What is wrong with USB that I have to use Thunderbolt?

Thunderbolt cables are hugely expensive and don't work on any other equipment I have that's not a Mac powerbook.

What benefit am I getting from Thunderbolt that USB 3 does not deliver?

Apple Thunderbolt Cable (0.5m) - Black

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3 Answers from the Community

  • Best Answer:

    Thunderbolt is a more versatile interface than USB, it can transfer both data and video signal. That means you only need one port to accomplish data transfer and video output, there is no need for two separate ports (ex. USB and DisplayPort). Thunderbolt uses the old Mini DisplayPort so you can still use your VGA/DVI adapters. Thunderbolt also have Daisy Chain capability, you can connect up to 6 devices on one Thunderbolt port (ex. You don't need 6 ports to connect 6 devices).

    Like another commenter said, the theoretical speed of Thunderbolt is up to 10GB/s, or 20GB/s for TB2. Whereas USB 3.0 is only 5GB/s. Although the practical speed won't be much different as the hard drives are nowhere close to that speed. A 5400rpm HDD will be >100MB/s, 7200rpm will be ~150MB/s (my numbers might be a little off), SSDs will range from 300MB/s to 700MB/s (depends on the NAND used). With that said, USB 3.0 is good enough for simple storage use (TB might be better for RAID and other storage systems), especially if you count in the cost factor. Your practical transfer speed depend more on the hard drive you use, so I suggest you to spend the money on a good hard drive/SSD.

    Because Thunderbolt combines Mini DisplayPort and PCIe. Theoretically, you can get an external PCIe adapter and plug in something like a GPU (assuming the "drivers" and power supports). I'm particularly interesting in this because Apple doesn't like to give you a strong GPUs to drive a 2880x1880 Retina display on a 15" rMBP. Anyway, PCIe is a strong interface and it can add endless possibilities to a Mac. There is more to Thunderbolt than people think.
    Good luck!

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  • There's nothing "wrong" with USB per se. Just remember that USB is uni-directional. It either receives data or transmits it. Both Thunderbolt and Firewire are bi-directional, able to transmit and receive simultaneously. So for more intensive tasks like video or audio production, TBolt can make a huge difference in usability and speed over USB.

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  • Its so much faster than USB..

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