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Oct '23

Thunderbolt 5: A Quantum Leap in Connectivity

On September 12, Intel unveiled Thunderbolt 5, marking the latest evolution in Thunderbolt technology. Thunderbolt 5 ushers in a new era of connectivity, catering to the needs of creative professionals with substantial improvements in speed, bandwidth, and display capability. But what specific features does it bring to the table, and how does it differ from Thunderbolt 4? Let’s take a closer look at what sets Thunderbolt 5 apart as the new standard in connectivity. 


Higher Bandwidth, Faster Speed 

Thunderbolt 5 features a staggering bi-directional bandwidth of up to 80 Gbps, which can be boosted to an unprecedented 120 Gbps using the Bandwidth Boost feature. Driven by the new PAM-3 signaling technology supported in USB4 v2, Thunderbolt 5 operates three times faster than its predecessor, Thunderbolt 4. Talk about an upgrade. 


 Revolutionary Display and Graphics 

The new standard supports multiple 8K HDR monitors or single displays with refresh rates up to 540Hz, making it the natural choice for modern professionals and gamers seeking the highest-resolution visuals on the market. It can also handle up to three 4K monitors at 144Hz, offering a flexible solution that perfectly balances visual performance with data and video file storage. 

Gamer-Class Charging 

When it comes to charging, Thunderbolt 5 is quite literally a game-changer. It supports up to 240W of power delivery downstream to your PC plus a maximum of 15W to connected devices –– rejoice, gamers, because the possibilities for high-end gaming laptops just expanded. It also eliminates the need for a separate power port, paving the way for a sleeker, more efficient setup. 

Enhanced Compatibility 

In compliance with the USB4 v2 standard, Thunderbolt 5 offers backward compatibility with earlier versions of Thunderbolt and supports DisplayPort 2.1. Boasting a maximum 10K resolution on a single display, Thunderbolt 5 delivers a highly immersive visual experience that is head and shoulders above previous iterations.  

Double the PCIe Data Throughput 

Thunderbolt 5 harnesses PCIe Gen 4 to double the available data bandwidth to 64Gbps for storage devices and external GPUs (eGPUs). The new technology enables faster connections to PCIe Gen 4 SSDs and devices, which means quicker data transfer speeds and enhanced performance for a wide range of applications. 


Thunderbolt 5 is expected to debut in laptops in 2024, with the discrete Thunderbolt 5 controller known as Barlow Ridge being sold to Thunderbolt dock and device makers. The phased rollout plans to bring Thunderbolt 5 to a broader spectrum of devices, increasing the accessibility of a best-in-class user experience. 

Collaboration with Microsoft 

In an exciting turn of events, Intel has partnered with Microsoft to ensure full USB 80Gbps standard compliance, promising to bring the latest USB4 standard to Windows customers. This powerful collaboration aims to enhance the connectivity solutions available to Windows users, bringing them up to speed with the latest industry protocol. 

Market Adoption 

While Thunderbolt 5 has the potential to be adopted by a multitude of devices, including those powered by AMD or Snapdragon, it is expected to be used primarily in Intel and ARM-based Apple Silicon devices. That means an enhanced user experience for a significant portion of the market. No complaints here –– we’ll take it. 


Thunderbolt 5 doubles the available networking bandwidth to 64Gbps, providing a significant boost in overall I/O performance (including eGPUs and potentially external AI accelerators). The update redefines traditional understandings of connectivity, unlocking fascinating possibilities in the world of AI and machine learning. 


Thunderbolt 5 vs. Thunderbolt 4: A Comprehensive Comparison 

Overall, Thunderbolt 5 comes as a considerable upgrade to Thunderbolt 4, introducing unprecedented speeds, enhanced display capabilities, and a range of features that cater to the demands of modern users, especially gamers and professionals working with high-resolution displays and heavy data files. The future of tech looks bright, with Thunderbolt 5 assuming center stage as the newest cutting-edge connectivity standard. Stay tuned for more updates as we closely follow the developments in this space. 

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