Now that Big Sur has arrived, we have been doing our fair share of testing. One of the big questions people have is, “will all my Thunderbolt gear work with macOS 11 Big Sur?”
As we mentioned in a previous article, Apple has ditched the Thunderbolt numerical suffix. What most people are currently calling “Thunderbolt 4,” Apple is calling “Thunderbolt / USB 4.” This change in terminology will likely remove uncertainty moving forward, but it is understandably a bit confusing for the time being. What Apple wants to communicate is that all your Thunderbolt devices will work on its new M1 Macs.
We should also point out that because the M1 chipset lacks support for 8K monitors, Apple can’t claim the ports are “Thunderbolt 4” anyway…
Big Sur & Thunderbolt
After extensive testing, we can now verify that all of your Thunderbolt devices will work with Big Sur. Regardless of what Mac you are using, if it can run macOS 11, it will support all generations of Thunderbolt devices.
However, the operative word here is “work.” Pre-Thunderbolt 3 devices will still need to use Apple’s Thunderbolt 2 <-> Thunderbolt 3 adapter, so don’t expect the external drive you have connected to your 2013 MacBookPro to suddenly attain speeds of 40Gb/s from its 20Gb/s Thunderbolt 2 port.
One of the most exciting advances in Thunderbolt technology is that the 4th generation allows for “hubbing” – connecting up to four Thunderbolt devices through one port. We can verify that pre-Thunderbolt 3 Mac models do not support hubbing, and additional ports on these Macs will operate only for USB 3 and up to 10Gb/s (USB 3.1g2 aka USB 3.2).
However, we have some big news to report…
With this week’s release of macOS 11.1, all Thunderbolt 3 Macs now support hubbing. Yep, you’ve got it – with Big Sur, your Thunderbolt 3 Mac is now (essentially) a “Thunderbolt 4” computer! Consider it an early Christmas gift from Apple.
What Does This Mean For You?
If your Mac can handle Big Sur, it can handle OWC docks and hubs! And as much as we’d like to sell you our latest “Thunderbolt 4” product (the OWC Thunderbolt Hub), in all transparency, if you are on a Thunderbolt 2 computer, it would be overkill – stick with one of our TB3 docks and an Apple adapter and you are good to go!