USB-C Vs Thunderbolt 3: Last Battle to Rule the World

October 15, 2021 5 min read

Even if you are turbo-charged to dig the minutest details comparing USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, you still get frustrated with messy complexities between USB versions and their rival, the Thunderbolt series.

Usually, USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are described in the same breath. But both technologies overlap at a certain level and drift apart at another level. This short read will shed light on USB-C and Thunderbolt 3.

What makes both unique in certain aspects. And how European countries are heading to entirely adopt USB-C, crushing the expansion of Thunderbolt.


A flashback to USB A, B, C, and their Versions

Designed to standardize the connection of peripherals to personal computers, and supply electric power, USB was introduced. Skyrocketing demands of PCs and electronic devices pushed a radical tech war. Introduced in 1996, Type-A was shadowed by USB Type-B and now Type-C (USB-C) -- taking unique shapes and configurations. 

USB versions include USB 1.1, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1, and USB 3.1 Gen 2.

It seems confusing? 

But it isn't. 

The following table summarizes 25 years of USB evolution


  USB 2.0 USB 3.0

USB 3.1

Gen 1

USB 3.1

Gen 2

USB 3.2
Data rate 480 Mbit/s 5 Gbit/s 10 Gbit/s 10 Gbit/s up to 20 Gbit/s 
Interface Options USB-A, USB-C, Micro-USB(in common use) USB-A, USB-C, Micro-USB USB-A, USB-C USB-C USB-A, B, micro B & USB-C


USB 3.2

Gen 1

(same as USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.0)

USB 3.2

Gen 2

(same as USB 3.1 Gen 2)

USB 3.2 

Gen 1x2

USB 3.2

Gen 2x2

Data rate 5 Gbit/s 10 Gbit/s 10 Gbit/s 20 Gbit/s
Interface Options USB-A, B, micro B & USB-C USB-A, B, micro B & USB-C USB-C only USB-C only


👆 Source: wiki  


Thunderbolt 3
Source: unsplash


What is USB-C: Precise Understanding Leads to Comparing it with Thunderbolt 3

Have you ever inserted USB-A without flipping it once or twice? Definitely, NOBut, with Type-C you line up the connector, and it fits without hassle.

With ease, USB-C seems to have changed the game. Be it massive data transfer, speed, or boosting recharge speed, USB-C does this all. Along with these features, its user-friendliness makes it popular among famous tech giants. Therefore, Samsung, Google, and Microsoft are shifting to USB-C connectors.

Almost all devices that support USB 3.1 use USB-C connectors. And some of them have power outputs of 100 watts at 20 volts and data rates of 5 Gbps.
USB-C has powerful charging capabilities. Resultantly, larger devices, as well as your everyday smartphone, can be charged due to the higher power output-- which eliminates the need for extra charging lines.

Yet, not every device with a USB-C connector can do everything. For example, a USB hard drive can’t output a video signal -- restricting it from sending and receiving data. But an Apple iPad uses USB-C to charge its battery, sync with Mac or PC, and output video source, which USB-C supply DP alt mode.


USB-C: With E-marker, Not Just 5V 1A Anymore

Source: unsplash


USB-C: With E-marker, Not Just 5V 1A Anymore

As if widened use to USB-C was not enough, the makers have improvised it with an intelligent chipset known as E-Marker Chip.   

The traditional USB implementation can only provide 5V power. But more and more modern devices need more than that. Due to the unification of the USB-C ports, smart devices cut off the charging port, and combine them with data ports, which means higher voltages are needed to achieve faster charging, especially to drive electric equipment. To this end, USB PD has added support for 9V, 15V, and 20V to work with a wider range of devices. And the E-marker (inside the connector) can be used as an automatic adjustment system to charging according to different charging power requirements.

Now USB-C to USB-C cables is smarter than ever. Chipset built-in with cable regulates power source and sink, controlling it to ensure fast charging with super safety protocols of USB Power Delivery.


Imagine having a cable that is truly universal and supports up to 100W 20V @5A

It's as if you have a dead MacBook pro but can kick ass charging -- 50% only in 30 minutes.


uniAccessories, a renowned authority in connectivity space, is offering the high speed USB-C to USB-C charging cable

Their cables are amazingly built to bear rough-tough usage. 

The majority of people end up using their phones on charging, resulting in bending and breaking the cord. This problem is solved by double braided USB-C Charging cables that have a firm core and an outer surface. The cable sustains rash handling while you enjoy spending time on your device.

With strength, uniAccessories, also provide for various lengths ranging from 6ft to 15ft, allowing you freedom of movement—use your device on couch, chair, or bed.


Thunderbolt 3: What makes it different from USB-C ?
Source: unsplash


Thunderbolt 3: What makes it different from USB-C ?

In the first decade of the 21st century, Apple and Intel joined hands to engineer super-fast connectivity. Although its propriety belongs to Intel, yet Apple’s race to win the tech marathon led it to adopt Thunderbolt 3. Initially deployed in computers, now these ports are present in late models of Mac desktops and laptops.


At the first glance, Thunderbolt 3 appears like a USB-C port. From a plug-in perspective, the connector is physically the same. Ordinarily, Thunderbolt 3 stands up tall to perform all functions that the USB-C port can.


Yet, its data transfer speed of 40Gbps makes it distinct. In short, Thunderbolt 3 transfers data with a speed twice than fastest USB-C port and four times as fast as the original thunderbolt interface. A USB-C port having compatibility with thunderbolt 3 means that a single cable is all you need for power and compute enormous information.


Since there is no labeling on the devices, determining whether a port is USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 is difficult. For instance, depending on which model you’ve, Apple’s Mac Book Pro offers up to four Thunderbolt 3 ports, but none of them are tagged—you’re supposed to guess that they're Thunderbolt 3 Ports.


The same can be said for USB-C on some other devices, such as Microsoft's Surface Laptop 3, which now has USB-C ports that don't support Thunderbolt 3 but aren't labeled.


What to do then? 


You’re left with one single option—read the product description. Or carefully go through the documents provided by the company.

Remember not all the USB-C port is Thunderbolt 3.


The question of Identification, however, doesn’t hold relevance as dark shadows of EU new laws is hovering over the future use of the Thunderbolt series. 


After examining the gradual ascendence of USB technology you conclude that in the battle of USB-C Vs Thunderbolt-3 there is no clear champion.

After examining the gradual ascendence of USB technology you conclude that in the battle of USB-C Vs Thunderbolt-3 there is no clear champion. As you have seen, since 1996, all these technologies are replaced by more advanced versions. 

USB 4 might completely replace both. But, With the EU’s firm resolve of Using USB-C in all devices, Apple’s thunderbolt 3 devices are vulnerable.


However, Thunderbolt 4 is a better version of intel’s connection interface. It is built with a One-port-all-operations mindset. Thunderbolt 4 is qualified to efficiently power devices, moving data to and fro, and transferring a video to an external source. But this ultra-efficient cable is under the tight scrutiny of the EU.


A proposal tabled in the EU notes that all kinds of smartphones, game consoles, tablets, and cameras sold in the EU will have Standard USB-C chargers. 


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