A Guide to Thunderbolt Cables and Adapters
Thunderbolt cables and adapters are hardware interfaces that allow you to connect a range of external peripherals to your computer. Because these Thunderbolt connectors are fast, you can use them to connect to multiple 4K displays, transfer huge files in a few seconds, attach graphics maps, and even capture RAW video formats from high-end cameras.
Thunderbolt Cable Versions
Thunderbolt cables are available in three main versions: Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 2, and Thunderbolt 1. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 have ports similar to Apple's Mini Display Ports, while Thunderbolt 3 uses the Type-C connector from USB. Thunderbolt 1 and Thunderbolt 2 cables have maximum data transfer speeds of 10Gbps and 20Gbps, respectively. Both of these cables are active, meaning that the cable requires an external power source to function. Thunderbolt 3 cables are also active and have data transfer speeds of either of 20Gbps or 40Gbps. The superior speeds and connectivity over USB 3.1 provide greater versatility and higher performance than passive USB cables. If you're looking to extend the maximum length of your Thunderbolt cable, you'll need to use compatible USB extenders, such as those with USB-C heads.
Which Thunderbolt Adapter Should You Use?
The Thunderbolt 3 ports in most modern laptops work with all USB-C devices, which have the same connector shape. For older USB devices that aren't compatible with USB-C ports, you'll need Thunderbolt-to-USB adapters. If you're using a Thunderbolt 1 or 2 cable with a Thunderbolt 3 display or device, use the Thunderbolt 3-to-Thunderbolt 2 adapter. You can use Thunderbolt-to-eSATA adapters to extend the use of your eSATA-equipped external storage unit while boosting the data transfer speed. For fast internet connectivity via network Ethernet cables, you'll need to shop for Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapters.
B&H Photo and Video stocks a wide range of Thunderbolt adapters and cables. Choose from among the different reliable brands and cable lengths available.