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Tech Talk: Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort

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


  1. Marios 3 years ago

    I have a Predator with Thunderbolt 3 port and I would like to connect my Sony camcoder with 4-pin firewire 400 port.
    Can you please advise how can I connect the camera with the laptop?

    • Andrew Stephen 3 years ago

      Hi Marios, you can use’s PEX1394B3 & TB31PCIEX16 with a FireWire cable such as our 139446MM1. This solution is compatible with Windows® 7, 8, 8.1, 10, and Mac OS® 10.12 to 10.13.

    • wileywos 1 year ago

      Thunderbolt 3 to 2 Adapter (Startech or Apple’s, either will work fine on a PC) and then Apple’s Thunderbolt to Firewire 800 Adapter (or another brands again it’ll still be compatible), from there a firewire 800 to 400 4 pin cable and you should be set.

      • John Everett 9 months ago

        This probably won’t work as the TB2-FW800 adapter will be looking for bus power and I don’t think that the Apple TB3-TB2 adapter passes on power. If you used to Apple TB3-TB2 adapter to connect a (self-powered) TB2 dock with a FW800 port, however, it would work.

  2. Roberth 3 years ago

    i have a xps 15 GTX 1050, which has a thunderbolt 3, the little problem i had was that the HDMI is 1.4 and doesn’t support 4k at 60hz, so i found a cable type c to hdmi, and it gave me the resolution i want.. but my question is, does the thunderbolt 3 port from my laptop has the same image quality as an HDMI 2.0 ? im very ignorant with this things, that’s why i ask. i don’t know if I am being clear with my question..

    • Danielle 3 years ago

      Hi Roberth! This will mostly depend on the adapter you’re using. Some adapters may be able to support 4k@60Hz, but may not be fully HDMI 2.0 compliant.’s USB-C to HDMI 4k60 cables, such as CDP2HD2MBNL, are actually fully HDMI 2.0 compliant, so the video quality will be indistinguishable from normal HDMI 2.0.

  3. Andy Zheng 1 year ago

    Hello. I have a Lenovo legion y530. It has a usb type c cable that is to the display port 1.2 spec. Does it have Thunderbolt 3 and can I use a external cpu with it?

    • Danielle at 1 year ago

      Hi Andy! For information regarding Thunderbolt 3, we’d suggest reviewing our blog post Thunderbolt 3: The Basics or our Thunderbolt 3 FAQs. If you have any questions regarding how to enable a specific solution with your device, we suggest contacting our Technical Advisory team directly for one on one live support.

  4. Weston 1 year ago

    With the Display Port, Wireless HDMI, and DVI, you have the potential of 3 HDMI outputs with this card. Great for a triple plasma gaming rig?

  5. Weston 1 year ago

    The LED TVs are the latest ones so they do have HDMI receiver, projectors are old models so the have VGA receivers. Please guide me the product and what all steps that will be required to set it up… Thanks

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