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Thunderbolt 4 Isnít About Speed, So Whatís the Big Deal?


Published: 11-2-2021


CAPTION: Intel

Thunderbolt 3, despite not featuring on that many systems, has been a revolution for external IO. Fast enough to allow for rapid SSD data transfer or external GPU use, thereís seemingly more bandwidth on offer than anyone knows what to do with. It seems the folks behind the standard agree since the speed remains the same. That doesnít mean Thunderbolt 4 has nothing to offer! There are a few big differences you should know about.

PCIe Performance

External GPUs have been an amazing technology on Thunderbolt 3, allowing laptops to access powerful GPUs when docked, without hauling that bulk around on the go. Unfortunately, despite Thunderbolt 3ís 40Gbps of overall bandwidth, the PCIe bandwidth is limited to 16Gbps. That has lead to high-performance GPUs hitting a performance ceiling and soon mid-range cards will face the same issue. Thunderbolt 4 doubles the available bandwidth to 32Gbps, which promises much improved eGPU performance. Of course, all PCIe over Thunderbolt devices will benefit, including hyperfast SSDs. USB 3.2 speeds remain the same at 10Gbps.

More Displays
Thunderbolt 3 only supports one external display, which limits multi-monitor docked setups, Thunderbolt 4 allows for two 4K monitors, a big boon for creative professionals.

Better Security

Thunderbolt 4 includes Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d). This helps ensure that only authorized users and software access devices or the computer itself over the Thunderbolt 4 connection. You can read more about how it works on Intelís VT-d page.

Longer Cables

Thunderbolt 3 cables are limited to only one meter in length, or the speed starts to drop. This isnít a huge problem, since Thunderbolt devices are designed to be daisy-chained. Still, most people would appreciate a little more distance from a PC and, for example, an external monitor. Thunderbolt 4 doubles the maximum cable length to two meters.

Wake From Sleep

Caption: Intel

Thunderbolt 4 now allows the computer to be awakened by a device attached to the dock. This is a surprisingly important feature since many people use a Thunderbolt 3 dock as the entire docking station. With Thunderbolt 4 youíll no longer have to open up your laptop to wake it up.

USB4 and Thunderbolt 4 Unified

Thunderbolt 4 is fully compliant with USB4. By the way, USB4 is really written like that, with no space between ďUSBĒ and ď4Ē! Anyway, if you plug a USB4 (or older) device into a Thunderbolt 4 port, it will work exactly as its supposed to. The reverse is not true, while every Thunderbolt 4 port is a USB4 port, USB4 ports are not Thunderbolt-compatible. So devices that are Thunderbolt-only wonít work in them.

Worth the Upgrade?

If youíre using a desktop system and have open PCIe slots, it may well be worth installing a Thunderbolt 4 expansion card. It will provide an instant boost to any PCIe peripherals youíre using and of course, you can now also add one additional monitor.

If you need to buy a new laptop or an entirely new motherboard, itís probably not worth the improvements of Thunderbolt 4, but when you next have to buy a new computer itís certainly worth picking one that offers Thunderbolt 4, which opens up access to much better PCIe peripherals and will also get you ready for the flood of USB4 devices on the horizon.





LIST OF COMPATIBLE WORKSTATIONS





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Workstation laptops arenít the only way to take massive computing power with you on the road (or to the next room). Featuring the brilliant portable Lian Li TU150A case, the Titan C161 lets you take the performance to where itís needed most.





Starting Price: $1,899.00
Titan C200 - AMD RYZEN Professional Compact Workstation PC - up to 16 cores & 32 threads Titan C200 - AMD RYZEN 5000X Series Compact Workstation PC up to 16 cores

AMDís latest Ryzen CPUs pack more cores in a smaller space than ever, so why not pack those cores into a smaller case than ever? Weíve taken the amazing portable Lian Li TU150A case and equipped it with as many as 16 cores (six as standard) so youíll never run out of threads no matter where you are.






Starting Price: $1,899.00
Titan W480 - Intel Xeon W-1200 Series - CAD Compact - up to 10 CPU Cores Workstation PC Titan W480 - Intel Xeon W-1200 Series - CAD Compact - up to 10 CPU Cores Workstation PC

The W480 offers potent multi-threaded performance and lightning-fast dual-Thunderbolt 3 external peripheral support. Making it an affordable way to access hot-swappable high-speed external storage. So whether youíre working through multiple CAD projects or need a hot-swappable editing workstation, the W480 offers an amazing platform to get the job done.






Starting Price: $2,279.00
Titan W161 - Intel Core i9 11th Gen Rocket Lake CAD Modeling Workstation PC up to 10 cores Titan W161 - Intel Core i9 11th Gen Rocket Lake CAD Modeling Workstation PC up to 10 cores

With its sporty twin-fan front intake and clean sports car lines, youíd be forgiven for thinking that our W161 is another hotrod PC meant for entertainment. The truth is this one of our most balanced workstations aimed at accelerating the workflow of CAD/CAM professionals while providing enough multi-core power to remain flexible. Sporting the latest Intel Comet Lake i9 technology, the W161 is a sign that your CAD workstations need an upgrade.





Starting Price: $2,615.00
Titan W299 - Intel Core i9 Cascade Lake Series 3D / CAD Workstation PC up to 18 Cores Titan W299 - Intel Core i9 Cascade Lake Series 3D / CAD Workstation PC up to 18 Cores

Skylake X has landed with a bang, bringing substantial performance improvement to an already over-achieving CPU family. The W299 gives this newest extreme Intel processor line a comfortable home and makes the possibility of owning a 18 core & 36 threads monster down the line real. The Skylake X powered Titan W299 now represents high-end processing power at a surprisingly affordable price.




Starting Price: $3,420.00
Titan W422 - Intel Xeon W Cascade Lake for VR Design Workstation PC up to 18 cores Titan W422 - Intel Xeon W Cascade Lake for VR Design Workstation PC up to 18 cores

Virtual reality is all the rage these days and the system requirements for consuming it are going down all the time. But what about those who want to create the next big VR experience? Weíve taken the latest professional-grade components and created one of the most cost-effective 3D Rendering workstations with VR-grade horsepower on the market. Welcome to the W422.




Starting Price: $3,675.00
Titan X4K - Intel Core i9 11th Gen Rocket Lake up to 10 Cores Mobile Workstation Laptop Titan X4K - Intel Core i9 11th Gen Rocket Lake up to 10 Cores Mobile Workstation Laptop

The Titan X4K is one of the most powerful and highly portable Mobile Workstation Eight Core Laptop in the market featuring 11th Generation i9-11900k 5.3Ghz and up to 128GB of Dual-channel DDR4 3200Mhz memory.




Starting Price: $3,765.00
W480 VULCAN - Intel Xeon W-1200 Series Comet Lake All Cores Sink Overclocked / CAD Modeling Workstation PC up to 10 cores W480 VULCAN - Intel Xeon W-1200 Series Comet Lake All Cores Overclocked / CAD Modeling Workstation PC up to 10 cores

Intelís W-1200 series Comet Lake workstation processors bring you solid entry-level performance along with all the reliability, features and compatibility you would expect of workstation-class hardware. When your workload needs top performance that your desktop CPU contra part does not cut it, the Titan W480 is an excellent choice.





Starting Price: $4,215.00
Titan W422 Octane - Intel Xeon W Cascade Lake - VR Design - CUDA GPU Rendering Workstation PC up to 18 Cores Titan W422 Octane - Intel Xeon W Cascade Lake - VR Design - CUDA GPU Rendering Workstation PC up to 18 Cores

There are plenty of high-end computers out there that boast multiple GPUs. What they donít tell you is that just because you can put a whole bunch of GPUs into a computer, doesnít mean youíll get the full benefit. The Titan W422 Octane has no such problems. Weíve carefully chosen the best processor and motherboard combination to let you wring as much performance from your multi-GPU setup as possible. In fact, every component in this workstation has been chosen around the concept of multi-GPU computing. If youíre looking to crunch some GPU workloads, this is where to start.



Starting Price: $5,865.00
   
 
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