Here are the best Thunderbolt 3 laptops in February 2021: Dell XPS 15, Apple MacBook Air and More
Data transfer speeds have grown exponentially in the past few years, be it mobile networks or your local storage media. Similarly, the good old USB has also become quite reliable when it comes to transferring large amounts of data over a wide bandwidth. Intel had announced Thunderbolt 4 last year and we are expecting new products with the next-gen protocol to finally hit markets soon. Until then, we are checking out some of the best Thunderbolt 3 equipped laptops.
Thunderbolt 3 makes use of the USB Type-C connector to offer up to 40Gbps data transfer speeds. This makes it twice as fast when compared to the latest USB 3.2 standard. Hence, Thunderbolt 3 is an excellent option for photographers, video editors, and other creative professionals, who need to frequently transfer large files. Additionally, Thunderbolt 3 can be used to connect DisplayPort-compatible devices including external 4K monitors. The protocol can also be used to connect PCI Express (PCIe) peripherals including external graphics cards enabling you to play games or accomplish graphics-intensive tasks on even notebooks. Since it uses a standard USB port, one can also make use of various peripherals, hard drives, as well as power delivery. In case you missed it, here is also a list of the best laptops that you should buy.
Apple MacBook Pro 16
Apple has been one of the early adopters of the Thunderbolt standard. The MacBook Pro 16 offers a total of four Thunderbolt 3 ports. Apart from the 40Gbps bandwidth for Thunderbolt devices, each port brings support for charging, DisplayPort, and USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10 Gbps). Now, this is also the biggest and most powerful MacBook in years and an easy recommendation for power users, especially if you are a creative professional. The notebook can be configured with an 8-core Intel Core i9 processor, up to 16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM which is further expandable, and up to 8TB of SSD storage. You also get a gorgeous 3072 x 1920 resolution Retina display and AMD Radeon Pro graphics. Do note that this might be one of the last MacBooks to support external graphics via the Thunderbolt ports as the next refresh might include the M1 chip that was introduced with the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13, and Mac mini.
Dell XPS 15
The XPS 15 is an excellent Windows machine for someone who wants a premium, top of the line design as well as performance. This one comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports with power delivery and DisplayPort support. There is a third USB Type-C port as well with the same power delivery and DisplayPort options. While the machine comes with 4GB discrete graphics, you can make use of the Thunderbolt port to plug in an external graphics card as well. Other than that you get this notebook with up to a 10th-gen Intel Core i9 processor with 32GB of RAM and 1TB NVMe SSD.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is regarded as one of the best business notebooks. The two Thunderbolt 3 ports on this machine ensure that users can easily attach external monitors or projectors for quick presentations. The ports also allow you to power other devices as well as the notebook itself. The X1 Carbon comes with the latest 10th-Gen Intel vPro CPUs, up to 16GB of RAM, and 2TB SSD. The notebook is also offered with a variety of display options including 4K IPS with Dolby Vision HDR400. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a wise choice if you are looking for a feature-packed, highly durable laptop along with a wide selection of ports.
Dell XPS 13
The XPS 13 is one of the best Windows notebooks out there. Since it is a fairly small notebook, having Thunderbolt 3 makes a lot of sense. You can hook up two 4K monitors using the two Thunderbolt 3 ports on this machine. Both of the ports also support power delivery. The current generation of the XPS 13 offers up to a 10th-gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, 16GB of memory, and 512GB SSD. The notebook also offers an excellent-looking display with a 16:10 ratio available in 1080p or 2400p resolutions.
Apple MacBook Air
Similar to the MacBook Pro 16, the latest-gen MacBook Air also features Thunderbolt 3 ports. However, you only get two of them, since the notebook is relatively more affordable. The Thunderbolt ports support external 4K displays, but no longer support external graphics cards due to the new M1 chip. The MacBook Air is also the thinnest and lightest apart from being the most affordable MacBook that you can buy today. You get a healthy set of internals including the new Apple Silicon M1 chip with up to 512GB of SSD storage and 8GB of RAM that can be further upgraded.
Acer Swift 3
This is the most affordable option if you are looking for a Thunderbolt 3 port equipped laptop. The Swift 3 is a slim ultrabook packing some really good specifications at its price. There is only one USB Type-C port that supports Thunderbolt 3, but at a starting price of just $678, you can’t really complain. It is also a very lightweight machine at just 1.2kg with a robust finish. You can get the notebook with either a 10th-gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU with 8GB of memory and a 512GB SSD.
HP Spectre x360 13
The Spectre x360 makes for a great option if you are looking for a 2-in-1 laptop with Thunderbolt 3. According to the company, the notebook offers two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C ports both of which offer Thunderbolt 3 functionality. This means that each port offers a 40Gbps signaling rate, Power Delivery 3.0, DisplayPort 1.4, and of course letting you charge the laptop itself. The notebook offers a unique design and the option of a vivid 13.3-inch 4K OLED touch display. This is a premium notebook so expect solid hardware on the inside including an option for the 10th-gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU, 16GB of DDR4 memory, 512GB of NVMe SSD, and speakers tuned by Bang & Olufsen.
We saw a bunch of manufacturers announcing new laptops at CES 2021 that feature the next-gen Thunderbolt 4 standard. Expect new features on Thunderbolt 4 including an increase in the minimum video and data requirements provided by host devices, access to the same speeds at Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps), power delivery (100W), various protocols (DisplayPort, PCIe, USB4) Intel VT-d based DMA protection to avoid unauthorized access while connected, support for connectivity accessories with up to four fully functional and highly flexible downstream and of course, backward compatibility with Thunderbolt 3. OEMs including Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, and ASUS are going to start shipping new products with Thunderbolt 4 within the first quarter of 2021, so keep a lookout and hold on to your money if you care about the added benefits.