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Thunderbolt 3 & USB-C Cables: Not All Cables Created Equally

Have you found yourself wondering what the differences between Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C cables are? On the surface, they can appear to be identical. However, their capabilities are anything but.

The Rocket Yard has put together an infographic to help you size up Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C cables and make sense of their differences in performance and capabilities.



To pre-order the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock with 13 ports of connectivity, please visit: See our selection of Thunderbolt 3 cables at And for USB-C cables, adapters, docks and more visit:

Further Reading:

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  • The USB Thunderport 3.x is the newest monster on the block every one wants to be like, however the peripherals have not gotten up to speed hardware or software wise. The Display Link hardware and Display Link Agent is in all the USB power tower devices regardless of the price point (some are better then others of course)

    With that said the Beta version of the Display Link agent is what is out there for use and I am on Mac OS 10.15.6 now and I am convinced Display Link is malignant with no fix to it. My Macbook Pro shuts down, freezes, Ethernet burps for a stop and Apple gets a crash restart report sent off about every 5 to 10 minutes.

    My current effort with the 4 USB ports I have access to, is to get an Apple Thunderport Ethernet dongle for a dedicated box to internet connection. See if that is a do able work around to the problem .. as a Power Tower is the only other way to get Internet into the Macbook Pro that I know of .. and Display Link Agent is the stick in the spokes as soon as it is plugged into the Mac Book Pro.

    With that said, software problems disappear, like using Techtool Pro for example … once the Power Tower and Display Link Agent is unplugged from the USB port … everything works fine. Just no big screen for me to use, keyboard and mouse is iffy. The external SSD with Carbon Copy Clone in it to save my bacon .. and have Techtool Pro fix my Macbook Pro so I can get back to work. Finally .. Display Link Agent .. is not for gamers and not for movies like on You Tube .. to much data going down the USB bottleneck for it to handle.

    That is .. until they can release the new USB thunderport monster on the block and get it working.

  • The information in this article is a little out of date.

    OWC sells a 0.7M 40 Gbps cable that supports USB 3.1 gen 2.

    Apple sells a 2.M 40 Gbps cable that supports USB 3.1 gen 2. This may be similar to Thunderbolt 4 cables.

    I think USB 3.1 gen 2 (10 Gbps) support means USB 3.1 gen 1 (5 Gbps) and DisplayPort 1.2 (5.4 Gbps) and DisplayPort 1.4 (8.1 Gbps) are also supported.

    The reason why most 1M or 2M 40 Gbps cables don’t support USB 3.1 gen 2 is because the active components that allow the extra length only allow Thunderbolt signals.

  • Hi I really wanted to only invest in a certified refurbished computer if it was the very latest Mac book pro legacy edition with a cd built in please let me know if you might have one and I will buy it

  • The infographic is confusing! Why wouldn’t TB3 40Gbps cables be capable of all a 20Gbps cable can do plus more? What’s with the USB 3.1 Gen 1 & 2 missing from what should be a step up in capability?

  • Excellent, helpful article. Efficiently sized as well. Thanks!

  • I’m pretty excited about the USB-C paradigm shift. It was one of my primary decisions in picking up the new MacBook Pro’s. It’s really allowed me to simplify charging most of by devices. I’m not entirely over to USB-C just yet, but close. My Google Pixel XL is USB-C, so that’s a huge plus. I have an iPhone, but I am flipping it over to wireless charging. So, USB-C + Wireless Charging, I can live with that everywhere. I’ve also been able to dock the MacBook Pro w/ the Mult-AV Adapter to my home monitor and office monitor. Life is much easier. I’ve written about a few of the monitors too on my latest blog post

  • DisplayPort is only checked off for the Thunderbolt 3 columns. However I’m pretty sure I’ve seen DisplayPort cables that use USB-C. Or does this chart display what protocols can be carried _simultaneously_ over a cable?

    • Yeah, part of the USB-C spec is DisplayPort, and 1.2 is implemented at this point, which is only good for 4K, (need next gen Intel CPUs for more).

      But, to drive the 5K LG display with one cable, that is actually using TB3 gen 2, as DisplayPort does not have enough throughput, would need to use two cables for other 5K monitors, so, I think this is a proprietary thing, which is partly why Apple worked with LG, so they could get that 5K monitor to work with one cable, and include speakers, cam & mic, and power to charge the battery in the MBP, along with extra TB3 ports on the monitor. (The LG 4K monitor has USB-C ports, not TB3).