Thunderbolt 3 vs. USB-C: What’s the Difference?

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Thunderbolt 3 ports on a MacBook Pro.Barry Paterson/Shutterstock

Newer laptops often come loaded with a port that accepts a reversible plug and supports very fast transfer speeds. Do you know what it is? If you guessed the Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.1 port, you’re right, and therein lies the problem.

Both data transfer protocols use the same connector, but their potential uses vary. It can be challenging to understand the differences between the two ports and whether your laptop is packing one or the other.

Once you understand the difference, however, it’s easy to figure out which port is which and how to use them.

What Is Thunderbolt 3?
Thunderbolt 3 is a proprietary (for now) data and video transfer protocol developed by Intel. To use it, PC makers need to obtain certification from Intel. Not every company wants to do that.

That’s too bad because Thunderbolt 3 is incredibly fast. It’s much…

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