Thunderbolt 4 specs revealed — everything you need to know

Thunderbolt 4
(Image credit: INTEL)

Thunderbolt 4's specifications have finally been revealed. Intel brought the news down from its labs this morning, explaining when the new connection type will come to laptops (albeit indirectly) and what makes it so compelling. 

We've got the full specs table from Intel below, along with details on why Thunderbolt 4 might do what Thunderbolt 3 could not: make it to a Surface tablet or laptop.

Thunderbolt 4 release date

We don't know when exactly to expect Thunderbolt 4 ports in laptops, but we know what to look for. Intel's plans call for Thunderbolt 4 controllers to be released in 2020, and that the first laptops to feature Thunderbolt 4 will be those running on Tiger Lake CPUs. 

Based on that info, we don't expect Thunderbolt 4 to hit most laptops until 2021.

Thunderbolt 4 speeds and features 

Don't go thinking Thunderbolt 4 will break the speed limits of Thunderbolt 3. Data transfer speeds will remain capped at 40GBps (though it introduces a new minimum data speed requirement of 32GBps on PCIe), but Thunderbolt 4 is interesting because of what else it can do.

The biggest new Thunderbolt 4 feature is the ability to connect to dual 4K monitors or a single 8K monitor, doubling Thunderbolt 3's single 4K monitor cap.

Thunderbolt 4 comparison chart

(Image credit: Intel)

Thunderbolt 4 also standardizes how you get those speeds, as a new 2-meter Universal cable will make it easier to get the performance you need. We'll also get Thunderbolt 4 accessories with 4 Thunderbolt ports.

Thunderbolt 4 will also require thin and light PCs (which require less than 100W of power to charge) to allow charging from one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports. Thunderbolt 4 PCs will also wake from sleep when connected to a Thunderbolt dock. 

Thunderbolt 4 security  

Ever wonder why Thunderbolt 3 is missing from Microsoft's own Surface tablets, 2-in-1s and laptops? Well, Microsoft argues that the direct memory access port in Thunderbolt 3 could be compromised and leave users open to attack. 

Intel's solution to this is a very long term called "Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d)" —  and simply put that will block those direct memory access attacks. Intel will require this in all Thunderbolt 4, and refers to it as Intel VT-d based DMA protection. 

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.