Does the Dell XPS 13 (2022) have Thunderbolt? What is it for?
The recently-introduced refresh of the Dell XPS 13 for 2022 comes with some significant design changes, sporting a thinner chassis and two brand new color options compared to previous models. The XPS laptops have typically been heavily reliant on Thunderbolt support, and this year is no different. Just like previous models, the new Dell XPS 13 comes with Thunderbolt ports, specifically supporting Thunderbolt 4.
In fact, that’s all it has. This year, Dell has done away with the built-in headphone jack, so the Thunderbolt ports are all you have. You do get a couple of adapters in the box for USB Type-A and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which are geared towards users who still have one or two wired accessories that use those ports. But Thunderbolt is a protocol that has the potential for much more.
What is Thunderbolt and what can it do on the XPS 13?
Thunderbolt is a connection protocol developed primarily by Intel, and thus, it’s often only found on PCs with Intel processors. Thunderbolt uses a USB Type-C interface, but it’s much more capable than a typical USB connection. Thunderbolt 4, the latest version of the standard, supports up to 40Gbps of bandwidth.
And you can do a lot with that bandwidth. For one thing, it supports regular data transfers, so you can connect a flash drive or external SSD with a Thunderbolt connection at very high speeds. The latest SSDs can go as fast as 2800MB/s if they support Thunderbolt. But Thunderbolt can also support display signals, specifically letting you connect up to two 4K monitors at 60Hz. That’s one of the big selling points of Thunderbolt – a single port on your laptop can power a whole setup.
To fully take advantage of these capabilities, you’ll want a Thunderbolt dock. These are accessories that take advantage of this very high bandwidth and give you a ton of ports, including USB Type-A ports for peripherals, Ethernet, HDMI, SD card readers, and so on. A great example of a Thunderbolt dock is the CalDigit TS4 – a very expensive option, to be sure, but it has one of the best port setups on the market.
But there’s another big feature of Thunderbolt we haven’t mentioned: PCIe signaling, PCIe is the connection used by components inside your PC, connecting things like the RAM and storage to the motherboard. But with Thunderbolt, you can extend a PCIe signal to an external device, and that lets you do something incredible: Connect an external GPU to your laptop. Indeed, using a Thunderbolt port and an external GPU enclosure, you can turn your laptop into a gaming powerhouse in a flash. External GPUs can be expensive, but if you want your laptop to also be able to play some intensive games when you’re home, this gives you that option.
If Thunderbolt support is crucial for you and you’re used to using docking stations already, the Dell XPS 13 is one of the best laptops you can buy today. It’s the most portable XPS yet, but when you’re not on the road, the Thunderbolt ports can give you tons of expansion options. Plus, it has other great features like a sharp display and Intel 12th-generation processors. You can buy it below, if you’re interested.