TecHamster is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Thunderbolt 3 vs USB-C – What Is The Difference?

Thunderbolt 3 vs USB-C – What Is The Difference?

What’s the difference between Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C, and which is better? Here’s a simple guide explaining that.

We can probably all agree that USB has become excessively complex over the past few years.

With USB-C, the situation has gotten a bit more streamlined since there are no longer many different types of connectors, brands, and speeds.

Recently, this connector has gained a lot of popularity, appearing on the front panels of PC cases, the rear panels of motherboards, as well as smartphones, laptops, and other products. Nonetheless, there are different specifications that use this port, so they cannot be identified at a glance.

With Alternate Mode specifications, one of which is Thunderbolt 3, which is also steadily gaining popularity among certain products. How does Thunderbolt 3 differ from “regular” USB-C?

This is the question we will answer in this article, so read on!

See: Best USB Flash

What Is USB-C?

The USB-C connector is a type of USB connector, and USB (Universal Serial Bus) has introduced a wide variety of connectors over the years, the most well-known and recognizable of which is the USB Type A connector.

Before USB-C, a total of ten different USB connectors were introduced, all with different shapes and pin configurations. While some were more popular and longer-lasting than others, all have now been replaced by USB-C.

The USB Type C connector is very compact and symmetrical, with 24 pins – over twice as many as the standard Type A and B connectors. As far as size goes, it’s about the same as the 5-pin Micro USB connector, but since the connector is symmetrical, it doesn’t matter which way the cable is flipped, and that’s a small but welcome convenience.

you may also like: HDMI VS. DisplayPort – Which is better for Gaming

It’s important to note that USB-C is only the connector and the actual features and transfer speeds depend on which version of the USB interface it supports. USB-C supports all versions of USB from USB 2.0 to USB 3.2 and will be the only connector that supports.

What Is Thunderbolt 3?

Thunderbolt 3 is a hardware interface designed by Intel and Apple that uses the 24-pin USB-C connector. Thunderbolt’s first two iterations used Mini DisplayPort before Intel switched to USB-C due to the connector’s increasing popularity.

In the past, manufacturers had to pay hefty royalty fees if they wanted to use Thunderbolt 3, which is why Thunderbolt 3-equipped devices were relatively rare and so expensive.

In March 2019, this changed, and OEMs are no longer required to pay fees to implement Thunderbolt technology in their products. However, all Thunderbolt devices still need to be certified by Intel in order to be approved.

See: HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA and DVI: Which One to Choose?

Due to its high transfer speeds, Thunderbolt 3 is commonly found in Apple products, laptops, some motherboards, and in external GPU enclosures.

However, Thunderbolt 4 was released in July 2020, and it retains the same data transfer speeds but adds some new features that were absent from Thunderbolt 3. This includes USB4 support, dual 4K display support, and DisplayPort 2.0 support.

USB vs Thunderbolt 3

USB-C is just a connector, while Thunderbolt 3 is a type of hardware interface that uses this connector, therefore comparing the two would be like comparing apples to oranges.

Rather, if you wanted to compare Thunderbolt 3’s speeds with those offered by USB, you would need to compare it with one of the different versions of the USB interface supported by USB-C, and those can be found below.

TechnologyData Rates
USB 2.01.5-480 Mbit/s
USB 3.05 Gbit/s
USB 3.1 Gen 1 (SuperSpeed)5 Gbit/s
USB 3.1 Gen 2(SuperSpeed+)10 Gbit/s
USB 3.2 Gen 1×1 (SuperSpeed)5 Gbit/s
USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 (SuperSpeed+)10 Gbit/s
USB 3.2 Gen 1×2 (SuperSpeed+)10 Gbit/s
USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (SuperSpeed+)20 Gbit/s
USB440 Gbit/s
Thunderbolt 340 Gbit/s
Thunderbolt 440 Gbit/s

Check the specification sheet of a USB-C-equipped device to find out which version of USB it supports. 

Hence, as you can see from the table above, Thunderbolt 3 is significantly faster than USB 3.2, although USB4 has caught up in that respect, since it is actually based on Thunderbolt 3.

USB4 will be compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and 4, as well as older versions of USB. Furthermore, Thunderbolt 4 is a minor update that will add a few extra features but won’t drastically increase speeds.


Share post on
Edward Connelly
By Edward Connelly

I’m Edward, and I am a passionate tech writer who loves to try new gadgets. I work as the blog editor at TechHamster where I write about everything from how to use technology in your business, to what apps you should download for your next vacation. I also test out all of the latest and gadgets that come along!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Tech Hamster – Technology News, Reviews, and Buying Guides is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Safe CPU Temps: How Hot Should My CPU Be? 2022 Knowledge Base

Safe CPU Temps: How Hot Should My CPU Be? 2022

It doesn't matter if you just started It is soou can build your own...

By Edward Connelly
How to Check Mouse DPI on Windows 10 and 11 in 2022 Knowledge Base

How to Check Mouse DPI on Windows 10 and 11 in 2022

Computer systems are composed of peripheral devices that perform different tasks together. The mouse...

By Edward Connelly
What is an Optical Drive & What Does an Optical Drive Do? 2022 Knowledge Base

What is an Optical Drive & What Does an Optical Drive Do? 2022

Is an optical drive required? Do you have any idea what an optical drive...

By Edward Connelly
HDMI VS. DisplayPort – Which is better for Gaming Knowledge Base

HDMI VS. DisplayPort – Which is better for Gaming

Introduction When we think of modern serial interfaces, two names come to mind. The...

By Edward Connelly
HDMI 2.1: Why It Matters for PCs and TVs – Explained Knowledge Base

HDMI 2.1: Why It Matters for PCs and TVs – Explained

A major connector and cable standard for PCs and TVs, HDMI is widely used...

By Edward Connelly
How to Fix Steam Missing File Privileges Error Knowledge Base

How to Fix Steam Missing File Privileges Error

Steam's missing file privileges error is one of the most frustrating issues you can...

By Edward Connelly
Ryzen vs Threadripper vs Epyc – Which is Best for Gaming? Knowledge Base

Ryzen vs Threadripper vs Epyc – Which is Best for Gaming?

Are you building or upgrading a PC and not sure whether to go with...

By Edward Connelly
Acer vs ASUS Laptops: Which Brand is Better? Knowledge Base

Acer vs ASUS Laptops: Which Brand is Better?

There are many good laptop brands out there. Acer and ASUS, however, are two...

By Edward Connelly