- Thunderbolt 5 is Intel’s next-generation wired connectivity that promises more bandwidth and performance over a single cable.
- With Thunderbolt 5’s higher bandwidth, Intel promises true 8k resolution and support for multiple 4K monitors.
- Thunderbolt 5 also features DisplayPort 2.1, PCI Express Gen 4, and USB 4 V2 and is also fully compatible with previous Thunderbolt versions.
- In this article, we’ll go into detail about what we can expect from Thunderbolt 5, as well as the release date, accessories, and more.
In the age of super-fast and compact computing devices, Intel’s latest generation of wired connectivity, Thunderbolt 5, offers a 1-cable solution for connecting multiple devices and displays with double the bandwidth using the same powerful USB-C connector. Thunderbolt 5 also supports multiple 4K monitors with high refresh rates.
It is backward compatible with previous Thunderbolt accessories and docks. Intel also promises that Thunderbolt 5 can achieve a much higher refresh rate than previous Thunderbolt standards with the increase in Thunderbolt bandwidth.
If all this sounds interesting to you, then come along with us as in this article, we will discuss Thunderbolt 5 in detail, including its release date, improvements over Thunderbolt 4, power consumption, and much more.
Table of Contents
Thunderbolt 5: Features
Intel’s next-generation wired connectivity Thunderbolt 5 offers several features and is also a good upgrade over Thunderbolt 4. It offers 80Gb/s bidirectional bandwidth (equivalent to USB 4V2), which means it can support multiple 8K monitors simultaneously. However, it is not specified how many 8K monitors can be used with a single cable. Thunderbolt 5 can also support up to three 4K monitors with a high refresh rate of 144 Hz. The new Thunderbolt also offers ultra-high refresh rate gaming and supports refresh rates of up to 540 Hz.
Thunderbolt 5 also supports Display Port 2.1. It offers a 120 Gb/s bandwidth increase, which means it can also support two 6K displays now. The new standard also supports 3:1 compression of display streams. This makes it much easier to use a modern GPU with an eGPU chassis, as the new standard also supports PCIe Gen 4, which was missing in the old Thunderbolt 4 standard. But we have to remember that 120 Gb/s is just a bandwidth number and can’t always be used since we have to take advantage of it with additional things like more external monitors and accessories like SSDs.
Thunderbolt 5 vs. Thunderbolt 4
We all know that Thunderbolt 4 is not as big a leap as everyone expected, as there is no performance difference between Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4. Even though we agree that most people using Thunderbolt 4 won’t be able to use the full 40 Gbps bandwidth, it could be a bottleneck for most professionals like engineers, filmmakers, and even pro gamers.
The biggest improvement of Thunderbolt 5 over Thunderbolt 4 is the increase in bandwidth, from 40 Gb/s to 80 Gb/s and even 120 Gb/s using Bandwidth Boosting. With this high bandwidth, it is finally possible to use more than two 4K monitors at the same time, as Thunderbolt 5 allows the use of up to three 4K monitors with a high refresh rate of 144 Hz. It also supports multiple 8K monitors over a single cable, which was not possible with Thunderbolt 4.
- No performance difference compared to Thunderbolt 3.
- Offers a maximum bandwidth of 40 Gbps.
- It may be a bottleneck for professionals like engineers, filmmakers, and gamers.
- Offers a significant performance improvement over Thunderbolt 4.
- Provides increased bandwidth options of 80 Gbps and 120 Gbps with Bandwidth Boosting.
- Supports the simultaneous use of up to three 4K monitors at 144 Hz.
- Enables support for multiple 8K monitors over a single cable.
- Supports Display Port 2.1 and PCIe Express Gen 4, making external graphics card gaming possible.
- Allows for higher-speed storage using external enclosures.
- Comes with increased power consumption due to the higher bandwidth.
No significant performance difference from Thunderbolt 3.
Significant performance improvement over Thunderbolt 4.
Maximum bandwidth of 40 Gbps.
Offers increased bandwidth options of 80 Gbps and 120 Gbps with Bandwidth Boosting.
Limited support for 4K monitors.
Supports simultaneous use of up to three 4K monitors at 144 Hz. Also supports multiple 8K monitors over a single cable.
Supports DisplayPort 1.4
Supports Display Port 2.1 and PCIe Express Gen 4, enabling external graphics card gaming and higher-speed storage using external enclosures.
Limited to 100 watts.
Provides up to 240 watts of output power.
Up to 3 meters
Initially available in a maximum size of 2 meters, with potential for longer cables in the future.
Accessories and Docks
Many options available
No official accessories mentioned, but Intel showcased a prototype Thunderbolt 5 laptop and docking station.
Announced in January 2020 with final specs released in July 2020.
Intel announced Thunderbolt 5 in September 2023, with devices supporting it expected in 2024. Thunderbolt 5 will debut in products aimed at gamers and content creators.
Thunderbolt 5: Power Delivery improvements
Each generation of Thunderbolt improves power output but also increases the power draw. Power delivery is a huge part of the Thunderbolt ecosystem. Most previous versions of Thunderbolt supported power delivery but were limited to 100 watts, meaning gaming laptops and professional devices with more power-hungry CPUs and GPUs couldn’t deliver full performance when connected to a Thunderbolt (Type-C) port. Thunderbolt 5 solves this problem by giving users up to 240 watts of output power, which is insane compared to Thunderbolt 4’s 140 watts.
Thunderbolt 5’s power consumption has also increased from 100 watts to 140 watts, which doesn’t seem like too much, but let’s not forget that many devices connected via a single cable are only powered by Thunderbolt, so get ready for even bigger power bricks on your walls.
Thunderbolt 5: Cables and Accessories
With each Thunderbolt generation, the performance has increased, but one thing that has decreased is the size of the cables. This is also the case with Thunderbolt 5. At release, you will only get a suitable size of a maximum of 2 meters, which is not much considering how many accessories you can connect through one cable. Although this problem will be fixed as longer cables will eventually be available, we all know how expensive Thunderbolt cables are getting. The best example is Apple’s 3-meter Thunderbolt cable, which costs $159.
As for accessories and docks, there are no official accessories at the moment, but Intel has showcased a prototype Thunderbolt 5 laptop and a docking station in its Thunderbolt 5 demo YouTube video.
Thunderbolt 5 Release Date
Intel publicly announced Thunderbolt 5 in September 2023 and revealed all the features of Thunderbolt 5. According to this, we will see devices that support Thunderbolt 5 in 2024. Intel also mentioned that Thunderbolt 5 will first appear in products aimed at gamers and content creators. So, we can assume that Thunderbolt 5 will be available in devices that will be launched in 2024.
FAQs about Thunderbolt 5
1. Does Thunderbolt 5 use a Type-C connector?
Yes, just like Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 come with a Type-C connector, Thunderbolt 5 compatible devices will also come with a Type-C connector.
2. How can I find out if a Type-C cable is Thunderbolt 5 or not?
The best way to find out if a Type-C cable is Thunderbolt 5 or not is to look for a Thunderbolt/Lightning icon stamped into the cable next to the number 5.
3. Is Thunderbolt 5 compatible with USB-4?
Yes, Thunderbolt 5 is compatible with USB-4, but keep in mind that Thunderbolt 5 is much faster than USB-4 in comparison. Hence the hype.
4. Can I charge my laptop with a Thunderbolt 5 cable?
Yes, it is possible to charge a laptop with a Thunderbolt 5 Type-C cable, but you need to check if the laptop supports USB-C charging. If it does, then you can charge your laptop with the Thunderbolt 5 cable. Keep in mind, however, that the maximum wattage you can transfer via the Thunderbolt 5 cable is 240 watts, and not every manufacturer has to support it.
6. Will Thunderbolt 5 work with my Windows PC?
Yes, it should, as Microsoft, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of core OS and product management, said, “Microsoft is pleased to be working closely with Intel to bring the latest USB4 standard to Windows customers.“