Which Thun­der­bolt 3 Cable Should You Buy

Namrata Gogoi

You can't tell a USB-C cable apart from a Thunderbolt cable. With the rise in USB-C accessories and Thunderbolt-compatible laptop docks over the last couple of years, it has become increasingly difficult to find the right cable for your gadgets. These two tech share the same connectors, and the cross-reference of terms add to the confusion.

Which Thunderbolt Cable Should You Buy and Why

We will help you remove the confusion and make it a bit easy to pick the correct cable. But first, you need to know the difference between Thunderbolt and USB-C.

Let's get started.

What Is Thunderbolt

Intel's Thunderbolt first made its debut in 2011. There have been quite a few iterations till now and Thunderbolt 3 is the latest version. Though the Thunderbolt 3 made a debut in 2015, it arrived at the peak of USB-C creating a rage in the electronics world. The USB-C was looked upon as universal solution for better charging and data transfer.

The cause of the confusion of Thunderbolt cable primarily arises from the fact that the USB-C and Thunderbolt cables look quite similar. And indeed, Thunderbolt 3 cables use the same physical interface. The only difference is that the said cables have a small lighting indicator to tell them apart from regular USB-C cables.

Usb C

USB-C

However, when it comes to speed, there is a huge difference between the two. For one, Thunderbolt 3 is fast and can transmit data at speeds as high as 40 Gbps. Cool, right? As opposed to it, USB-C has a maximum speed of 20 Gbps.

Thunderbolt 3 cables have plenty of features to boast about. For one, you can use the same cable to charge your laptop, transmit data or connect your laptop to two compatible 4K Thunderbolt displays. And that's not all. It's capable of delivering up to 100W of power and allows you to daisy chain multiple monitors.

Again, it's worth noting that the old Thunderbolt cables do not have USB-C connectors. Instead, the older versions relied on the Mini DisplayPort connector, which limited its adaptability. And due to this reason, the newer Thunderbolt cables are not compatible with devices which older Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 directly.

1. Anker Thunderbolt 3.0 Cable

Anker Thunderbolt 3.0 Cable

Thunderbolt 3 cables have plenty of features to boast about. For one, you can use the same cable to charge your laptop, transmit data or connect your laptop to two compatible 4K Thunderbolt displays. And that's not all. It's capable of delivering up to 100W of power and allows you to daisy chain multiple monitors.

The folks at The Wirecutter tested this cable and found it to meet the standards mentioned above. When connected to a Thunderbolt 3 compatible port, it has a read speed of 2,131 MB/s and a write speed of 924 MB/s on average.

However, it's not one of the strong and durable products out there. If you have plans to plug/unplug it often, we'd recommend skipping this product.

Why should you pick it: If you are looking for an affordable option that lets you reap all the advantages of Thunderbolt 3 cables, this one is the one.

2. Nekteck Active Thunderbolt 3 Cable

Nekteck Active Thunderbolt 3 Cable

The Nekteck Thunderbolt 3 Cable is an active cable that makes it worthwhile only if you are looking to use it with Thunderbolt-only systems like the Apple MacBook Pro, eGPUs, or Thunderbolt-only monitors. This cable boats of usual features like 100W of power for charging connected devices or running 4K displays at 60Hz.

The highlight of this cable is the length of the cable. At 6.6ft, the cable gives you enough wriggle room to set up your system as per your preference. It's versatile and works well across systems, be it connecting your laptop to an eGPU or a docking station like the CalDigit TS3 Plus Dock.

Naturally, this cable costs a little more than its counterpart above.

Why should you pick it: Nekteck cables are praised for their quality and durability, and this one is no different. The build is solid and will likely last you a long time.

3. Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Cable

Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Cable

If you want to go with a trusted brand, you can check out the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Cable. This one carries the same transfer specifications and is designed for pro users. The beauty of Thunderbolt 3 cables lies in the fact that you can use them instead of USB-C cables, and this one is no exception. When connected to USB-C 3.1 ports, you will still get speed up to 10 Gbps.

The Belkin cables handle most of the functions well. It can be used as a humble charging cable, or you can amp up your experience with multiple daisy-chaining monitors. The folks at Mac Sources tested this cable and found it to have an average write speed of 1852.9 Mbps and read speed of 2363.2 Mbps.

Why should you pick it up: The Belkin cable is a well-made cable and is built to last a long time. It proves to be a good buy if you do not want to compromise on the performance of your devices.

4. Apple Thunderbolt 3 Pro Cable

Apple Thunderbolt 3 Pro Cable

If you want to go all-in and splurge on a Thunderbolt 3 cable, the Apple Thunderbolt 3 Pro Cable is the ultimate choice. Apart from the performance, Apple promises a long-lasting and durable cable. Unlike the ones above, the cable is heated in a nylon exterior which shields the cable from regular wear & tear, and the odds are that you will avoid the popular 'frayed' look associated with Apple's lightning cables.

Simultaneously, the length is pretty long, making it convenient for you to set up your setup without any connectivity issues. Performance-wise, it does things to the T.

Like many Apple products, this one is a premium product, and you will have to shell out a considerable sum for it. On the bright side, it does the job as advertised.

Why should you pick it up: The nylon braiding will prolong the cable's life, and the solid build ensures that the cable will likely last you a long time. Add premium experience to the list, and you have got an almost perfect recipe.

Grab the Thunder

Perhaps, the best thing about Thunderbolt cables is that they can easily double as USB-C cables, and that's a huge plus, especially when it comes to reducing cable clutter on your desk or drawer. Just remember to unplug the cables while gripping the connector.


The above article may contain affiliate links which help support Guiding Tech. However, it does not affect our editorial integrity. The content remains unbiased and authentic.

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Namrata loves writing about products and gadgets. She has been working for Guiding Tech since 2017 and has around three years of experience writing features, how-tos, buying guides, and explainers. Previously she worked as an IT Analyst at TCS, but she found her calling elsewhere.