Is Thunderbolt 3 the same as USB C?


When it comes to charging our device or transferring data, the USB port is something that we rely on. Also, for a really long time, we have relied on USB-A for most of our devices. Even still, there are lots of devices around us that use USB-A. But on the other hand, we are also noticing a rise in ports like USB C and Thunderbolt 3.

However, most of the users are pretty confused between these two, and they often ask, is Thunderbolt 3 the same as USB C?

In case you have a similar kind of question, then I will be explaining the difference between USB C and Thunderbolt 3 in this article. But before, I go and answer the USB type C the same as the thunderbolt question. Let’s just know about these two types of connectors:

What Is USB C?

USB is the most used industry-standard connector, which is heavily used for transmitting data as well as power on a single cable. The USB C works like any regular USB A port.

However, the USB C connector looks pretty similar to the micro USB connector. However, the overall shape of the connector is a bit thick and comes with an unflappability function.

Just like Apple’s lightning ports, the USB C connector doesn’t have any up or down orientation. Like there is no right way to insert the connector to a port as we have for USB A. There is no need to flip it over to plug it in. instead, it is always up.

Also, the standard cable has the same connector on both ends. As a result, you don’t have to figure out which end goes where.

Moreover, the USB C connector was developed by the USB implementers forum or USB-IP. The group of companies has researched, developed, and certified the USB standard over the years. Also, the USB-IF consists of more than 700 companies all across the globe in its membership.

Some of the popular names include Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung. As a result, many new devices in a huge variety of tech categories come with USB-C ports. For instance, in today’s time, you can find hard drives, smartphones, headphones, smart home devices having USB C connectors for transferring data and power.

What Is Thunderbolt 3? 

If you are wondering, are thunderbolt and USB C the same, then yes the Thunderbolt 3 port looks the same as the USB C port. Also, the connector is physically also pretty much the same.

Thunderbolt 3 port can also do everything that a USB C port can do. However, they are much faster compared to USB C.

Also, you should know that thunderbolt 3 is the superset of USB C. you can easily plug a USB C device into a thunderbolt 3 port on a computer, and it will work without any issues.

However, the best part of thunderbolt 3 is that it has a high-speed data transfer rate. For instance, it can transfer up to 40 Gbps of data which is twice as fast as the 20 Gbps maximum throughput of the fastest USB C ports.

Thunderbolt 3 cannot only help you to transfer data at a rapid speed. But it also offers you additional features and capabilities. For instance, you will be able to connect to external monitors and expansion docks.

A USB C port with the support of Thunderbolt 3 means that a single cable is all you need for transferring a large amount of information. Such as video data for two or more 60Hz 4K external monitors.

Also, some companies have worked on the technology and were able to launch some of the great products in the market. Among them, Apple was one of the early adopters of Thunderbolt 2 for computers. Also, nowadays, the port is available on all the latest model Mac desktops and laptops.

However, in this case, the video output capabilities of a system matter a lot. But the new generation iMacs now support dual 6K Apple Pro Display XDR external monitors connected via Thunderbolt 3 cables.

Not just Apple, even more, and more, Windows PCs and other devices are now coming with the support of Thunderbolt 3. Like, look at any of the high-end laptops, ultraportable laptops, or the late model premium laptops, you will surely find support for Thunderbolt 3.

Is Thunderbolt 3 the same as USB C? It looks the same but…

Thunderbolt 3 and USB C may seem pretty much the same. However, Thunderbolt 3 is a connectivity standard that is capable of transferring large amounts of power and data, which USB C connectors cannot.

Also, the older versions of Thunderbolt used the mini DisplayPort connector. However, the latest version, which is the Thunderbolt 3 uses a USB C style connector.

Even though all Thunderbolt 3 cables and ports use USB-C, not all USB-C connections are also Thunderbolt 3.

So if you are wondering, are thunderbolt and USB C the same? Then the answer to this question would be NO, they are not the same. They just use the same type of connector.

How Can I Tell the Difference Between Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Ports?

Well, it is pretty hard to tell the difference between the two. For instance, the Apple MacBook Pro comes with as many as four Thunderbolt 3 ports. But if you look closely, you will hardly find any label on them, leaving you with the question of which port is what.

Even the same goes with Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 which’s thunderbolt 3 ports are also unmarked. Hence, the best way to know which port is what is to read the product description.

Moreover, the same also goes for the cables. Some Thunderbolt 3 cables have bolts of thunder marked on their oval-shaped plugs. But in some cables, you don’t really get to see any sign of thunderbolt.

So it is important to read the packaging materials carefully to ensure that you are using a thunderbolt cable only. Also, if you wish to enjoy all the thunderbolt capabilities, you will need to have a Thunderbolt 3 cable.

What is the difference between USB C and Thunderbolt?

On one side, the USB C is a connector and not a protocol in its own right. USB C connectors can support a variety of protocols. Such as Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4a, MHL (various versions), USB 3.0 (5 Gbps, aka USB 3.1 Gen 1!) and USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps). Also, just like any other USB connector, it can also support USB PD for supplying power.

On the other hand, Thunderbold 3 simplifies the situation at the computer end, at least. The first thing you should know is that Thunderbolt 3 is only supported on USB-C connectors. And the second thing is that Thunderbolt 3 includes support for DisplayPort 1.2 and USB 3.1 Gen 2. So you know that if a computer supports Thunderbolt 3 then it has a USB-C port supporting all three protocols.

Also, as USB 3.1 Gen 2 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 & 3.0, the same port supports these as well.

So that was all for your question – is USB type c the same as a thunderbolt. Well, both of the connectors may look similar, but they do have a different purpose. So you should not really get confused between these two.

However, Thunderbolt 3 as a port is much more powerful, and it can support USB C devices. So if you are planning to purchase a laptop or desktop, you should probably consider it to have a Thunderbolt 3 Port.

Anyway, if there is anything else that you would like to ask, then do feel free to comment below, and I will surely help you out.