What's new? Technical details & functions


Intel does not set new standards with Thunderbolt 4, but increases the minimum requirements and extends its interface protocol by a few useful functions. You can find out what changes with Thunderbolt 4 and what remains the same compared to its predecessor here at GIGA.

Thunderbolt 3

For laptop owners, the Thunderbolt connection is something like the egg-laying Wollmilchsau: A connection for fast data transfer, power supply, screen output and with which even eGPUs finally work with reasonable performance. With a good Thunderbolt docking station, you even have access to all the advantages. By connecting a USB-C plug, you turn your laptop into a quasi-desktop with external monitors, access to external hard drives, LAN and power connections and more.

Thunderbolt 4 remains fully backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and all USB products and is also compatible with the old Thunderbolt generations using an adapter. In addition, Thunderbolt 4 will also be USB 4 compliant.

Thunderbolt 4 – what’s new?

Thunderbolt 4 relies heavily on its predecessor and improves it with additional features and high minimum requirements for the manufacturers. So devices with Thunderbolt 4 at least two external 4K monitors or an external 8K monitor support can. The PCIe connection must therefore have at least a data rate of 32Gbps support (with Thunderbolt 3 min. 16 GBit / s).

Thunderbolt 4 docks can up to 4 Thunderbolt ports offer and support one Cable length of up to 2 meters. The new docks must be able to do this Laptop by touching the ans Awaken docked keyboard or mouse.

In addition, Intel promises to protect memory access through virtualization DMA attacks difficult should be. In May 2020, new ways were discovered of how to exploit the security gaps of Thunderbolt connections and obtain full access via laptop using so-called “Thunderspy” attacks (source: heise).

In the following graphic, Intel summarized the differences between Thunderbolt 4 and 3 and the comparison to USB 4 and 3:

Thunderbolt 4 table Intel
Picture: Intel

First devices with Thunderbolt 4?

Thunderbolt 4 is introduced with the third generation of Intel’s 10nm micro-architecture called “Tiger Lake”. According to current expectations, the first laptops with the new mobile processor are expected in the fourth quarter of 2020 at the latest.

GIGA asks: Intel vs. AMD – Which chip manufacturer is your favorite?

Intel vs. AMD. The struggle for supremacy in the processor market was sparked again by the launch of the Ryzen CPUs. Which of the two chip manufacturers do you think should have earned the crown? And what kind of CPU do you currently have in your computer? All questions that we want to clarify with this survey.

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