Thunderbolt 4 products fix a major USB-C problem

Thunderbolt ports

Thunderbolt ports on PCs powered by Intel’s new Tiger Lake processor will make it easy to plug in multiple USB-C peripherals.

Stephen Shakland / CNET

USB-C’s main rival Thunderbolt is being used to fix one of the biggest problems of the standard: the absence of hubs and dxx.

Before the end of the year, Other World Computing will begin shipping O 150 OWC Thunderbolt Hub, The company said Wednesday. Products taking advantage of the new Thunderbolt 4 standard will turn one port on a laptop into three ports in the Thunderbolt or USB-C standard. Due to USB-C data limitations, the standard cannot support DX on its own today.

“It opens up options,” OWC chief executive Larry O’Connor said of Thunderbolt products.

Thunderbolt and USB-C are at the heart of modern high-end computing. The standards allow you to plug in large, high-resolution monitors, fast external storage arrays and, in the case of Thunderbolt, external graphics cards to boost major gaming or video-editing performance. It gives you a machine that is both powerful and portable.

That’s a big deal for modern computing. Most of us have a laid back attitude when it comes to painting a picture about a room. More powerful ports mean your laptop can shoulder serious computing loads, especially when hubs and docking stations extend that power.

Thunderbolt 4 debuts with Sporting laptop with Intel’s new Tiger Lake processors. Thunderbolt uses USB-C connectors and cables and can transfer other types of data, including USB to DisplayPort video for monitors and numerous other devices. It is this Thunderbolt adaptability that lets you plug multiple USB-C devices into Thunderbolt ports on the Thunderbolt 4 dock or hub.

OWC's $ 150 Thunderbolt Dock lets you plug three Thunderbolt or USB-C devices into a Thunderbolt 4-port PC.  Such ports will become more common with PCs powered by Intel's new Tiger Lake processor.

OWC’s $ 150 Thunderbolt Dock lets you plug three Thunderbolt or USB-C devices into a Thunderbolt 4-port PC. Such ports will become more common with PCs powered by Intel’s new Tiger Lake processor.

Other World Computing

Here’s how USB-C and Thunderbolt get complicated. The two standards compete but are also connected. Thunderbolt adopts the USB-C connector, and the latest version of USB is loaded with Thunderbolt’s fast and convenient technology with G.

USB Lots of standard

USB stands for Universal Serial Bus, and is well-named. The standard spans everything from dashboards and airport charging stations to plasma balls and hamster wheels that spin fast when you type quickly. Basically, it is used to transfer data to devices such as keyboards, mice and printers.

Three recent attempts have improved USB. First, the USB. Power Delivery (USB PD) brought better electrical smarts so you can charge power-hungry devices like laptops that use not only phones, but 100 watts.

Second, the core data transfer technology, L, USB 3.0, was upgraded several times and can now accommodate speeds of up to 20 gigabytes per second. As fast as transferring heavy video and photo files, support for top speeds is rare.

The third is USB-C, a simple physical connector for cables and ports. Eliminates the need to fiddle with USB-C cables. And it’s small enough for phones and skinny laptops.

Now the next update will be USB4, an overhaul that includes Thunderbolt data technology, allowing docs and hubs with higher speeds. Tiger Lake supports USB4, which will help Coax peripheral manufacturers to upgrade.

Thunderbolt 4 vs USB-C

Although the USB is improving, it still reaches the Thunderbolt. And the Thunderbolt also continues to move forward.

Thunderbolt 4 doesn’t look like a bigger improvement than Thunderbolt 3 at first glance because it’s no faster. But it brings other benefits:

  • Thunderbolt 4 lets you connect multiple devices to a hub, which Thunderbolt 3 does not support. Which helps maintain speed and support more devices.
  • Cables will be cheaper because they will no longer need built-in processors.
  • It will power two 4K displays instead of one.
  • Windows machines powered by Tiger Lake should support Thunderbolt more reliably.

Thunderbolt devices cost more than USB-C devices, but they are better tested and last longer, said O’Connor of OWC. “It’s worth paying a little more. A lot of USB products are made to be disposable,” he said.

Intel has been hoping to normalize its proprietary Thunderbolt technology in PCs for years without being as widespread as USB. The Tiger Lake and Thunderbolt 4 features will help its prospects.

Just don’t expect USB to change.