Why did Macs choose Type-c instead of Thunderbolt? Thunderbolt 3 vs. USB-C

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    What’s the difference between USB-C and Thunderbolt 3? Why do MacBook laptops choose Type-c instead of Thunderbolt? Will Macs ditch Thunderbolt after using USB Type-C?

    【Thunderbolt 3】

    The connection technology combines PCIExpress data transmission technology and DisplayPort display technology, which can transmit data and video signals at the same time, and each channel provides bidirectional 10Gbps bandwidth, and the latest Thunderbolt 3 reaches 40Gbps.


    【USB Type-C】

    A new interface developed by the USB standardization organization in order to solve the long-term non-uniform physical interface specifications of the USB interface and the only one-way transmission of electrical energy. It integrates functions such as charging, display, and data transmission.

    【Why choose a USB-C port instead of a Thunderbolt port?】

    Thunderbolt is a technology launched by Apple and Intel in deep cooperation, which combines traditional PCIe data transmission technology and DisplayPort display technology. The Thunderbolt interface was introduced to the Macbook Pro by Apple in 2011.
    Its main advantages are: large bandwidth and fast transmission speed. The modified Thunderbolt 2 interface can achieve a theoretical transmission speed of 20Gbps in both directions, which is much higher than the theoretical transmission speed of 10Gbps of USB 3.1.


    Before this conference, Thunderbolt has been considered to be an interface specification valued by Apple and Intel and will be vigorously promoted. So why did Apple finally choose to adopt USB Type-3 in the new Macbooks?

    By comparing the relevant information of the two interface specifications, we speculate that there may be the following reasons:
    1. Interface size: Compared with the slenderness of USB Type-C (2.5mm), the Thunderbolt interface does not have any advantage in size, and the Type-C interface is small and can be flipped for use
    2. Cost control: Under the strong control of Intel, the price of Thunderbolt interface chips has remained high for many years, which has brought great pressure on the manufacturing costs and retail prices of various related equipment; while the price of USB Type-C chips is relatively high. It is much cheaper and can greatly help Apple control hardware costs.
    3. Power supply capability: The Thunderbolt interface can only provide a maximum power output of 10W, while the USB 3.1 Type-C interface can provide up to 100W of power output, that is, it can directly supply another laptop or smartphone through the Typc-C interface without any adapters to charge.
    4. Expansion capability: USB 3.1 has a wide range of expansion space, including DisplayPort output of 4K images can also be easily realized through USB 3.1, USB 3.1 specification provides a maximum transfer rate of 10Gbps.


    In fact, Apple isn’t the only device maker to choose USB Type-C, or even the first. The Nokia N1 tablet just released in China in January this year also chose USB Type-C as its only data interface. We believe that, based on its excellent data transmission performance, slim interface size and low price, coupled with the promotion of star products such as Apple devices, USB Type-C should be able to rapidly popularize in the next few years, in the new shine in the age of mobility.


    【Will Macs ditch Thunderbolt after using USB Type-C?】

    My answer is no. The latest Thunderbolt 3 protocol uses USB Type-C as a physical interface, and the speed that Thunderbolt 3 can achieve (40Gbps) is higher than USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps).

    Consider Thunderbolt to ditch the use of Mini DisplayPort as its physical interface in favor of USB Type-C. The USB Type-C physical interface can theoretically support USB 3.1 protocol plus USB Power Delivery 2.0 protocol plus Thunderbolt 3 protocol at the same time. It can support DisplayPort 1.2, 10Gbps network port, PCI Express 3, and can also provide HDMI, VGA and other protocols through adapter cables. support.



    For thin and light-oriented mobile devices, the small and reversible interface design of Type-C is obviously more important. The power supply of up to 100W also enables notebook computer manufacturers to save the position of a separate power supply and have more room for thinning. The maximum transfer rate of 10Gbps is more than enough for ordinary consumers, and even the built-in hard drives used by most people cannot reach this much. USB Type-C may become the ultimate interface. The USB protocol and the Thunderbolt protocol can currently coexist.


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