, but now there are several to choose from, and each one has its own set of properties for a specific task.

We use USBs to connect external devices, like hard drives, to our computers but these days, the mobile devices and other electronic devices we use are getting slimmer, and that means the old type A USB no longer fits. To replace it, we have two very different technologies, USB C and the Thunderbolt Port.

Why Are These Important?

USB C is not a universal standard; it’s a double-sided connector that can be inserted either way around, so no more messing about trying to get the connector into the port. USB C ports support multiple protocols so that you can use adaptors that output DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI, and more, all in one port. As well, with many mobile chargers carrying 5 volts at 2 amps and computers generally requiring 20 volts at 5 amps, the USB C connector can support power variations of 100 watts, which means you can use one to charge a smartphone or a laptop.

USB C Features:

  1. It’s small, just half of the width of a standard USB and a third of the height; the USB C is just a tiny bit bigger than a micro USB or a Lightning connector
  2. It’s reversible; a USB C can be inserted either way into a USB C port
  3. It’s fast; data transfers can be done at up to 10 Gbps
  4. It’s powerful, providing up to 100W
  5. It’s flexible – you can connect an older device to a new USB C port, even if that device doesn’t use the USB technology.

What About the Thunderbolt Port?

The Thunderbolt 3 port from Intel is the updated version of the Thunderbolt, which was designed by Intel and Apple. The Thunderbolt 3 transfers data at 40 Gbps, which is two times faster than the Thunderbolt 2 port and an incredible 4 times faster than USB C. The Thunderbolt 3 and the USB C connectors are designed in the same way but with the Thunderbolt, you need an Active cable. These are similar to a fiber active cable, made from glass and plastic. They transfer data using light transmission and vary in length from 6 ft to around 200 ft.

Benefits of Thunderbolt Cable:

  1. 4 PCI Express Gen 3 lanes
  2. 8 DisplayPort 1.2 lanes (MST and HBR2)
  3. Support for dual 4K displays
  4. 15W bus-powered devices, Power-Up 100W system changing
  5. Connect two computers with a 10 GB ethernet connection
  6. Low latency for audio recording with PCI Express

The Downsides to the Thunderbolt Cable:

Everything has its downsides, and the Thunderbolt 3 is no different:

  1. Costly – a Thunderbolt 3 cable can be 10 x more expensive than a standard USB
  2. Potential Security Risks – connection and data transmission security are a big problem, and Thunderbolt 3 is vulnerable to DMA (Direct Memory Access) attacks. These attacks are based on a malicious external device connecting and being able to access the memory, allowing encryption key exposure, reading and writing to system memory, and installation of malware. The interface can also be used for loading and executing malicious Option ROMs from devices or peripherals attached, and execution may happen before the system is even run. This can lead to keylogging, kernel invasion, and so on.
  3. Small Ecosystem – there are not too many products that make use of the Thunderbolt 3 port, and, right now, that means the market is limited.

Most of the latest devices will have USB C, and some will have Thunderbolt 3 for higher-speed data transfers and better connections. This can relieve some users from the tangles of wire that protrude from every device. Technology is ever-evolving, and change is inevitable; the data transfer speed gets faster every year, irrespective of how complex networking is.

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