Thunderbolt ports have been a Mac feature for years – long before the technology came on Windows. Despite the separation of Intel on silicon for the Mac, Apple has announced that it will continue to work with Intel to continue delivering Macs – including future ones with custom Apple silicon – with Thunderbolt ports.
"Over a decade ago, Apple partnered with Intel to design and develop Thunderbolt. Today, our customers enjoy the speed and flexibility that every Mac offers," Apple's statement to The Verge said. "We remain committed to Thunderbolt's future and will support it on Macs with Apple silicon."
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends
After Apple announced it was migrating from Intel's x86 platform in favor of its own custom ARM-based silicon, developers and enthusiasts were concerned about what the move could mean for Thunderbolt's future on Mac.
In particular, the Mac Mini development kit that was unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference 2020 did not ship with Thunderbolt 3 ports and is instead based on standard USB-C connectivity, while the Intel-based Mac Mini with four available for purchase today Thunderbolt 3 is supplied via USB -C ports. Thunderbolt is not currently available on other Apple Silicon devices, such as the iPad Pro.
Thunderbolt 3 is currently supported by almost all Apple Mac models, including MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac and Mac Pro.
With Apple's confirmation that Thunderbolt will survive Intel's divorce, developers and Mac backers no longer have to worry about it.
Apple's declaration that Thunderbolt will be supported on future Macs regardless of the silicon architecture follows the announcement from Intel Thunderbolt 4. Thunderbolt 4 uses the same elongated miniature connector as Thunderbolt 3, but also works with USB4 and offers additional advantages, e.g. B. the support of two 4K UHD displays or a single 8K monitor.
According to Intel, Thunderbolt 4 will initially debut with Tiger Lake laptops, many of which will fall under the Project Athena specifications. However, later chips are released for PC manufacturers to offer Thunderbolt 4 on other systems.
For its part, Apple has not indicated whether it will use Thunderbolt 3 or the newer Thunderbolt 4 specifications when launching Macs with its own custom silicon for consumer purchase. Both Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 3 support the same data transfer speeds of 40 Gbit / s and are therefore faster alternatives to the USB4 specifications with 20 Gbit / s.