Intel shares more details about its next-gen Thunderbolt 4 protocol

Laurent Giret

Intel shared a bit more details about its Thunderbolt 4 protocol this morning, which the company first unveiled at CES back in January. Thunderbolt 4 is an evolution of the company’s popular Thunderbolt 3 protocol that’s been around since 2015, and Intel announced earlier this year that it would arrive with its new Tiger Lake mobile processors.

Thunderbolt 4 won’t be faster than Thunderbolt 3, which already supports 40 Gbps speed and data, video and power over a single connection. However, Thunderbolt will be more versatile by introducing support for two 4K displays instead of one for Thunderbolt 3, or one 8K display. Thunderbolt 4 will also support docks with up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports, and it will also work with universal cables up to two meters long. The new protocol will also maintain compatibility Thunderbolt 3 accessories, as well as industry standards including DisplayPort, and PCI Express, and USB4.

thunderbolt4 comparison chart

Even though Thunderbolt 4 won’t actually deliver faster speeds than Thunderbolt 3, the new protocol shows Intel’s ambition to create the most complete and future-proof version of USB-C ports that are now found on the majority of laptops. The new protocol will also require Intel VT-d based DMA protection, which should protect Thunderbolt 4 devices from the “Thunderspy” Thunderbolt 3 vulnerability that was discovered earlier this year.

Intel expects to see the first computers and accessories with Thunderbolt 4 ports coming to market later this year. With the new protocol being more secure than Thunderbolt 4, it remains to be seen if we could finally see new Surface devices embrace Intel’s technology, as current Surfaces, while finally jumping on the USB-C bandwagon, still do not support Thunderbolt.