Thunderbolt™3 and DisplayPort: What You Need to Know

In our last blog, we covered what you need to know to use DisplayPort over USB-C. Let’s talk Thunderbolt 3 to round out our discussion about USB-C and display technologies.

Thunderbolt 3 has been dubbed the USB-C that does it all because it handles USB, data, video and power. Thunderbolt 3 puts an end to performance issues while viewing high resolutions and provides a single cable connection for users. So, if you’re someone that needs to view 4K displays but doesn’t want to suffer through performance issues on your laptop, Thunderbolt 3 is your solution.

While Thunderbolt 3 solves concerns for those working with high-resolution images and videos, it requires some research and figuring out exactly what you need to get the setup you want.

Before we get started, here are the table-stakes tech specs that you should know:

  • Provides up to 40Gbps of total bandwidth
  • Supports up to two 4K displays @ 60Hz or a single 5K display @ 60Hz
  • Compatible with existing DisplayPort 1.2 displays, devices, and cables (with adapters)
  • Thunderbolt 3 utilizes the USB-C connector

For a refresher on DisplayPort, check out our Display Technology 101 post.

Note: Not every Thunderbolt 3 equipped computer and device is the same. Know what features you want to use and if your devices support those features.

So, what do you need to know about DisplayPort over Thunderbolt 3?


The first and most important tip, make sure your Thunderbolt 3 drivers, software, firmware and computer’s BIOS are all up to date. Even though your Thunderbolt 3 laptop is fairly new, updates are very important for new laptops. Having the most up-to-date software on your laptop will put you in the best place to harness Thunderbolt 3’s multiple capabilities.

Save on Adapters

Since Thunderbolt 3 technology uses the USB-C connector, there are situations where you can use USB-C adapters and cables. If you need a single video connection to VGA, DVI or HDMI only, you can get away with using a USB-C video adapter and will save on costs.

The power of Thunderbolt 3 is most useful when you require a dual HDMI or DisplayPort connection. We recommended these adapters, which give dual output to HDMI or DisplayPort and are Apple and Windows compatible. Otherwise, a USB-C adapter is a simple and cheaper solution.

MST Support

Just like with USB-C, if you want to use a Thunderbolt 3 device with MST, your video card must support MST. MST support is not native to Thunderbolt 3. This is most likely to come up if you attempt to use a USB-C device with MST. (We also covered MST with DisplayPort here).

Trouble-Shooting, Just in Case

Our Tech Advisors are always available to answer commonly asked questions. Here are a couple FAQs and videos that you may find helpful just in case you need some trouble-shooting:

Thunderbolt and DisplayPort concludes our Display Technology series, if you need to catch up on any of previous posts, here’s what you missed:

Display Technology 101
MST and DisplayPort
DisplayPort and USB-C

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