It’s been almost two years since Intel announced Thunderbolt 3, trumpeting it as the new “computer port nirvana”. It is currently the fastest, most versatile connection for any dock, display or peripheral device, including all manner of USB storage. So is it time you upgraded to the most up to date standard in connectivity?
First of all, let’s look at bandwidth. Thunderbolt 3 offers a huge 40Gbps, double that of Thunderbolt 2. But very few devices are built with components that even come close to filling all that, so is there a benefit? Well, yes and no – in reality, with Thunderbolt 3, the protocol or bus is no longer the bottleneck.
If you daisy-chain enough external hard drives, you will get a speed boost, but the connection won’t make a single external drive with just one disk any faster. When you’re using multiple Thunderbolt peripherals down the same cable, all that extra bandwidth can become useful.
For example, the LaCie 12big with 12x enterprise-class hard drives pushes the throughput beyond that achieved with Thunderbolt 2, up to 2600MBps. And that’s actual transfer speeds not theoretical bandwidth. If you use a really high bandwidth SSD like that in the LaCie Bolt3 (PCIe nVME) it is possible to saturate all that lovely bandwidth – 2800MBps! That’s enough for some serious realtime 6K editing straight off SSD.
Thunderbolt 3 also delivers power to your laptop – the LaCie 6big and 12big deliver up to 15 watts to your MacBook or MacBook Pro! Thunderbolt3 cables are now the same size as USB-C, the next generation interface, and USB-C devices will work on Thunderbolt3 ports.
It also supports 5K displays, and packs in plenty of other functionality like display port video and PCIe support, using an adaptor. So if you’re currently rocking Thunderbolt 2 or other previous standards, now might be time to think about upgrading your ports and achieving the highest, happiest state of connectivity.