What is Thunderbolt Technology And How It Can Benefit You [MTE Explains]

You may have heard that Apple has recently refreshed their Macbook Pro product line and the latest arrival comes with a new port, known as the Thunderbolt technology.

What is Thunderbolt technology

I am sure you must have heard of and used a USB port before (unless you are still using a 486MHz PC). A USB port allows you to plug in a device to your computer and instantly access it from the system. Each USB port only allows one device (while you can use a USB hub to extend it to support multiple devices, it is still theoretically a one-one connection) and everytime you buy a new laptop, you have to wonder how many USB ports it comes with. Thunderbolt eliminates all these problems and adds a new dimension to how you connect your external devices to your computer.

Thunderbolt technology is a new breakthrough technology that work like (much better than) the USB port, but allows you to daisy chain multiple devices (up to 6 devices) together. All Thunderbolt devices use the same connector (unlike USB technology that uses a male – female type of connection), so you can connect one device to another with interoperable cables. You just need one Thunderbolt port to chain them all, and you don’t have to worry how many USB ports your computer comes with, and whether you need a USB hub or not.

The true advantage of Thunderbolt technology

The ability to daisy chain multiple devices together is only a small part of what Thunderbolt can do. The true advantage of Thunderbolt technology is the communication speed between itself and the connected devices. The Thunderbolt technology can transfer data at the rate of 10Gbps (compared to USB 2.0 – 120MBps and USB 3.0 – 400MBps). To illustrate how fast it is:

  • it take a mere 30 seconds to transfer a full-length HD movies (around 1.5 – 2.5 GB in size), or
  • a mere 10 minutes to transfer a year of continuous MP3 playback.

That is how fast Thunderbolt technology is. What makes it even better is that it is bi-directional, which means that you can transfer and receive data at the same time, both with the same 10Gbps bandwidth. Best of all, the last device in the daisy chain will enjoy the full bandwidth as well. Imagine the massive library of music and videos you have in your computer, you can now transfer them in/out at lightning speed.

Using Thunderbolt port for your monitor?

thunderbolt-cableIn today’s technology, you still need a dedicated port to connect your monitor to the computer. Be it the obsolete VGA, or DVI or the latest HDMI connection, there is still no way you can connect your HD-capable monitor to the USB port.

The Thunderbolt port utilizes the DisplayPort protocol to deliver high display performance on your PC. With the use of adapter, it can also support the existing VGA, DVI, DisplayPort and HDMI interface. This means that you can now hook up your monitor onto the Thunderbolt port and enjoy HD performance.

How will the Thunderbolt Technology benefit you?

End user will definitely benefit from the fast transfer speed that comes with Thunderbolt. You can now backup your terabytes of data in seconds, or even do video editing and get it to sync on the fly.

thunderbolt-ipad-gamingIn today’s technologies, the more powerful your computer is, the bigger is the size of the computer terminal. With Thunderbolt technology, a powerful computer can now come in small-form factor. You no longer need dedicated slots for graphic card, sound card or even a Gigabit ethernet card. All these hardware can now exist as external devices and hook up via the Thunderbolt port. Your next netbook, or mobile device could just be the most powerful computer in the world. Imagine a dual-core (or quad-core) iPad with a Thunderbolt port; you could hook it up with an external graphics card and HD-capable monitor and use it as a high end gaming machine. How does that sound to you?

Image credit: Eli Hodapp

Damien Damien

Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.


  1. Wow, you seem to be clueless. First of all, USB 3.0 supports speeds upto 5 GB/s and USB 2.0 upto 480 MB/s. Secondly, USB 3.0 is also full duplex meaning it will also support simultaneous uploads and downloads at full speed. Thirdly, every thunderbolt port also requires its own controller attached.  

  2. Although that’s great that tech is continually breaking molds, I can only see this becoming useful for a few applications over other technologies. Maybe as a usb replacement for external hdds and even possibly jumpdrives, but I don’t think my keyboard or printer really needs that speed. And external video cards? Sounds a lot like external pci express which is over 3x faster one way, and personally, I don’t want a modular desktop, but yes, the option to boost my netbook’s performance if needed on a work trip or the like would be a nice option.

  3. Do you know if we are / will be able to add a thunderbolt port on an older (but Intel based) Mac ?
    Thanks in advance for your answer !

Comments are closed.