Well… I really like how Apple is presenting Thunderbolt as “Thunderbolt / USB 4“ on its latest Macs.
You see, Thunderbolt 4 finally promises PC/Windows users all the features Thunderbolt 3 has long offered Apple users. For Mac users, full Thunderbolt capability has always been present. This has been true since the first Macs with Thunderbolt 3 (Thunderbolt USB-C). What Apple did was simply call out that they now support USB 4. This is in addition to the Thunderbolt features already standard and present.
While Apple has always fully implemented Thunderbolt standards, PC/Windows makers had optionality with what parts and features would be present on a Thunderbolt 3 system. The result has been a hodgepodge. A PC user needed to look at the small print to know if their system could do 40Gb/s bandwidth, support multiple displays, power delivery, etc…. or even whether an additional add-on card was necessary to use Thunderbolt 3 at all.
I (and all of our customer support agents) have a great appreciation for Apple making the full implementation a standard on every Mac made. Now, with Thunderbolt 4, there is no option for a PC maker. Thunderbolt 4 on a PC means (just like it always has been on a Mac) that all the so-called Thunderbolt capabilities and features are included. Oh, and no more add-on cards ever needed either.
The only other difference is that like the new Apple silicon Mac M1 models with Thunderbolt / USB 4, PCs designated with Thunderbolt 4 also have USB 4.
So what we have now is current Intel Macs with “Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)” and new Apple silicon Macs with “Thunderbolt / USB 4.” As for using Thunderbolt on your Mac, that doesn’t matter. Because M1 or Intel, all Macs give you the same capabilities and can use all of the same great peripherals. So-called “Thunderbolt 4” is really a marketing term for those looking at PCs. For the first time, they can know that a PC with Thunderbolt 4 isn’t missing anything.
As you see in the graphic below, Apple alludes to this very idea. “Thunderbolt / USB 4” is “Thunderbolt 3” – there is no need to even call it Thunderbolt 4.
There is only one small caveat…
An exciting and much asked for new feature introduced to Thunderbolt is support for hubbing, which allows you to add more Thunderbolt ports. Since this hubbing support comes from a new chipset, you will need to be running macOS 11 Big Sur on your Mac. So, to use our new OWC Thunderbolt Hub and other upcoming solutions that incorporate hubbing, make sure you are running macOS 11 or later.
For PC users it’s a different story. Hubbing support will be dependent upon the individual PC makers providing specific system updates.
So hats off to Apple for always giving us everything Thunderbolt has been capable of. And welcome, PC Users, to the unquestionable benefits of Thunderbolt that you can now count on to be present on every new Thunderbolt 4 PC!
Enjoy the great variety of exceptional, top-of-class, Thunderbolt solutions that OWC has to offer for all your systems!
– OWC Larry