Thunderbolt 3 to usb: Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) Cable (0.8 m)

Thunderbolt vs. USB-C: What’s the Difference?

Need to charge a mobile device, or connect a peripheral to a PC or Mac? You’ll probably need to use some flavor of USB port or a Thunderbolt port.

In their newest iterations, however, choosing between the two—or just telling them apart—can be confusing. That’s because of the emergence of USB Type-C (usually called USB-C), Thunderbolt 3, and Thunderbolt 4 interfaces in recent years. These three specifications share identically shaped connectors and cables that are physically compatible with one another. But laptop, desktop, and device manufacturers don’t always provide labels that help you easily tell which is which.

Instead of leaving you to guess, let’s walk through the differences between Thunderbolt and USB-C, and explain which one you should use depending on which device you need to connect. 

What Is USB-C?

The Universal Serial Bus is an industry-standard connector for transmitting both data and power on a single cable. The USB-C connector looks similar to the older micro-USB connector at first glance, though it’s more oval in shape and slightly thicker to accommodate its best feature: flippability. Unlike the rectangular USB Type-A, a USB-C connector has no right side up or upside down; you just line it up and plug it in. The standard cables also have the same connector on each end so you needn’t wonder which end goes where.

A Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port on an Apple iPad Pro
(Credit: Molly Flores)

The USB-C connector was developed by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the group of companies that has developed, certified, and shepherded the USB standard over the years. There are more than 700 USB-IF member companies, including Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung. As a result, many new devices in a variety of tech categories now sport USB-C ports. External hard drives, smartphones, and smart home devices all use USB-C for charging, transferring data, or both.

Top Tablets With USB-C or Thunderbolt

Thanks to its wide adoption and impressive range of capabilities, USB-C has quickly become one port to rule them all. The oval-shaped connector can transmit data at speeds up to 20Gbps (the exact ceiling depends on the port’s specific USB SuperSpeed rating) and deliver nearly 100 watts of power to charge a phone’s, tablet’s, or laptop’s battery. In some cases, USB-C can also transmit DisplayPort audio and video signals for connecting your device to an external monitor or TV. (The port in question needs to support a standard called DisplayPort over USB(Opens in a new window).)

Not every device with a USB-C port can do all of these things, of course. A USB hard drive can’t output a video signal; it simply uses USB-C for power and data transfer. An Apple iPad uses USB-C to recharge, sync with your Mac or PC, and drive an attached monitor. One port, lots of implementations and uses.

What Is Thunderbolt? 

Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 ports look exactly the same as USB-C ports, and indeed their connectors are physically identical. For the most part, they can do everything a USB-C port can, except faster. Indeed, Thunderbolt is a superset of USB-C; you can plug a USB-C device into a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 port on a PC and it’ll work just fine.

Today’s Thunderbolt 4 devices let you transfer data at up to 40Gbps—twice as fast as the 20Gbps maximum throughput of today’s fastest USB-C ports, and four times as fast as the original Thunderbolt interface. Besides sending and receiving data to and from an external hard drive, Thunderbolt can unlock additional capabilities for connecting displays and expansion docks. A Thunderbolt port means that a single cable is all you need to push power and transfer a large amount of information (such as video data for two or more 60Hz, 4K resolution external monitors) to and from a computer. 

An external hard drive with a USB-C port
(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Companies have been quick to take advantage of these capabilities. Apple was among the earliest adopters of Thunderbolt 3, and Thunderbolt 4 is available on all late-model Macs as well as the iPad Pro. Video output capabilities depend on the system, but some iMacs support dual 6K Apple Pro Display XDR monitors connected via Thunderbolt cables. You’ll also find Thunderbolt 4 ports on many—though not the cheapest, and primarily on Intel- rather than AMD-powered—Windows laptops and a few desktops, as well as a growing selection of external hard drives and expansion docks. 

Top Thunderbolt Drives We’ve Tested

Thunderbolt 4 isn’t radically different from Thunderbolt 3; both use identical USB-C connectors and share the same 40GBps top speed. The newer spec supports sending video signals to two 4K displays or one 8K display, where Thunderbolt 3 permitted only a single 4K monitor, and doubles the supported PCI Express data rate to 32Gbps.

As noted, Thunderbolt ports are backward-compatible with USB-C devices. So if you’ve got some peripherals that support Thunderbolt and some that support only USB-C, both should be able to work just fine with a Thunderbolt port, though the USB-C peripherals will be limited to USB-C speeds and capabilities.

How Can I Tell the Difference Between the Ports?

While a USB-C port that supports Thunderbolt is more capable than one that doesn’t, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two. Apple’s MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops have as many as four Thunderbolt ports, but none of them bears a label or identifying markings of any kind—you’re just supposed to know that they’re all Thunderbolt ports. The same is true of some other devices’ USB-C ports.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop’s USB-C port does not have a label.
(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

In such cases, the only way to tell what you’re looking at is to read the product specifications on the packaging or manufacturer’s website or check its documentation. The same goes for cables. Some Thunderbolt ports and cables have little lightning bolts emblazoned on them, while others don’t. Since you’ll need a Thunderbolt rather than USB-C cable to unlock all the capabilities of a Thunderbolt port, a close read of the packaging is again in order.  

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Many other devices, especially laptops, have both USB-C and Thunderbolt 4 ports, usually identified with USB and lightning-bolt symbols respectively. That said, USB-C and Thunderbolt labeling is inconsistent at best.

Which Port Should I Use: Thunderbolt, or USB-C?

While it might seem obvious that you should use the faster, more capable Thunderbolt rather than USB-C, the decision isn’t always that simple. In many cases, you don’t need to choose between the two at all. To see why, take the most basic capability of either port: charging a battery. On laptops that support recharging over USB-C and have both USB-C and Thunderbolt connectors, there’s usually no difference between the ability of a given port to charge the system (though there are some exceptions(Opens in a new window)).

Another situation in which Thunderbolt and USB-C are interchangeable is when you’re connecting a client computer that supports Thunderbolt (say, a laptop) to a device that doesn’t (say, a phone or external hard drive with a USB-C cable). In these cases, the device will work but the laptop’s Thunderbolt port won’t make data transfers any quicker. And many peripherals, such as printers, mice, and keyboards, don’t need the full speed of USB, let alone Thunderbolt.

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

But there are cases in which you should opt for Thunderbolt where possible, even if that means opting for a more expensive device. This is mostly true for media professionals who frequently copy lots of images and video footage to and from external drives. For a creative pro with a Thunderbolt-equipped computer, it’s a no-brainer to buy a Thunderbolt instead of USB-C external drive to reduce the time spent waiting for data transfers to complete. 

Overall, neither Thunderbolt or USB-C is a clear winner. They’re just different, and each excels in different use cases. Ultimately, if the history of hardware interfaces is any guide, they’ll both be replaced by a new standard in a few years—perhaps the fledgling USB4—and there’ll be a whole new set of differences to learn and subtleties to unravel.

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Plugable Thunderbolt 3 Cable (40Gbps, 2.6ft/0.8m) – Plugable Technologies


Amazon Rating :
 (2339 Reviews)


  • MORE POSSIBILITIES—Thunderbolt cable with 40Gbps speed and USB 3.0 5Gbps compatibility. Supports data transfer 2x faster than standard USB-C cables. Depending on host, up to 2x 4K 60Hz or 1x 5K 60Hz displays supported, and up to 20V, 5A charging
  • HIGH PRODUCTIVITY—Daisy chain up to 6 Thunderbolt devices including docking stations, external graphics cards, and displays. 40Gbps speed cables are suitable for eGPU and dual 4K display scenarios. Thunderbolt 3 peer-to-peer 10Gbps networking supported
  • APPLE NOTES—Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C connector built into late 2016 MacBook Pros and newer models. This connector will not physically fit into Thunderbolt 1 or Thunderbolt 2 ports found on previous generation Mac systems
  • COMPATIBILITY—Thunderbolt, USB and DisplayPort Alt Mode compatible. Compatible with your Thunderbolt 3 enabled Mac and Thunderbolt 3 Windows PCs, and non-Thunderbolt USB-C systems. Incompatible with QC 3.0 and other non USB-compliant technologies
  • 2 YEAR WARRANTY—We love our Plugable products, and hope you will too. All of our products are backed with a 2-year limited parts and labor warranty as well as Seattle-based email support

Not Just a Thunderbolt 3 Cable

Thunderbolt 3 brings data transfers at speeds up to 40Gbps over USB-C, enabling a superset of standard USB-C to truly become one compact port that does it all—delivering the fastest, most versatile connection to any dock, display, or data device.

For the first time, one port can connect numerous Thunderbolt devices, any display, and billions of USB devices (additional adapters may be required). Thunderbolt 3 cables are primarily used for connecting docking stations, high performance data storage solutions, peer-to-peer networking, and more.

Note: This cable is incompatible with Qualcomm Quick Charge and other (non USB-IF Power Delivery) “Fast Charge” technologies.

The Plugable TBT3-40G80CM cable is foremost designed as a Thunderbolt 3 cable, but it is also a universal USB-C cable for use with USB-C computers, phones, tablets, docking stations, accessories, and more. It supports all USB-C cable features, including USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 data lines, wire gauge supporting up to 5A charging via the USB-IF PD (Power Delivery) standard 100W max (5V-20V), and support for reporting its capabilities as an electronically marked cable.

A Cable That Does It All

  • 2.6ft/0.8m long
  • 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3
  • Dual 4K 60Hz video output or single 5K outputs
  • Thunderbolt 3 peer-to-peer 10Gbps networking
  • Supports up to 5Gbps transfer over USB-C 3. 0 hosts and devices
  • Wire gauge and electronic marking support up to 5A charging (5V-20V, 100W max)
  • Cable supports previous USB generations such as USB 1.1, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0
  • Massive 40Gbps Bandwidth

    Because the cable is designed for Thunderbolt 3, it is also capable of supporting data transfer speeds four times as fast as standard USB-C cables. The available 40Gbps bandwidth allows for dual 4K 60Hz video outputs (or a single 5K output) and up to 100W (20V, 5A) capabilities when used with compatible systems and Thunderbolt 3 accessories. Please note for USB-C usage this cable is limited to USB-C 3.0 (5Gbps).





    Maximum Throughput





    Cable Length

    80cm/2. 6ft




    Single Display Capable





    Dual Display Capable





    Maximum Charging Rate





    In The Box

    Item and Quantity Item Notes
    1x Thunderbolt 3 80cm cable

    Placement Specification

    Max Resolution and Refresh Rate



    1x USB-C
    Cable End Host Dependent Supported

    Video Output Modes

    Host Stream Specification

    Host Port Type

    Number of Displays Used Max Resolution at Display Count

    Thunderbolt™ 3 or

    Connection To Host


    Placement Version and Link Rate


    1x Thunderbolt™ 3 Cable End Thunderbolt™ 3 (40Gbps)

    Included Cables

    Port Type (Side 1) Cable Specification Port Type (Side 2) Cable Length External Power for Cable
    1x Male Thunderbolt™ 3 or
    Thunderbolt™ 3 (40Gbps) 1x Male Thunderbolt™ 3 or
    0. 8m/2.6ft No

    Get Started

    1. Connect one end of the USB-C cable to the host device
    2. Connect the other end of the USB-C cable to the other desired device.

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    If your Apple Watch won’t charge or turn on

    Learn how to check if your Apple Watch is charging and get help with charging problems.

    How to tell if your Apple Watch is charging

    When your watch needs to be charged, a red lightning bolt icon appears on the screen. (You may need to press the side button to display the watch face.) When the watch is charging, the red lightning changes to green or yellow lightning. If the watch screen is blank or shows a charging cable icon and a red lightning icon, charge the watch for 30 minutes.

    Get help if your Apple Watch won’t charge

    If your Apple Watch can’t charge, or if your watch displays a message that it doesn’t support charging with this accessory, follow these steps:

    • Make sure you are using the Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable or the USB-C Magnetic Fast Charging Cable that came with your Apple Watch.
    • Make sure the Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable or USB-C Magnetic Fast Charging Cable is fully inserted into the USB power adapter, then check that the adapter is fully inserted into the power outlet.
    • If you’re using a third-party charging cradle, get the charging cable that came with your Apple Watch.
    • Completely remove the plastic film from both sides of the charger.
    • Keep the back of your Apple Watch and charger free of debris.
    • Place your Apple Watch upside down on the charger. If the charger magnets are properly aligned with the Apple Watch, a green or yellow lightning bolt* will appear on the watch face.
    • Try a different Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable or USB-C Magnetic Fast Charging Cable, and a different USB power adapter. If your Apple Watch is completely dead, you may need to wait a few minutes after it starts charging until the lightning bolt icon appears on the device screen.
    • If your Apple Watch still won’t charge, force restart it. Press and hold the side button and Digital Crown for at least 10 seconds or until the Apple logo appears.

    * If you use the Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock or Apple Dual MagSafe Charger with your large Apple Watch (44mm, 45mm, or 49mm), you may need to adjust the position of the charger. Place the charger at a different angle or place it on a flat surface to make sure its magnets align with the magnets in your watch. If you have an Apple Watch Ultra and it won’t connect to these chargers even on a flat surface, try removing the watch strap before placing it on the charger.

    Additional information

    Publication date:

    Thunderbolt 3: what it is and why you need to use it

    With the rise of 4K, displays are now available in huge resolutions. Hard drives and solid state drives are constantly improving in speed and capacity. Meanwhile, laptops have become smaller and lighter to the point where they sacrifice connectivity. Modern ports and cables can’t keep up.

    But Thunderbolt 3 changes all that. It uses the new USB Type C connector, and thanks to that it can really shake things up when it comes to what all these devices are capable of: data can be transferred faster than ever before through small ports. this maximizes portability.

    What is a lightning strike?

    Thunderbolt Thunderbolt from was developed by Intel back in 2011. When USB 3.0 was capable of transferring data at speeds up to 5 gigabits per second (or 640 megabytes per second), the first generation of Thunderbolt was capable of twice that. But unlike USB, Thunderbolt can transfer multiple types of data: not just serial data to storage devices and peripherals, but also video data to displays.

    Also, it was able to chain the devices together so you could connect a hard drive to your computer and then a display to the hard drive and everything would work as intended.

    Although Thunderbolt was originally intended to be a USB 3.0 extension, it was included and had a Mini DisplayPort connector when it was first released in the Apple MacBook Pro in early 2011. It made sense at the time given what it could do and how the MacBook Pro could take advantage of it.

    Unfortunately, the hardware production cost was too high and not enough devices included a Thunderbolt port, which meant that Thunderbolt had moved to a niche platform used primarily by media professionals.

    What is USB Type C?

    USB Type C is the latest USB connector on the unit. and it’s going to replace the ubiquitous Micro USB connector you see on most modern Android phones, among other devices. Not even on its way to replacing the more ubiquitous Type A USB, which you may know as the “standard” USB connector.

    The USB Type C connector is small and compact, but the biggest difference is that it is fully reversible. There is no longer a “correct path” for a connector. In fact, you may have seen it on Apple’s new 12-inch MacBook, which forgoes all other expansion ports for a single Type-C USB port. By default, USB Type C allows 7.5W and 15W transmission, which is a significant improvement over 2.5W transmission for USB 2.0 and 4.5W transmission for USB 3.0. It can also deliver up to 100 watts when powered, enough to charge all but the most power-hungry laptops.

    This means phones and tablets will be able to charge much faster, and the cable you use to charge your laptop can also be used to charge just about anything that uses USB Type C. What’s more, you can theoretically charge your phone by plugging it in to a tablet or use a friend’s phone to start your own if the battery is low.

    Thunderbolt + USB Type C = A New Era

    Thunderbolt 3 is here and now uses a USB Type C connector instead of the Mini DisplayPort adapter used in earlier versions of Thunderbolt. This is big news for several reasons.

    First of all, this means that Thunderbolt 3 is no longer in its former niche. Apple was the only real manufacturer to adopt Thunderbolt, mainly because HDMI and VGA have been around for a long time, so there wasn’t much reason to switch. Anyway, so far.

    Thunderbolt is starting to appear in many new ultrabooks and laptops now that the USB connector is in use, and the massive increase in Thunderbolt-enabled products means more peripherals that support

    This is big news for the USB Type C connector as well. USB Type C itself is just another USB cable that is reversible and can provide more power. While these are useful features, they don’t really deserve much attention to justify replacing the widely used USB Type A connector. With Thunderbolt 3, there’s more reason to use it, and it will increase adoption.

    To be clear, not all USB Type C ports support Thunderbolt 3. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets can use this connector, but the Thunderbolt platform is only available on Intel processors and most mobile devices do not have Intel inside. As such, many USB Type C peripherals will not have built-in Thunderbolt controllers.

    Therefore, if you connect a USB Type C device to the Thunderbolt 3 port, it will work but will not support Thunderbolt features. Likewise, a Thunderbolt 3 peripheral plugged into a regular Type-C USB port will work but will not support Thunderbolt features.

    Thunderbolt 3 is part of the Intel Skylake chipset, which began shipping in late 2015, with a plethora of devices this year. Desktops may show up with one or two Thunderbolt 3 ports, while most laptops that include it will only have one (and that will be the low power option). Devices won’t have three or more ports anytime soon, but that’s okay. Two is more than enough.

    4 reasons why you will love Thunderbolt 3

    Thunderbolt 3 can do a lot with just one cable. Whether you’re looking to connect displays, hard drives, or anything a little more fancy, Thunderbolt 3 offers options that weren’t feasible until now.

    1. It can drive large displays

    Since Thunderbolt 3 contains the latest version of DisplayPort, you can use one cable to connect two 4K displays at 60Hz (4K is twice as much as 1080p). Of course, at some point you’ll need separate cables to connect to each monitor – unless you’re using a daisy chain – but there’s only one cable connected to your computer.

    2. It can speed up data transfer

    If you love editing videos or working with giant photo libraries, Thunderbolt 3 hard drive enclosure can provide you with very fast storage. For example, AKiTiO Thunder3 Duo Pro can take two HDDs or SSDs and turn them into a RAID array that, when using two SSDs, can achieve read speeds of up to 785 megabytes per second.

    More than enough for 4K video.

    And that’s with only two drives. If you’re willing to ditch 4K displays and focus solely on storage, Thunderbolt 3 can theoretically have transfer speeds of up to 5 gigabytes per second, which is 8 times faster than USB 3.0 and 4 times faster than USB 3.1.

    The limitation is the number of drives in the case and the total read and write speeds of these drives, not the cable itself.

    3. It can make your laptop bigger

    One of the most interesting products released this year. will appear. is the Razer Core, an external graphics enclosure designed for the Razer Stealth Ultrabook. The core itself will be able to fit most desktop graphics cards and will be compatible with any laptop that supports removable Intel graphics via a Thunderbolt 3 port.0003

    This means you can have a thin and light laptop with long battery life (for portability) that can connect to a Razer Core to become a formidable gaming machine. While Thunderbolt 3 still doesn’t provide the bandwidth of a PCI Express slot found on a desktop computer, it’s fast enough to let you play games you could only dream of playing on a laptop.

    This will not be what you would find in a regular laptop. The ability to use a docking station like the Razer Core will likely continue for high-end laptops aimed at gamers. However, this sort of thing just couldn’t be realized as an option for the mass market until now, and the potential is impressive.

    4. It can connect more things

    While Ultrabooks have a lot going for them these days, they tend to trade connectivity for portability. Two USB ports might be enough when you’re out and about, but when you’re at home or at work, you may find that you run out of ports really quickly.

    Thunderbolt docks are very useful, like the new Dell Thunderbolt Dock. It has 5 USB ports along with ports for Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort and DisplayPort, allowing you to drive one 5K display, two 4K displays, or three 1080p displays.