Thunderbolt 4 is ready: here is what is new and changed
Intel unveiled Thunderbolt 4, the next-generation of the hardware interface designed to connect hardware devices to computer systems, on July 8, 2020.
The company revealed that Thunderbolt 4 comes with expanded capabilities and USB4 specification compliance. The new standard uses the USB-C connector; this ensures that users may connect existing Thunderbird 3 and USB-C devices to the interface instead of having to rely on adapters or purchase entire new hardware. New Thunderbolt 4 cables that guarantee the supported functionality will be sold later this year, but Thunderbolt 3 cables will work as well.
Thunderbolt 4 requires protections to prevent attacks against certain vulnerabilities found in Thunderbolt 3.
Intel has not changed the minimum PC speed requirements in Thunderbolt 4; it is still 40Gb/s and thus identical to the requirement of Thunderbolt 3.
What has changed, however, is the minimum PC data requirement, as it has been doubled from PCIe 16 Gb/s to PCIe 32 Gb/s. Another change is that Thunderbolt 4 requires minimum support for two 4K displays or one 8K display.
Here is the overview of the minimum requirements of Thunderbolt 4:
- Minimum video and data requirements of Thunderbolt 3 doubled:
- Video: Two 4K displays or one 8K display.
- Data: PCIe at 32 Gbps
- Support for docks with up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports.
- At least one Thunderbolt 4 dock needs to support PC charging.
- Required Intel VT-d-based direct memory access protection.
- Required that wake from sleep is supported when the user touches the keyboard or mouse and the device is connected to a Thunderbolt dock.
How does it compare to USB 4.0? It is essential that users understand the differences.
USB 4.0 supports data transfers with up to 40 Gb/s as well, but the data transfer rate is not mandatory. It is sufficient to support data transfer rates of 20 Gb/s, and that is the same speed that USB 3.2 introduced. Additionally, USB 4 may support PC charging and support for video.
Basically, what Intel did with Thunderbolt is make all optional requirements mandatory. In the case of video, Intel did even more by increasing the minimum requirement to two 4K displays.
Intel plans to release the Thunderbolt 4 controller 8000 series later in 2020, and the company expects that the first computer systems that support Thunderbolt 4 will also be available later that year.
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