There are many reasons why people buy laptops. Some want a machine that can cut through every game they throw at it, some want something to create content, and some — Thunderbolt 3!
If you’re in the last group, you’ll always go for laptops with Thunderbolt 3, and this can be justified.
For one, Thunderbolt is an insanely fast connectivity standard that reaches transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps.
There are many reasons why you might want a Thunderbolt 3, but the main reason is the most obvious — the transfer speeds. 40Gbps is pretty insane, every by 2021 standards.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the best laptops that support the Thunderbolt 3 data transfer standard. You’ll also learn the differences between Thunderbolt and USB-C, and why you really need to care about this awesome technology.
Differences Between Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C
Many people often confuse USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. However, these two terms are very different; they’re not even in the same category.
While USB-C refers to the port’s shape and structure, Thunderbolt is a data transfer technology. In essence, a USB-C port could be Thunderbolt 3 compatible, and could only be compatible with USB 3.1 connectivity standard only.
With this information, you may be itching to ask: ‘what’s so special about Thunderbolt 3, why can’t you get a USB 3.1 enabled laptop and move on with your life?’
Well, everything is special about Thunderbolt 3. It is two times as fast as the regular USB-C connector. If you’re planning to build a powerful workstation with multiple monitors around your laptop, you’ll need one with Thunderbolt 3.
Thunderbolt 3 streams content to two 4k displays concurrently at 60Hz, while USB-C, being half as fast can only manage one 4k display.
If you’re planning to get a laptop with Thunderbolt 3 support, you lucked out. Almost all laptop OEMs have Thunderbolt connectivity on their top-end PCs.
Want Windows or macOS?
There is always a Thunderbolt 3 enabled laptop for you.
Let’s get into the comprehensive list of laptops with Thunderbolt 3 support.
Best Laptops With Thunderbolt 3
This list will try to be as encompassing as possible. While you’ll see the best of the best laptops with Thunderbolt 3, you’ll also see some of the cheapest laptops with Thunderbolt 3.
This way, the list caters to everyone in every budget group and every use case. If you’re trying to get the cheapest device with Thunderbolt 3, you’ll find it here. On the other hand, if you want a gaming PC with Thunderbolt 3, we have it here too.
What gaming PC lacks a Thunderbolt 3 port anyways?
- 16–inch MacBook Pro 2019
This massive laptop computer from Apple is one of the most capable Thunderbolt 3 machines we’ve seen ever.
For OS-agnostic professionals that need Thunderbolt 3, this 2019 MacBook Pro is definitely the laptop to go for.
The laptop is configured with an octa-core Intel Core-19 processor, and an equally capable AMD Radeon Pro 5300M. This beefy CPU+GPU configuration is helped by 16 to 64GB RAM, with anywhere from 512B to 8TB SSD.
While the laptop is blessed with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, it’s not a laptop to buy for the Thunderbolt ports only. The 2019 MacBook Pro costs an arm and a leg, and if you’re going for the model with the beefier specs, you should expect to spend even more.
However, if you can afford the MacBook Pro, and you don’t mind using macOS, there is hardly a better Thunderbolt 3 machine out there now.
And for the M1 MacBook Pro?
While the M1 MacBook Pro supports Thunderbolt 3, it’s not quite a Pro-level machine. Its 13-inch screen coupled with a memory limit of 16GB is simply unfit for professionals.
- Dell XPS 13
If you want something comparable to the MacBook Pro, but runs Windows, you should go all-in on the Dell XPS 13, or 15.
The 2020 XPS machines bring the 10th Gen. Intel Core processors to consumers who use their computers on the go. However, it brings one more crucial thing: Thunderbolt 3!
You can configure the Dell XPS with up to 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD. One other thing it has over the MacBook Pro from 2019 is its touchscreen. You can get a touch-enabled Dell XPS without digging a hole in your pocket.
If you use external displays (you should if you have Thunderbolt 3) and take your laptop around, you should go for the 13-inch model. Lighter and more compact but equally as powerful as the 15-inch model.
However, if the extra screen space matters to you, you can’t go wrong with an XPS 15 either.
- Acer Swift 3
One good thing about Acer is that they always have a good laptop for budget-conscious spenders. While the two aforementioned laptops in this list can possibly empty your bank account, the Acer Swift 3 is a cheap alternative.
When shopping for a cheap laptop, you have to forgo some important features. The reason why Acer Swift 3 appears here is that Acer decided not to forgo the Thunderbolt 3 port.
However, they did forgo some things. To keep the costs down, a 10th Gen. Core i5 is the best processor you can get with this machine, and there is no dedicated GPUs, just Intel UHD.
The Acer Swift 3 is not touch-enabled, and it’s only a 4k display panel. It’s good for everyday use and productivity tasks, but when you start running tasking programs, the Acer Swift 3 starts to show that it’s a cheap Thunderbolt 3 laptop.
The weaker processor in the Acer Swift 3 might turn out to be a good thing, as the machine easily lasts longer than most competing Windows laptops.
If you want a cheap Thunderbolt 3 machine with excellent battery life, Acer has got something in stock for you.
- HP Spectre x360
The HP Spectre x360 appeals to a specific audience; creative professional who needs a Thunderbolt 3 and 4k screen combo but are unwilling to pay an arm and a leg for a laptop.
The HP Spectre x360 comes with a 4k OLED display. It can be configured with up to the 10th Gen. Intel Core i7 processor and up to 16GB RAM. These can be supported by a super-fast SSD that’s anywhere from 512GB to 2TB.
This laptop is touch-enabled, giving you the touch experience on a 4k OLED panel for a little cost. It is also upgradable to Windows 11 when it comes out during the holidays.
- M1 MacBook Air 2020
While MacBooks are historically known to be expensive machines, the new revolutionary M1-powered Macs beg to differ.
The M1 MacBook Air beats any previous generation Mac hands down, according to Apple. It’s also funny that this machine costs a lot less than most previous macOS machines from Apple.
The M1 MacBooks don’t see an upgrade to Thunderbolt 4, but Thunderbolt 3 is also pretty capable, even for 2021.
You can configure the MacBook Air with the M1 SoC, of course, and 8GB RAM. Historically, MacBook Airs have excellent displays and not-so-excellent keyboards.
If you’ll be getting a MacBook Air, you should have known all these anyways. But for those who would rather not get locked in Apple’s walled garden, the other laptops in this list are pretty good too.
No matter how much you hate Intel, you can’t help but admit that Thunderbolt 3 is an excellent innovation in data transfer.
However, not all laptops on the market are equipped with super-fast Thunderbolt 3 ports.
In this list, we’ve compiled five of the best laptops with Thunderbolt 3 support, segmented by their categories.
If you want the best Mac, go for the 16-inch 2019 Pro. The Dell XPS 13 represents Windows on this front, while the Acer Swift 3 and the M1 MacBook Air are the budget-friendly versions for Windows and Mac respectively.