These are the Best Thunderbolt 4 laptops for Holiday 2021
Thunderbolt has become an increasingly common feature in laptops over the last few years. Since the introduction of Thunderbolt 3, which uses the familiar USB Type-C connector, many more laptops have been adopting this feature. And with Thunderbolt 4, the experience has been standardized so every Thunderbolt laptop offers the best speeds promised in Thunderbolt 3.
Thunderbolt is a proprietary connection interface developed by Intel, and is popular due to its very high data rates compared to normal USB. With Thunderbolt 4, it becomes possible to connect lots of USB peripherals at their full speed, use external displays, or even connect external GPUs using enclosures like the Razer Core X. It’s an interface that makes laptops far more versatile, and because of that, most premium laptops now have it.
As such, we’ve rounded up the best laptops with Thunderbolt 4 ports in case you’re looking to expand your setup now or in the future. Because this is Intel proprietary technology, these laptops all have Intel processors.
Navigate this article:
- Best overall: Dell XPS 13
- Best gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15 Advanced
- Best convertible: HP Spectre x360 14
- Best 17-inch laptop: Dell XPS 17 9710
- Best detachable: Surface Pro 8
- Best business laptop: ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9
- Best laptop for creators: Surface Laptop Studio
- Best laptop on a budget: Acer Swift 3
Best overall: Dell XPS 13
Starting off with one of the most popular Windows laptops out there, we have the Dell XPS 13. It’s no surprise the XPS 13 is popular though, because it’s indeed one of the very best laptops you can buy today.
Starting with performance, the Dell XPS 13 is about as good as it gets for a modern ultra-portable laptop. It’s packing the latest Intel Core processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7, and that means it also includes Iris Xe graphics. These are naturally the best processors Intel has made so far, and the integrated Iris Xe graphics mean you can feasibly run some older games on this laptop, and that’s not taking into account Thunderbolt 4 support. You also get up to 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, so you won’t be lacking in performance whatsoever.
The Dell XPS 13 also has fantastic options for the display. It has a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is taller and gives you more surface area than a typical 16:9 display, and that in turn means you have more space for text, web content, and UI elements on the screen. The base configuration is a Full HD+ (1920 x 1200), and that’s already pretty good for a laptop of this size. However, you can upgrade to a 3.5K (3465 x 2160) OLED panel which is incredibly sharp, offers very high contrast ratios, and vivid colors. You really can’t go wrong with this screen.
The big compromise with this display is that with the tiny bezels Dell uses, the webcam is also very small, and thus camera quality isn’t great, plus you don’t get Windows Hello facial recognition. Webcam quality isn’t a big deal if you’re not making a lot of calls, but facial recognition can be very convenient for unlocking your laptop. If you want a higher-quality webcam or Windows Hello support, we have a list of the best webcams you can buy to help you with that.
Moving on to ports, the main attraction here is that the Dell XPS 13 comes with two Thunderbolt 4 ports. We mentioned earlier you can play some older games with the integrated Iris Xe graphics, but if you want to play newer games, the Thunderbolt 4 ports let you connect a powerful external GPU with a single cable. That’s all you need to be set up with a great gaming rig. Of course, you can also connect external monitors or other peripherals if you need them. Aside from that, you get a headphone jack and a microSD card reader, which isn’t a super wide array of ports, but perfectly acceptable for an ultra-compact laptop like this. The laptop also includes a USB Type-C to Type-A adapter, so you’re not completely out of luck if you want to connect a legacy peripheral.
Design-wise, the XPS 13 is impressive for how compact it is. Because of those tiny bezels around the screen, this is one of the smallest 13 inch laptops, and it will easily fit anywhere. This is also one of the more unique-looking laptops you can buy, thanks to the materials on the keyboard deck. The Dell XPS 13 comes with either black carbon fiber or “arctic white” woven fiber glass composite for the keyboard deck, so it definitely looks and feels unique compared to other premium laptops. The external parts of the chassis are still aluminum though, so it won’t stick out too much in public.
Best gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15 Advanced
If what you’re interested in is a powerful gaming laptop right out of the box, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced is the one for you. It already packs plenty of power right out of the box, but Thunderbolt 4 support makes one of the best laptops even sweeter.
Of course, a gaming laptop needs power to spare, and the Blade 15 Advanced has it. You can buy it with an Intel Core i9-11900H CPU, which is an 8 core, 16 thread CPU that can boost as high as 4.9GHz. This will breeze through any task you throw at it, and even the more demanding modern games won’t have a problem with it. To complement that, you can get up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 laptop GPU. This way, you have more than enough performance on both the CPU and GPU front for all the games you might want to play. Plus, you get up to 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, which you can expand thanks to a free M.2 slot inside the laptop.
Razer also gives you a few options for the display, making the Blade 15 Advanced for different types of users. It’s a 15.6 inch panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is about what you’d expect for a gaming laptop, but it’s the resolution and refresh rate that vary. You can get a Full HD panel with a 360Hz refresh rate if you’re interested in the absolute fastest reaction times in competitive esports games; you can strike a balance between resolution and smoothness with the Quad HD 240Hz panel (a 165Hz option is also available), or go all out on resolution with the 4K 60Hz OLED panel with touch support, which is more geared toward creative professionals.
Regardless of what you prefer, there’s something for you, and all of the choices are great in their own way. Plus, it includes a 1080p webcam, and it even has facial recognition for Windows Hello. You might not expect a gaming laptop to have one of the better webcams, so this is great to see.
Focusing on the ports, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced has fantastic connectivity with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two standard USB Type-C ports, three USB Type-A ports, HDMI 2.1, an SD card reader and a 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s frankly a great setup, but Thunderbolt 4 support still has its purpose here. Right now, you might not need an external GPU, but three years from now, the CPU inside the Blade 15 Advanced will probably still run most games just fine. The GPU however might be in need of an upgrade. Instead of buying a whole new laptop, you can buy an external GPU and use that to give your gaming rig more power. Plus, you can connect bigger screens or create ultra-wide setups using external monitors with Thunderbolt. It’s still very useful.
The design of the Blade 15 Advanced is very much in line with Razer’s typical aesthetic. It’s got a very clean, minimalistic all-black look, featuring a Razer logo on the lid. The keyboard has per-key RGB backlighting, and it’s flanked by two top-firing stereo speakers. For everything it packs inside, the Blade 15 Advanced is surprisingly compact, measuring just over 17mm in thickness and weighing around 4lbs for its lightest configuration.
Overall, this is a very impressive gaming laptop, and while it’s somewhat pricy, it definitely delivers the goods you’d expect at that price.
Best convertible: HP Spectre x360 14
If you want a premium laptop that you can also use as a tablet, the HP Spectre x360 14 is one of the very best options you can find right now. It’s a fantastic combination of versatility and portability with a beautiful design that stands out from the crowd.
Let’s start with the specs, which are probably the most predictable aspect of the laptop. The Spectre x360 14 comes with Intel’s 15W Tiger Lake processors up to a Core i7-1165G7, meaning you get four cores and eight threads, with boost speeds of up to 4.6GHz. You also get intel Iris Xe graphics for lighter graphics-related workloads. Additionally, you can pair that with up to 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD, giving you plenty of performance for day-to-day tasks and storage space for all your files.
The display is easily one of the highlights of the Spectre x360 14, too. Unlike previous Spectre laptops, HP is using a 3:2 aspect ratio for the display, something we see a lot in Microsoft’s Surface devices. This aspect ratio is taller than a typical 16:9 display — in fact, it’s even taller than 16:10. That gives you that much more surface area for content, making reading, writing, and browsing the web more productive since you can see that much more.
While the base configuration is a Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) panel, which is already good, you can upgrade to an absolutely stunning OLED display in “3K2K” (3000 x 2000) resolution. That makes this an incredibly sharp screen, but also one that gives you very high contrast ratios, vivid colors, and pure blacks. If you’re a business user, the Full HD+ model gives you the option to get a privacy screen to protect sensitive information from people around you.
A downside of this laptop design is it has a tiny 720p webcam, similar to the Dell XPS 13. It’s not going to be the best if you’re taking lots of video calls. However, this one does have Windows Hello support, so at least you can unlock the computer much more easily.
One of the coolest things about the Spectre x360 is its design. Aside from the more classic Natural Silver color, it uses a dual-tone look that’s fairly different from everything else. The Nightfall Black variant combines black surfaces and bronze-colored accents, while Poseidon Blue combines dark blue surfaces with more gold-like edges. It also uses a cut-off corner design near the hinge, and those corners house the power button and one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports on the laptop. That way, it’s harder to accidentally press the power button, and if you want to use a Thunderbolt dock, you can more easily hide it away behind the laptop without any cables getting in your way.
The other ports include an additional Thunderbolt connection, USB Type-A, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. It’s a solid setup, and having two Thunderbolt ports means you can easily connect even more peripherals or even an external GPU, while also using an external monitor. This way, you can have a truly premium machine that also doubles as a gaming PC when you need it. This is one of the very best laptops you can buy today, and Thunderbolt 4 makes it that much better.
Best 17-inch laptop: Dell XPS 17 9710
Dell’s XPS lineup makes a second appearance on this list, but there’s good reason for that. While there are many things that make a laptop great, the XPS 17 is a fantastic example of a laptop that’s somehow compact, yet makes full use of the fact it’s a 17 inch laptop.
First off, the Dell XPS 17 doesn’t hold back in terms of performance. It comes with Intel’s 45W H-series processors, up to an Intel Core i9-11980HK. That’s an 8 core, 16 thread processor that can boost up to 4.9GHz, so it’s already incredibly powerful. Not only that, but you also get dedicated NVIDIA RTX graphics, making this a great option for video editing, but also giving it some potential to be a gaming PC. You can also get up to 64GB of RAM and up to 8TB of storage, depending on the model you choose. Even if you choose to save some money though, you can upgrade the RAM and storage yourself later, since both the RAM and M.2 slots are easily accessible.
The display is equally fantastic. It’s a 17 inch panel of course, and has a 16:10 aspect ratio, giving you some extra vertical space for text and UI elements. The base configuration comes with Full HD+ resolution (1920 x 1200), but the upgrade options are what make it truly great. You can choose a 3.5K OLED display, which is already incredibly sharp and also offers super vivid colors, true blacks, and high contrast ratios; or you can opt for the 4K+ model, which is even sharper and covers 100% of the Adobe RGB color space. In fact, we’ve reviewed this version of the Dell XPS 17, and it covers pretty much the entirety of sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3, and NTSC. There isn’t much more you can ask for. Plus, you get a touchscreen with both the AMOLED and 4K+ panel options.
However, also like the XPS 13, this model uses a very small webcam above the display, which means you won’t look your best during video calls. Still, at least the larger sibling has Windows Hello facial recognition built in.
But the cherry on top of this cake is its design. This isn’t a bulky 17 inch laptop like most gaming laptops you might think of. It keeps the same compact design concept as the rest of the XPS lineup, with minimal bezels around the display and a relatively thin chassis. All of this power is crammed into a laptop that still fits in most backpacks easily, even if it’s a little heavy. And just like the XPS 13, you get unique materials for the interior, whether that’s black carbon fiber or a white woven fiber glass composite.
Thunderbolt 4 is also a big focus for the XPS 17, which packs a total of four Thunderbolt 4 ports. Whether it’s displays, external GPUs, or docks, you can pretty much connect anything to the XPS 17 without much of a problem. And that’s important too, because while it comes with NVIDIA RTX graphics, you’ll probably get more power from a desktop GPU if you want to get into more high-end gaming. Add a high-refresh-rate display and your gaming peripherals, and you’ll be good to go. If you aren’t ready to commit to the Thunderbolt life just yet, you do get an adapter that gives you can USB Type-A port and HDMI for legacy peripherals and screens. Plus, you get an SD card reader and a headphone jack.
Overall, this is a stellar laptop, and while it’s a bit heavy, you definitely get the specs to justify that weight. The full suite of configurations options is only available on Dell’s website, but you can also buy it below.
Best detachable: Surface Pro 8
For years, fans asked Microsoft to add Thunderbolt support to its devices, but it took until 2021 for the company to listen. The Surface Pro 8 is the first one in the lineup to feature Thunderbolt 4 support, and it comes with not one, but two Thunderbolt ports too. That’s not all Microsoft did to modernize the Surface Pro lineup, making this not just the best in the series, but one of the best detachable laptops in general.
Let’s start with the display, which is one of the more exciting changes in the Surface Pro 8 if you’ve been following the past few iterations. It now comes with a 13 inch screen and a very sharp resolution of 2880 x 1920, similar to the Surface Pro X. That also means it has the typical 3:2 aspect ratio of Surface devices, giving you more vertical space for text, webpages, and things like UI elements. But that’s not the best thing about it. This is the first Surface device to support a 120Hz refresh rate (along with the Surface Laptop Studio). In fact, it’s one of the very few non-gaming PCs to have a high refresh rate and that allows animations, transitions, and motion to appear much smoother on the screen. This screen is brighter than before, and supports Dolby Vision.
Another new and exclusive feature of this display is support for haptic feedback when used in conjunction with the Surface Slim Pen 2. Thanks to a special microprocessor inside the Surface Pro 8 (and Surface Laptop Studio), the new pen can make it truly feel like you’re using a pen on paper, and it’s fantastic.
Performance is also significantly improved from the Surface Pro 7, and it borrows from the Surface Pro 7+ that was launched earlier in the year. The Surface Pro 8 comes with Intel’s 11th-generation processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7. That’s a quad-core, 8 thread processor, and includes Intel Iris Xe graphics, making the Surface Pro better than ever for some light gaming and video editing. That’s paired with up to 32GB of RAM (the minimum is now 8GB), and up to 1TB of SSD storage, which is easily replaceable if you need to upgrade or swap out the drive.
As we’ve mentioned, the design of the Surface Pro 8 has also been modernized in a few ways. First, of course, there’s Thunderbolt 4 support, with two whole ports allowing you to connect displays, docks, or even external GPUs if you want to turn the Surface Pro 8 into a bona fide gaming PC. You still get a Surface Connect port if you have an older Surface Dock lying around, and there’s a headphone jack here as well. You get a lot of versatility from the Thunderbolt ports, but the setup out of the box is a bit limiting if you have older USB Type-A peripherals or non-USB-C/Thunderbolt displays.
The design is modern in other ways too, with a bigger display and smaller bezels than previous generations. It also has more rounded edges, like the Surface Pro X.
The biggest downside of the Surface Pro 8 is potentially its starting price of $1,099, significantly higher than previous generations. However, it now comes with an Intel Core i5 and 8GB of RAM in the base model, which is a big step up from its predecessor. The addition of Thunderbolt 4 makes it the best detachable laptop you can buy today, though you’ll need to buy the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen 2 separately.
Best business laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9
Lenovo makes some of the most well-known business laptops in the world under the ThinkPad brand, and it’s no surprise. These laptops carry a classic look that makes them instantly recognizable, but still professional, in addition to having features like an old-school pointing stick. Out of the ThinkPad family, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the most well-known, and the latest iteration is better than ever.
Starting with the internals, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon carries the latest Intel Core processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7, which is a quad-core processor capable of boosting up to 4.8GHz and featuring Iris Xe graphics. That gives you plenty of performance for day-to-day use, and you can add up to 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for storage to round it out, making this a laptop that can give you fantastic performance for years to come. You also get plenty of flexibility with your configuration, so you can choose the processor, RAM, and storage mostly independent from each other.
The display comes in a few variants, but no matter which one you choose, you’re getting a 16:10 aspect ratio, and that taller screen gives you more surface area than a 16:9 display, which is great for reading, browsing the web, and writing. The base configuration is a Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) display, and you can upgrade it to add a touchscreen, a Privacy Guard to hide the contents of your screen from potential snooping, or you can skip all of that and get the Ultra HD+ (3840 x 2400) panel, complete with HDR support. Again, this is independent from the rest of the specs, so you can save money on the processor and RAM but still get the right display for you.
The webcam above the display is just 720p, but it’s not as small as some other laptops, so the quality will be a bit better. It comes with a physical shutter if you’re worried about someone hacking into your camera (not that you should), and you can also opt to add an IR camera for Windows Hello authentication and Human Presence Detection so the laptop can lock when you move away from it and wake up when you get close.
Ports and connectivity are also a highlight for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. You get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB Type-A ports, HDMI, and a combo audio jack. Business laptops tend to have great connectivity options, and Thunderbolt makes this an even sweeter deal. For your office setup, you can use a Thunderbolt dock to connect multiple displays with just one port, or even use Thunderbolt daisy-chaining if you have monitors designed for that specifically.
Many business laptops also offer cellular connectivity, and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is no exception. You can choose between 4G LTE powered by a Quectel modem with Cat12 speeds (up to 600Mbps downloads / 150Mbps uploads), or you can invest in 5G support with a Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 modem. Cellular connectivity is great if you need to be working away from your home or office Wi-Fi, so you can avoid insecure public networks. Of course, you have the option to skip cellular support entirely if you don’t need it.
Some users may find the old-school design of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon a bit boring, but it’s a perfect fit for business environments. Plus, it’s modern where it matters — it starts at just 2.49lbs in weight and measures 14.9mm in thickness, so it’s easy to carry anywhere.
To get the full spectrum of configurations, you’ll need to check out Lenovo’s website, but you can also buy the ThinkPad X1 Carbon below.
Best laptop for creators: Surface Laptop Studio
Microsoft went from not having any Thunderbolt 4 laptops to having two in just one day, and the Surface Laptop Studio is one of the best devices the company has ever made. While it’s not the first laptop with this kind of form factor, it’s still very unique, and it’s packing more power than any previous Surface device.
While that’s partly because Microsoft has never made a powerful desktop PC, the Surface Laptop Studio definitely delivers the performance goods. It’s meant to be a successor to the Surface Book line, but while the Surface Book had 15W Intel processors, the Surface Laptop Studio is using Intel’s H35-series CPUs. These processors have higher CPU performance than the 15W ones, but they still have Iris Xe graphics, which you wouldn’t get with 45W processors, for example. You can still get dedicated graphics, though, if you get an Intel Core i7 CPU. These models come with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, making this a fantastic laptop for video editing and even gaming. You can also get up to 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, so you really won’t be begging for more.
The display is fantastic too, and while there aren’t any configuration options, you don’t really need them. It has a 14.4 inch display with a 2400 x 1600 resolution, and that’s going to be very sharp and look great for basically any use case, while also sporting the typical 3:2 aspect ratio of other Surface devices. But the true highlight here is that it has a 120Hz refresh rate, just like the Surface Pro 8. As we’ve mentioned, this is usually a feature for gaming laptops, but it really makes all kinds of animations and movement much smoother, so it’s good for everyone. Above the display, there’s a 1080p webcam, which is a first for the Surface Laptop family (though other Surface devices have had it for a while), and a great addition for remote or hybrid workers.
And of course, this is a touch screen with Surface Pen support, and just like the Surface Pro 8, it’s even better if you have a Surface Slim Pen 2. Combined with the Surface Laptop Studio, this pen can give you the feel of writing on paper thanks to subtle vibrations as you draw. These are currently the only Windows PCs that can do this, and it truly adds a different feeling to the experience.
What’s truly unique about the Surface Laptop Studio however, is its form factor. As mentioned above, it’s not the first to use this kind of design, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great. When you open the Surface Laptop Studio, it’s just a laptop, and you can use it like a laptop. But then you can grab the display and pull it closer to you to watch videos or movies. Or you can fold it down over the keyboard, turning it into “studio mode”, the ideal stance for drawing or writing on the display.
Finally, there are the ports, and of course there’s Thunderbolt 4 support here too. You get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and that means you can easily connect docks, monitors, and even an external GPU, so even if you get the Core i5 model, you can still use the Surface Laptop Studio as a gaming rig at home. You also still get a Surface Connect port if you happen to have an older Surface Dock already, plus a headphone jack. Just like the Pro 8, you do miss out on some legacy ports, but that Thunderbolt 4 support makes what would already be a fantastic laptop one of the best laptops you can buy.
Best budget laptop: Acer Swift 3
Thunderbolt 4 is something of a premium feature in most laptops, so you’re usually going to be looking at some hefty prices if you want it. The Acer Swift 3 bucks that trend, and is one of the most affordable laptops you can get with Thunderbolt 4 support, while also offering a premium experience in other ways.
It starts with performance, and with an Intel Core i7-1165G7, the Acer Swift 3 really isn’t behind most premium ultrabooks. That’s the same 4 core, 8 thread CPU you’d find in the Spectre x360, and it also includes Intel Iris Xe graphics, so light graphics workloads aren’t unfeasible. On top of that, you get 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage, but you can upgrade up to 16GB and 512GB, respectively, if you can fit that in your budget. That gives you solid all-round performance, which is a good place to start.
The display is fairly basic, but it’ll get the job done. It’s a 14 inch Full HD panel, and it comes in the typical 16:9 aspect ratio, so it’s nothing that will blow you away, but it’s fine. You get the option of adding touch support, which is nice. Above that, there’s a standard HD webcam, which is more acceptable in an affordable laptop like this than some of the other laptops on this list.
Of course, the highlight here is that the laptop has a Thunderbolt 4 port, and it’s indeed just one. Still, you can use a dock to increase the number of ports your laptop has, connect multiple displays, or even an external GPU. If you want to get a relatively affordable premium laptop that can still handle some games, this is one way to do it, assuming you can save up for an external GPU later on. Otherwise, you get a handful of ports, including two USB Type-A connections, HDMI, and a headphone jack. This isn’t bad for a laptop of this size, and considering you have Thunderbolt, it could be far worse.
The rest of the design is fairly basic, being a standard clamshell laptop. It’s using a mix of aluminum and magnesium for the chassis, which should give it a premium feel. You get a fingerprint reader too, so there’s still a convenient way to unlock your PC. It’s thin too, measuring roughly 16mm in thickness, and also fairly light at 2.65lbs. Overall, this isn’t the best laptop out there, but if you want a more affordable option and Thunderbolt 4 support is important to you, this is certainly a solid choice.
That’s it for the best laptops you can buy with Thunderbolt 4 support. There are definitely a lot of choices here, and thus there’s something for everyone. The Dell XPS 13 is our best overall pick because of its very compact design, fantastic display options and other configurations, plus a fairly unique aesthetic with its interior materials. However, other options may suit your fancy a bit better. Personally, the Surface Laptop Studio would be my pick based on its form factor alone.
Like we mentioned at the start, all the laptops here are running Intel processors. If you’re more of an AMD fan and you don’t care about Thunderbolt, check out the best AMD Ryzen laptops you can buy today.