Is USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 the same?


In the near future there might be a one-size-fits-all solution for charging and data-transferring, as more and more manufacturers tend to embrace USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports on their laptops and other devices, like the new iPad Pro and MacBook Air 2018. Do you exactly know what is USB-C and Thunderbolt 3? Is USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 the same?

Apple introduced the USB-C port on its first 12-inch MacBook, it plays the role of a power source, USB data transfer, Display Port, HDMI, and VGA. However, this interface with multiple port functions is essentially a USB interface. In addition to being rechargeable, its data transfer speed is not that fast, only up to 5Gb/s, it’s basically called ‘ USB 3.0 ‘ or ‘ USB 3.1 Gen 1 ‘ later.


The 2nd Apple USB Type-C device is the MacBook Pro 2016, this time the USB-C port is based on Thunderbolt 3 technology, the bandwidth is relatively high and the data throughput is up to 40Gb/s. Hence, higher data transfer speed and mighty functions make Thunderbolt 3 become a new Type-C standard. Only one cable or converter is needed to easily connect to existing devices. And now you may have realized something, USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 is not the same definition.


USB Type-C is just an interface standard that is designed to be thinner, more forward-replaceable, and more scalable than previous USB interfaces. As long as we know that the terminology is the USB Type-C , it does not represent any speed or function, it is just an interface. When the Thunderbolt 3 is integrated with the USB-C interface, the data transfer rate can be up to 40Gb/s. And if swap to the USB 3.1 , the data transfer speed is either 5Gb/s ( Gen 1 ) or 10Gb/s (Gen 2 ). In any case, the data are transmitted over the same physical USB-C interface.


From the very first USB-C MacBook to the new MacBook Air and iPad Pro released recently, there’s a white-color USB-C cable included in the box, are there all the same? A plenty of users get confused due to the all-the-same color and markless design. How to choose the right cable for your USB-C devices?

A number of tests show that when plugging into a docking station, an eGPU external graphics card, or other Thunderbolt 3 peripherals, some can reach 100W, but some can’t, why? Because most users don’t understand the standard or protocol of the cable transferring. Note that currently Thunderbolt 3 device cannot be connected through the USB 3.1 Type-C cable at all. Although the port can be plugged in, the data transfer protocol does not work and may only be able to provide power. Thunderbolt 3 peripherals may be able to connect via USB 3.2 Type-C lines soon, but because of the different protocols , the speed is definitely much slower than the native Thunderbolt 3 cable.


All in all, if your device has Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C port, use the Thunderbolt 3 cable to connect, if you are not sure whether it’s a Thunderbolt 3 cable, leave a comment below and we can try to find a way to solve your problem.



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