Intel has unveiled its new Thunderbolt 5 technology and says the first computers and accessories using the new high-speed connectors should be available in 2024.

As expected, Thunderbolt 5 incorporates the USB4 v2 specification that was launched nearly a year ago, so there aren’t a lot of surprises in the new announcement. But Intel confirms that Thunderbolt 5 will be 2-3 times faster than Thunderbolt 4 thanks to 80 Gbps bi-directional data speeds and support for 120 Gbps asynchronous speed for video output (allowing you to connect up to two 8K displays).

So what’s the difference between USB4, Thunderbolt 5, and earlier versions of the Thunderbolt standard?

In a nutshell, not all USB4 ports have all the features that are included in Intel’s Thunderbolt technology… but some might. So the main advantage is that if you see a Thunderbolt logo you’ll know that a system guarantees a certain meets minimum standards, while you might have to dig a littler deeper to find out if a device with a USB4 port supports the same speeds and features.

Here’s how Intel says the new Thunderbolt 5 technology stacks up against the rest:

Thunderbolt 5Thunderbolt 4Thunderbolt 3USB4
Universal USB-C port
Required speed for cables up to 2 meters in length120 Gbps (async)
80 Gbps (bi-directional)
40 Gbps20 Gbps
Accessories with up to 4 Thunderbolt portsOptional
Min PC speed requirement 80 Gbps (bi-directional)
120 Gbps transmit / 40 Gbps receive (aysnc for video)
40 Gbps40 Gbps20 Gbps
(40 Gbps is optional)
Min PC video requirement2 x 6K displays (mandatory)
2 x 8K displays (optional)
2 x 4K displays
or
1 x 8K display
1 x 4K display1 display (no min resolution)
Min PC data requirementsPCIe 64 GbpsPCIe 32 Gbps
USB 3.2 10 Gbps
PCIe 16 Gbps
USB 3.2 10 Gbps
USB 3.2 10  Gbps
PC charging port requiredAt least one up to 140W
Supports up to 240W max
At least one up to 140W
Supports up to 240W max
PC wake from sleep w/TB dock connectedRequiredRequired
Min PC port power for accessories15W15W15W7.5W
Thunderbolt Networking64 Gbps32 Gbps16 Gbps
Mandatory certification for PCs and accessories
Intel VT-d based DMA protection required
USB4 specificationCompliantCompliantCompliantCompliant

Intel says the speed boost in Thunderbolt 5 comes from a new PAM-3 (3-level Pulse Amplitude Modulation) signaling system to allow more data transfers per clock cycle.

This enables the 80 Gbps bidirectional and 120 Gbps / 40 Gbps asynchronous data support, as well as support for PCIe Gen 4 64 Gbps full duplex support and support for DisplayPort 2.1 Alt Mode.

Since Thunderbolt 5 is backward compatible, you can also connect cable and accessories designed for Thunderbolt 3, 4, USB3, USB4, or just about anything else that supports a USB Type-C port to a system with a Thunderbolt 5 controllers. You just might not be able to take advantage of all the new features.

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  1. This is Thundercrap… There is hardly anything useful available for Thunderfuck 4 for the majority of the time it comes out, and no sooner do they come up with a Newest THunderfuck 5™ to gouge us with.?

  2. In summary USB4 will be at least 20Gbps and provide 1.5A @5V. C type cables will work just fine… they will need an emark to reach 20Gbps or higher (just like an emark is needed for a cable that can do 5A). I would love to see new USB Hard Disks support USB4 20Gbps and no power cable.

    1. For external hard disks, USB4 has 4x the data bandwidth and 2x the current. A nice bump over USB3.