Hardwired connectivity is nearly at a point where we have something resembling a complete standard. Unfortunately, it can still be a bit confusing as — despite USB-C being a connection standard — there are still multiple standards within that. You’ll hear phrases like USB-C charging, fast charging and Thunderbolt. Thankfully, Intel’s Thunderbolt 4 will be a step forward in connectivity as it is a certified standard and sets clear expectations of manufacturers for users.
There’s a bit of advancement in Thunderbolt 4 to explore, all labelled hardware needs to meet these expectations:
- They must support two 4K displays or a single 8K display
- Thunderbolt 4 docks will be able to include up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports which is an increase from the two ports on Thunderbolt 3.
- Thunderbolt 4 devices (including cables) must be backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 3 devices and cables.
- Laptops that use under 100W of power for charging will have to offer Thunderbolt 4, USB-C charging on at least a minimum of one port.
- Laptops adorned with Thunderbolt 4 certification need to be able to wake from sleep through a Thunderbolt dock connected accessory.
Sadly for users, these types of standards do come at a cost but it delivers clear outcomes:
Thunderbolt 4 builds on the innovation of Thunderbolt 3 for a truly universal cable connectivity experience. Thunderbolt 4 always delivers 40Gbps speeds and data, video and power over a single connection. It is the most comprehensive Thunderbolt specification yet with compliance across the broadest set of industry-standard specifications – including USB4, DisplayPort and PCI Express (PCIe) – and is fully compatible with prior generations of Thunderbolt and USB products.
We’ll start seeing Thunderbolt 4 moving forward with hardware sporting the next generation of Intel Processors (Tiger Lake) which is expected to be later this year.