Will Third-Gen Thunderbolt Be the Charm?

Will Third-Gen Thunderbolt Be the Charm?

Ask any presidential hopeful: Being the best choice in a race is no guarantee of getting elected. Moreover, what’s “best” for one group may not be desired by another. Progressives always face a battle to budge the status quo.

Creative professionals see this same struggle play out with their storage interfaces. How long did it take for FireWire to ebb as the connection of choice, even with faster options available? The now-laggardly USB 2.0 remains in broad use because it is deployed practically everywhere and on everything from editing workstations to five-year-old smartphones. When Apple released its first Thunderbolt-enabled systems in 2011, PCs were in no hurry to follow, despite Intel having spearheaded the technology.

A few solution manufacturers, including G-Technology, recognized that the Thunderbolt interface was the obvious choice for high-speed, flexible storage in the coming years, but nudging the market away from FireWire and USB was no easy feat. Heck, it’s still an uphill march. A lot of people weighed USB 3.0 against first-generation Thunderbolt connectors and decided that the extra dollars for Thunderbolt products weren’t necessary. Back in 2011-2012, this might have been a reasonable conclusion for non-professionals, and it was further reinforced by the arrival of USB 3.0 in 2013 at 10 Gbit/sec the same speed as first-generation the Thunderbolt interface.

In short, serious creatives understood and leveraged the advantages of Thunderbolt connectivity, especially the newer 20 Gbit/sec Thunderbolt 2 (late 2013) standard, but the “good enough” status quo of USB 3.0 kept Thunderbolt connectors precariously balanced at the margins of the market. Some pundits even expected the format to die if USB could take one more successful leap forward.

Top Thunderbolt 3 Interface Benefits

We’ll have another blog post up shortly detailing that next jump for USB, but today we want to begin exploring the Thunderbolt 3 connector and why you might need it. For starters, we’ll suggest these three attributes: more robust daisy chaining, USB Power Delivery, and device bandwidth.

At 40 Gbit/sec (5 GB/sec), Thunderbolt 3 connectors double the bandwidth of its predecessor, but what’s in a number? For starters, the Thunderbolt 3 interface can support either one 5K display or a pair of 4K displays at 60 Hz. Alternatively, you’ll be able to run a 4K display plus a bunch of high-performance storage from a single daisy chain, meaning you only tie up one port on your system.

Hard core cable clutter cleaners will also appreciate that Thunderbolt 3 ports may integrate USB Power Delivery. You know how some smaller hard drives, such as the G-DRIVE mobile, can derive all the power they need from a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 port, eliminating the use of a power cable? (The technically-minded may be interested to know that the draw limits there are 2.5W and 4.5W, respectively.) Thunderbolt 3 connectors allow devices to draw up to 15W for operation. For charging, Thunderbolt 3 ports can supply up to 100W. This means you’re likely to find a much broader array of line-powered Thunderbolt 3 storage devices available soon that don’t require power cables.

Of course, the main appeal for Thunderbolt 3 connectors will be the 40 Gbit/sec bandwidth. As clip resolutions climb far beyond HD levels and photo galleries grow ever larger, bandwidth is what makes real-time editing possible and eliminates untold hours from data offloading and backup procedures. Anyone who values their time, whether figuratively or on a revenue basis, should appreciate a Thunderbolt 3 connector.

And yet…we would be disingenuous to say that Thunderbolt 3 connectivity is for everyone. It’s not. In our next post, we’ll take a deeper dive into the speed expectations of Thunderbolt 3 and see for whom the technology will make the most sense.


G-Technology external hard drives serve as an element of an overall backup strategy. It is recommended that users keep two or more copies of their most important files backed up or stored on separate devices or online services.

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Will Third-Gen Thunderbolt Be the Charm?