Skip to main content

Future Apple Silicon Macs will still have Thunderbolt ports

Thunderbolt ports have been a Mac feature for years — long before the technology came to Windows. In spite of parting ways with Intel on silicon for the Mac, Apple has announced it will continue to work with Intel to continue to ship Macs — even future ones with custom Apple silicon — with Thunderbolt ports.

“Over a decade ago, Apple partnered with Intel to design and develop Thunderbolt, and today our customers enjoy the speed and flexibility it brings to every Mac,” Apple’s statement to The Verge read. “We remain committed to the future of Thunderbolt and will support it in Macs with Apple silicon.”

Related Videos
MacBook Air 2020 ports
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

After Apple had made the announcement that it will be migrating away from Intel’s x86 platform in favor of its own custom ARM-based silicon, developers and enthusiasts were wary what the move may mean for the future of Thunderbolt on the Mac.

Notably, the Mac Mini development kit that debuted at the Worldwide Developers Conference 2020 did not ship with Thunderbolt 3 ports and instead relies on standard USB-C connectivity, whereas the Intel-based Mac Mini available for purchase today comes with four Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C ports. Thunderbolt is also not currently available on other Apple Silicon devices, such as the iPad Pro.

Thunderbolt 3 is currently supported on nearly all of Apple’s Mac lineup, including the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, and Mac Pro.

With Apple’s confirmation that Thunderbolt will survive the Intel divorce, developers and Mac supporters won’t have much to worry about in this regard.

Apple’s statement that it will support Thunderbolt on future Macs regardless of silicon architecture comes on the heels of Intel’s Thunderbolt 4 announcement. Thunderbolt 4 will utilize the same miniature oblong connector port as Thunderbolt 3 but will also work with USB4 and offer extra benefits, like the ability to support either dual 4K UHD displays or a single 8K monitor.

Intel says Thunderbolt 4 will initially debut with Tiger Lake laptops, many of which will fall under the Project Athena specifications, though it will later release chips to PC manufacturers to offer Thunderbolt 4 on other systems.

For its part, Apple did not state whether it will use Thunderbolt 3 or the newer Thunderbolt 4 specifications when it debuts Macs with its own custom silicon for consumer purchase. Both Thunderbolt 3 and 4 will support the same 40Gbps data transfer speeds, making them faster alternatives to the 20Gbps USB4 specifications.

Editors' Recommendations

Apple could soon put an M3 chip in its worst laptop
Fortnite running on a Macbook M1.

Apple’s MacBook lineup is full of great laptops, but the 13-inch MacBook Pro really doesn’t feel like it belongs. Yet a new report claims Apple will update that device with an M3 chip later this year instead of simply killing it off.

The news comes from 9to5Mac, and the website says its sources have confirmed the 13-inch MacBook Pro is going to get a refresh with a new M3 chip, potentially at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June.

Read more
A new iMac and 15-inch MacBook Air are almost ready to launch
A student types at a desk on a pink Apple iMac 24-inch M1 desktop computer.

The M1 iMac made a big splash when it launched in spring 2021, but it’s been a long two years without updates since then. There’s some good news for Apple fans, though, as a new iMac is apparently almost upon us.

That’s according to a new report from Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman, who claims the next iMac is undergoing production tests as we speak. This stage of development (known as engineering validation testing, or EVT) means the product is getting close to launching.

Read more
USB-C charging laptops: Here’s what you need to know
Close up on the USB-C ports on a Macbook Pro.

The arrival of USB-C and USB-C laptop chargers has been a game-changer for many electronics. You can use the connection to charge devices and transfer media, and it's conveniently reversible. The best laptops no longer need a big power brick -- you can just use USB-C. But there are some precautions you should take when charging over USB-C. Here's everything you need to know.
USB charging and laptops

You have probably already used USB connections to charge smaller devices either from your computer or from an outlet. That works well because past USB connections had enough wattage to successfully power up those smaller batteries. Prior versions of USB could only handle a limited amount of power, which is why laptop chargers have typically retained their larger, bulkier cables.

Read more