USB‑C vs Thun­der­bolt 3: Which One is Best to Con­nect Your Mac­Book to a Monitor

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USB type C and thunderbolt 3 ports are the frontrunners for high-speed data and power transmission. While essentially serving the same purpose, they are not fundamentally the same. USB-C is more of a design thing, while thunderbolt 3 is a technology that utilizes the USB-C port design and delivers much better performance than a USB-C port.

Read along if you want to learn more about USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. We will also look into the difference between the two, which one is better than the other and if you have to make a choice, which one you should pick.

Table of Contents

What is USB-C?

USB-C has been a buzz for quite some time in technological corridors and steadily making an appearance as the main connector type port across smartphones, computers, and even Apple’s MacBook. When it comes to connector technology, USB-C is on everyone’s lips these days. So, let’s learn what USB-C is and why both technology enthusiasts, as well as experts, are emphasizing its technical characteristics.


Developed by USB Implementer Forum, a USB-C combines Data, Power, and Video into one. The main idea behind a USB type C was to bring a universally acceptable connector technology that might eliminate the need to have different connectors for different electronic peripherals. But with the availability of multiple variants of the USB connector like the USB type A and micro USB, the idea of bringing universality to the connector port seemed far-fetched. 

So, when the new USB type C made its appearance with its round edges design and flippable feature, it became an instant hit. It appears that at last, we have a connector design that could, in all of its aspects, become a universal standard for connecting ports. Although still a long way down, a substantial step nevertheless.

The main USP of USB-C is its orientation-free design. You don’t have to flip it to the ‘right’ side. There is no up or down. You align it with the port and insert it. Another essential feature is that both ends of the USB-C cable have the same connector, so no limitation of one end going to a specific port. Owing to its impressive capabilities, universal design, and backing from all the major technological giants, like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, USB-C is quickly becoming the standard connector type.

What is Thunderbolt 3?


In looks, there is nothing much to differentiate between A USB-C port and the thunderbolt 3 port, and in most cases, a thunderbolt 3 port is capable of doing everything that a USB-C can do. But, while USB-C is a design, thunderbolt is a technology that runs behind the thunderbolt ports. In essence, thunderbolt 3 technology does use the USB-C port for data transmission, but the speed it offers is twice as much as a standard USB-C connector. The credit of creating the thunderbolt technology goes to the Intel Corporation, and its first major appearance was in 2011. Apple was quick to adopt this technology and introduced it in its MacBook line. Thunderbolt technology infused with the sophisticated USB-C design can achieve the fastest data transmission rate.

USB-C vs. Thunderbolt 3: What’s the Difference?

The thunderbolt technology does utilize the USB-C port to deliver high-speed performance, and there may not seem much difference between each other. There are some key aspects that differentiate one from another.

Number one is the speed. A USB-C port is capable of a data transfer rate of up to 10 Gbps, while a thunderbolt technology coupled with a USB-C design is capable of delivering up to a 40 Gbps data transmission.

If we check upon the power delivering capabilities of both USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 cables, they look the same, but when it comes to video resolution output, Thunderbolt 3 can easily provide a resolution of up to 5K. Additional to that a thunderbolt 3 cable also supports HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2

Thunderbolt 3 also has a clear advantage when it comes to multiple daisy-chaining monitors on macOS. When connected through daisy-chaining via thunderbolt 3 cable MacBook Pro can power up to 4 monitors with 4K resolution. On the other hand, USC-C isn’t much of a use when it comes to daisy-chaining in macOS. You can only obtain a mirrored display if you connect two USB-C monitors to MacBook Pro. Nevertheless, you can connect a Graphics card with a Thunderbolt port if you are in need of extra juice for your Macbook. 

USB-C vs. Thunderbolt 3: Which one is best to connect your MacBook to a Monitor

By the above comparison, thunderbolt 3 seems to be the clear winner. Not only does thunderbolt 3 provide a higher data transmission rate, but also has better support for multiple daisy-chaining monitors for devices running macOS like the Mac Mini MacBooks, iMacs, and Mac Pros. So you have got the answer, you can pick Thunderbolt 3 cable to connect your MacBook to a monitor.


USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 both serve the same purpose: higher speed data transmission, blazing-fast performance, and ease of use. While the USB-C is all about universality, thunderbolt 3 technology brings more speed, more power, more pixels, and more protocols to the table. That’s all we have for you with the comparison of USB type C and Thunderbolt 3. We hope this guide helped you to understand which one is the best for connecting your MacBook to a monitor. 

Rohit is a software engineer. A pro lover of Technology and tech gadgets. I am a gamer too. Our team is here to help you find the best monitor products to decide which one is best for you.

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