If you have a laptop or a desktop with Thunderbolt 3 ports, you should invest in a Thunderbolt-compatible cable to eke the best speeds. It’s safe to say that a Thunderbolt 3 compatible cable is a one-word solution for your Mac — be it connecting to an external display, connecting to a dock, or simply charging your laptop.
Even though Thunderbolt 3 looks similar to the USB-C cables, they are quite different specs-wise. Yes, they use the same physical connector, but Thunderbolt 3 cables are much faster than their regular USB-C counterparts. And well, they have a lightning bolt-like label on top to tell them apart from regular cables. These cables can felicitate speeds up to 40 Gbps, allow bi-directional data transfers, and support resolution up to 5K at 60Hz or two 4K monitors over DisplayPort.
Thunderbolt is also more expensive than its USB-C counterparts. But on the bright side, you get a insane transfer speed and also several display-related advantages. And that should be the reason for you to get a few Thunderbolt 3 USB-C cables for your Apple MacBook.
That said, let’s have a look at some of the best Thunderbolt 3 cables for Mac users. But first,
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1. Apple Thunderbolt 3 Pro Cable
If you want to play it safe, you can check Apple’s official Thunderbolt 3 Pro cable. Yes, unlike most other cables that Apple gets the flak for, this is a braided cable, and the strain relief is long enough for you to position your fingers properly over them. The braided exterior adds to the durability of the product and at the same time prevents the cable from splitting and fraying, something that is common with Apple’s cables.
More importantly, this cable works as advertised. So yeah, be it data transfers or connecting to an external display, this one does them all without breaking a sweat. While connected to a Thunderbolt 3 port, you’ll get theoretical speeds up to 40 Gbps and around 10 Gbps when connected to a standard USB-C port.
As per Apple, it’s compatible with DisplayPort and USB 3.1, meaning you can connect your Mac to a laptop dock. And the 6.5ft length helps its cause.
However, at around $129, this is not one of the cheapest cables out there, and there are quite a few compatible cables at the same price point. That said, you will get consistent transfer speeds. Also, it delivers up to 100W of power, which is more than enough to charge your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.
2. CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 Type-C Cable
Length: 2.6ft passive cable, 6.5ft active cable
If you have a Thunderbolt 3 docking station for your laptop, you must have already heard about the highly popular CalDigit TS3 Plus. The good news is that the company makes quality Thunderbolt 3 cables also. Like its counterpart above, this is available in a length of 2 meters. And unlike the other one, it’s an active Thunderbolt 3 cable. For starters, active cables are expensive than their passive counterparts and are not backward compatible with USB 3.0 & USB 3.1 devices.
That said, the speed remains consistent on Active cables, and you will get max bandwidth when connected to docks or eGPUs. You should only connect these cables to a compatible device so that you can enjoy those speeds; otherwise, you’ll only set yourself for disappointment.
It’s not a fancy cable like the one above, and you won’t feature like a sheathed exterior and the likes. On the upside, the ends are elongated, and you will be able to better grip the cable.
So far, it has managed to eke out a good response from its user base, be it connecting to 4K external monitors or daisy-chaining a couple of compatible monitors together.
However, this cable is also on the expensive side, and if you happen to switch between USB 3.1 ports and Thunderbolt 3 ports, this is probably not the one for you.
3. Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Cable
Length: 1.6ft, 2.6ft, 6.5ft
If you want an inexpensive yet fully functional cable that can support 4K/5K displays without any glitches, you can try out the Thunderbolt 3 cable by Belkin. Like its counterparts above, this one is designed for pro users and can achieve full Thunderbolt 3 speed. For those unaware, some Thunderbolt 3 cables max out at 40Gbps (theoretical). The folks at Mac Sources tested this cable and found a maximum write speed of 1852.9 Mbps and a read speed of 2363.2 Mbps when they used it to connect to a Thunderbolt 3 hard drive.
When connected with a compatible USB port/connector, you will still get speeds up to 10 Gbps (USB 3.1). It’s capable of Power Delivery up to 100W, should you want to use it as a charging cable. Lastly, it can handle daisy chaining as well.
The only thing that you have to keep in mind is that only the 1.6ft and the 2.6ft cable support DisplayPort. The 6.5ft cable doesn’t. So if you also have to connect to an extended setup with an external display, keep that in mind.
The bottom line is if you want a name-brand cable and do not want to spend upwards of $40 and yet want a great performance, this Belkin cable is the one for you.
4. Nekteck Active Thunderbolt 3 Cable
Nektek is a good name for USB-C charging cables and car chargers, and the USB-C Thunderbolt 3 cable is no different. This is an active cable, and hence, this will work only with Thunderbolt-only systems. This one carries all the usual features like supplying up to 100W of power for charging the connected Mac and support for 4K video at 60Hz, meaning you can connect your MacBook to an external display and still not lose out the resolution.
The only thing you need to make sure is that the connected display is Thunderbolt 3 compatible like the BenQ PD2720U UHD monitor.
Nektek cables are renowned for their quality, and this one is no exception. It’s a well-constructed cable and can stand the test of time, provided you are careful with it when plugging or unplugging it.
It’s available in a length of 6.6ft.
5. Maxonar Store Thunderbolt 3 Cable
If you do not want to spend a fortune on a cable, you should certainly have a peek at the Maxonar Store’s Thunderbolt 3 Cable. This one is a well-constructed cable with a solid build. In fact, the company claims that it can withstand up to fifteen thousand bends and ten thousand insertions/removal. And the durability has been backed by several reviewers as part of their user reviews.
Like most Thunderbolt 3 cables, it can support a single 5K monitor at 60Hz. You can also connect a duo of 4K monitor over DisplayPort and still get up to 60Hz in refresh rate. It’s not an active cable and can be used in USB 3.1 devices as well.
Apart from connecting to external monitors, this cable can connect to Thunderbolt 3 docks or hard drives. Last but not least, the 3.9ft length means that you will have ample wriggle room to set up your rig as per your choice.
6. Plugable Thunderbolt 3 Cable
Length: 1.6ft, 2.6ft, 6.6ft
Another best-value Thunderbolt 3 cable is the one by Plugable. The cable costs less than $25 and has a solid build. Since it is passive cable, you can also double it to connect to USB 3.1 devices from time-to-time. Again, you get a length of 2.6ft, making them perfect even for elaborate setups on your MacBook.
At the same time, you will get your usual features such as Power Delivery up to 100W and the support of dual UHD monitors (single 5k at 60Hz). So yeah, you will get all the features at almost a quarter (if not more) of the Apple Thunderbolt Pro cable.
This product has been received well by users and has more than twelve hundred reviews on Amazon, with users praising it for its durability, solid build, and of course, its performance.
As per Fakespot’s estimates, around 80% of the reviews present are high quality and can be trusted.
As Fast as the Flash
These were some of the Thunderbolt 3 cables you can buy for your MacBook or Thunderbolt 3 monitor. With many confusing terms thrown around, it’s easy to get distracted while shopping. It’s also essential that you check the cable’s length before buying. After all, you wouldn’t want to end up with a short or extra-long cable.
Last updated on 02 February, 2022
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