The other week Mac Enthusiasts discussed the advantages of USB 3.0 and how much faster of a connection it is in relation to I/O (input/output) options of the past. If you’re a techie expecting the fastest speeds, and highest quality out of your devices, you probably looked right past that option and instead to Thunderbolt for the fastest connection for your devices. If you didn’t before, you may want to. We’ve put together all the basics you need to know about Mac Thunderbolt and the advantages you’ll have in using it.
What is Thunderbolt? Thunderbolt is an I/O type designed by Intel, available on newer Macs as the fastest option out there for devices. There are two channels on the same connector, to connect high-speed peripherals and displays with the highest resolution. There are currently two generations of Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2, and cables/ devices that are compatible with the second version are also backwards compatible with the first.
What are the differences between the two versions? With Thunderbolt, each channel on the connector offers up to 10 Gbps in both directions. The newer version, Thunderbolt 2, offers up to 20 Gbps. o compare, USB 3.0 offers 5Gbps on both channels, and Firewire offers 0.8 Mbps.
Which Mac computers have Thunderbolt? If you’re still not sure about whether or not your personal Mac offers Thunderbolt, you can check out the list below. All the devices listed offer up to two display connections, unless otherwise specified. If you’re not quite sure which kind of Mac you have, you can find out under the Apple Menu> About this mac.
Macs with Thunderbolt Capabilities:
- MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2012) and later
- MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012) and later
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, Early 2011) and later (*Only one display on Early- Mid 2011)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2011) and later
- MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2011) and later (*Only one display on Early- Late 2011)
- MacBook Air (13-inch, Mid 2011) and later
- Mac mini (Mid 2011) and later (*Only one display on Mid 2011)
- iMac (Mid 2011) and later
- iMac Pro (Late 2013) (**Offers up to 6 displays!!)
Macs with Thunderbolt 2 Capabilities:
- MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2015)
- iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014)
- Mac mini (Late 2014)
- MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2013) and later (**Offers up to 6 displays!!)
- MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013) and later (**Offers up to 6 displays!!)
- Mac Pro (Late 2013)
To quickly spot the port on your computer, you’ll look for this port shape, and this symbol.
What other system requirements do I need to meet to run an Apple Thunderbolt display? Besides using one of the above Macs, to use an Apple Thunderbolt display, your system will additionally need to be running OS X v10.6.8 Snow Leopard or later.
Will my Mac sleep with Thunderbolt devices plugged in? No, sleep mode is deactivated when Thunderbolt devices are plugged into your Mac. This important to note if you’re one who walks away from your computer a lot. Additionally, if you’re using a Thunderbolt-connected device on a portable Mac, if your battery depletes and your Mac goes into hibernation, your Thunderbolt connections will all disconnect. To reconnect, wake the computer and restart.
Mac Enthusiasts sells many Mac Accessories, including Thunderbolt cables, and corresponding devices in our store at 10600 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064. If you have any more questions about Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2, feel free to visit us, call us at (800)448-1892, or contact us online here.