- Latest among the Thunderbolt hardware interfaces.
- Transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps.
- Four times faster than the best USB Type-C ports.
Working on a PC build takes a lot more insight than just knowing about the basic features. However, there are given tidbits that you should know by now.
If you are working on a gaming PC build, or at the very least, a high-performance PC build, you know that a motherboard with Thunderbolt 3 will offer a lot more advantages as compared to generational USB ports.
A good investment in purchasing a motherboard will ensure that you can further upgrade your hardware in the future, and most motherboards then will have Thunderbolt 3 support.
Just getting a fast SSD card to work with your standalone HDD will increase your boot speed, but you will still be hindered by low data transfer speeds to and from the PC.
Content creators, gamers, and other professionals who deal with a large amount of data transfer are often struck with the slow transfer speeds despite having powerful hardware.
Thunderbolt 3 motherboards allow you to take advantage of higher data transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps, much faster than the latest USB 4th gen ports as well.
What is Thunderbolt 3?
Thunderbolt was developed by the active collaboration of two tech giants, Intel and Apple, in 2009.
Thunderbolt 3 was officially released in late 2016, the reason for its fast data transfer speed is because of using both PCI Express and DisplayPort into two serial signals.
It is now the most advanced data transfer port available today with a speed of 40 Gbps.
The capabilities of the Thunderbolt 3 port are not just limited to high-speed data transfer but expand to a wide range of applications. This compact port can connect with almost any docking device.
You can get 8x faster file transfer speeds than USB 3.0 with a Thunderbolt 3 port. Transfer full-sized 4K movies in under the minute! This port is convenient for 4K video creators and streamers.
Thunderbolt will enable you to connect multiple external devices without compromising on clarity, detail, or resolution.
That is why purchasing a Thunderbolt 3 motherboard can come in handy and turn your PC setup for higher productivity.
Thunderbolt 3 ports are currently made available on premium laptops or high-end personal computers.
To enjoy Thunderbolt transfer speeds on your older motherboards, you will have to plug in a Thunderbolt PCIe card, which can only be possible if you have a motherboard with an empty PCIe slot.
Not to mention the pricing of such expansion cards can vary from $80 to $100. Check out the best Thunderbolt 3 PCIe cards you can buy now.
Thunderbolt 3: Why Do You Need It?
A Thunderbolt 3 port can do a lot more than just transfer data between your PC and other devices at rapid speeds, viz. –
Earlier versions of Thunderbolt relied on the Mini DisplayPort connector. Apple was the only manufacturer that actively began offering Thunderbolt on its devices.
A significant boom in Thunderbolt devices came after USB Type-C became a standard across multiple devices, from eGPUs, external hard drives, and smartphone charging.
USB Type-C has opened new possibilities for the application of Thunderbolt speeds.
Since Thunderbolt supports DisplayPort protocol, it can enable you to share screen output to multiple 4K devices at 60 Hz without facing any lagging or slow down.
This single port can replace the need for using separate audio and video signals, significantly decreasing the cable mess. It’s backward compatible as well although a Thunderbolt port is not a DisplayPort.
Thunderbolt 3 uses the Type-C connector, and both support power delivery. It is theoretically possible to charge devices using a Thunderbolt port and a Type-C cable.
Type-C alone can transmit power of up to 7.5 Watts and 15 Watts. Combining this connector with Thunderbolt 3 can enable you to transmit power of up to 100 Watts.
This can completely do away with heavier power bricks for a device under 100 watts power requirement.
Larger gaming laptops require 300 to 500 watts of power supply, which cannot be fulfilled by Thunderbolt 3 connections.
But in the case of small devices, laptops, eGPUs, Bluetooth speakers, and many other electronic gadgets are concerned, Thunderbolt 3 can significantly reduce the need for carrying multiple charging adapters and cables.
Thunderbolt 3 is based on the PCIe 3 bus system. So, it can be the first-choice connection between your external graphics card or your eGPU setup.
With a Thunderbolt 3 PCIe slot added to your current PC setup, you can extend the graphics processing capabilities with some of the best eGPUs in 2021.
It also comes in handy to connect with a capture card, essential for streamers. Thunderbolt 3 combines PCIe 3 and DisplayPort tech together in a single port, perfect for transferring graphics.
Just get a Thunderbolt-Ethernet cable and take advantage of the high data transfer speeds available with Thunderbolt 3.
You don’t need an ethernet port if you have Thunderbolt 3 with your motherboard!
7 Best Thunderbolt 3 Motherboards
Instead of just a PCIe slot, we recommend getting the latest Thunderbolt 3 motherboards. Just having Thunderbolt will only help your PC perform at its peak data transfer speeds.
The latest motherboards have higher peak performance specs, simply, better data reading and writing speeds as well as multi-thread computing power, complementing the 40 GB/s capabilities of a Thunderbolt 3 port.
Here are the best motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 that you should consider buying now!
7. ASRock X570 mini ITX
ASRock X570 is an amazing AMD motherboard with a Thunderbolt 3 port perfectly suited for content creators and gamers.
This motherboard comes on the smaller form factor of mini ITX. The prime highlight is its AMD socket type designed to support the Ryzen 3000 series with the outstanding data transfer speeds of Thunderbolt 3. Click here to know why you should think about adding a Ryzen 3000 processor.
Yes, it is among the rarest of motherboards to sport an AM4 socket and a port designed by Intel and Apple together.
Overall build quality including the added thermal fins impresses immediately. The I/O ports come with a cover and a heat sink to protect them from high temperatures, along with heat shields to protect the power.
While it has an AM4 processor socket, the cooler mounting is for Intel’s 11 5x sockets, saving up on the space consumed by AMD cooling solutions.
You can accommodate a Ryzen 3000 series processor and dual-channel RAM support of up to 64 GB.
This X570 motherboard with Thunderbolt 3 port supports memory overclocking of up to 4533 MHz.
Another visual highlight of the ASRock X570 motherboard is a dedicated fan over the M.2 slot. The design of this motherboard has been to accommodate the excessive heat generated while overclocking.
You get a 4th generation PCIe x 16 slots, 4 SATA ports for mechanical drives for further upgrades.
You also get a 3 pin 5-volt addressable RGB header for polychrome RGB lighting and a 12-volt analog RGB header. Just like other X570 chipset motherboards, this one is also actively cooled.
You have a PS2 port, USB port, DisplayPort, and HDMI connector, along with a clear CMOS button for connectivity.
Not to forget a Thunderbolt 3 port capable of transferring files at 40 Gbps along with two USB 3.2 Type-A ports.
For internet connectivity, you can either use the Wi-Fi 6 and the antennas or use the Gigabit ethernet along with a 7.1 digital audio system. Get this motherboard by paying a premium of just $210.
6. MSI MEG Z490I Unify Gaming motherboard
MSI is one of the best gaming motherboard manufacturers, and the MSI MEG Z490i Unify is one of the best mini ITX motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 out there.
The mini ITX form factor is the next big thing in the market, and MSI does get it right.
MEG Z490i carries the tag of unifying gaming for a reason – this is built for overclocking and added adjustments.
It comes with an LGA 1200 socket that can support up to Intel 10th generation processors. You can furthermore accommodate RAM sticks for up to 5000 MHz frequency to enjoy lower latency.
The motherboard’s design has been to accommodate overclocking, and hence it gets better heat shielding and multiple fan support. A heat shield protects the power pin, fan pins, and RGB header to decrease thermal throttling.
For connectivity, you have 4 SATA ports to connect multiple mechanical drives, along with dual M.2 ports.
One on the front has a dedicated heat sink, while another on the back can connect extra drives or an intel Optane memory.
To connect your display unit, you can take advantage of the Thunderbolt port or use the usual HDMI or DisplayPort.
This motherboard supports several USB ports for your peripherals, to be precise, two USB 3.1, 2 USB 3.2 ports.
The Internet can be connected directly and indirectly using the Wi-Fi 6 antennas or the 2.5G ethernet port.
The Z490i Unify gaming motherboard features gold-plated audio connectors for superior audio transmissions. There are RGB headers for chroma-like ambient lighting of your CPU case.
Overall, this device is one of the most amazing mini ITX motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 compatibility. This motherboard is currently priced at only $278.
5. ASUS ProArt Z490 Creator
The ASUS ProArt Z490-Creator is a full-sized ATX motherboard perfectly suitable for gamers and content creators.
The full form factor allows for a larger number of connectivity options and features spearheaded by the Thunderbolt 3 port. With higher transfer speeds, the Z490 Creator edition ensures performance.
You get dedicated and larger heatsinks surrounding the LGA 1200 socket. Z490 can support a 10th generation intel processor without even breaking a sweat.
The BIOS being synced with the AI overclocking helps in accelerated file conversion for boosted productivity.
You get 4 DIMM DDR4 RAM slots with a maximum upgrade capability of 128GB. You can enjoy a maximum RAM boost of up to 4700 MHz, which is huge for a board that supports 128GB of memory.
This motherboard offers a ProArt Creator Hub, a centralized software for direct control, monitoring, and ASUS ProArt series products.
It enables efficient content creation workflow without facing any throttling. You get a 4 pin RGB header and an addressable second-generation RGB header.
A wide range of port selection ranges from HDMI, 2 DisplayPort for Thunderbolt 3 input, two dedicated Type-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, four USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, along with 8 channel HD audio connection.
There are no dedicated Wi-Fi antennas, but you have the traditional Intel 2.5 G Ethernet port along with a Hyper 10G LAN Card.
You also get not one or two but three PCIe gen 3.0 x 16 slots that can be used to add multiple graphics cards or the Hyper 10G LAN card.
There are two M.2 slots and 6 SATA ports to connect SSDs, HDDs, or even an Intel Optane memory stick.
Considering the cost of mini ITX motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 compatibility, the ASUS Thunderbolt 3 motherboard priced at $300 offers more value for money.
4. GIGABYTE Z490 VISION D
Gigabyte Z490 Vision D is the second 490 chipset-based motherboard on our list primarily because of its superior heat shields and CNC machine build.
When we talk about overclocking, gaming, and video editing, Thunderbolt 3 support, along with an excellent heat dissipation build, is a must.
With a mesmerizing-machined build, the Z490 Vision D is a motherboard you can keep staring at.
This monster motherboard supports 10th generation intel core processors, backed by the 12-phase digital VRM, offering best in class stability and performance even during overclocking.
With four DIMM DDR4 RAM support of up to 128 GB, you can use RAM sticks of up to 5000 MHz.
It is coupled with Advanced thermal solutions that use CNC machines, heat sinks, and metal heat pipes for optimum heat dissipation generated by overclocking the hardware.
Its direct touch heat pipe offers additional cooling by directly absorbing the heat.
Connectivity options are through the roof. It has all the connection ports you can name.
There is DisplayPort, HDMI port, dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, four USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, 2.5 G Ethernet port, along with 8 channel audio connection options.
The I/O ports of this motherboard are covered by multiple layered heat sinks, which allows for the best heat dissipation and reduces any scope of thermal throttling.
Even the power connectors are protected from heat blast because of their superior heat sink design. Even the PCIe 3.0 x 16 ports are reinforced with steel to take the shearing load of heaving gaming cards.
GIGABYTE learned from other motherboard manufacturers’ mistakes and offers three M.2 slots with thermal shields that support NVME storage in M.2 slots.
One of the M.2 slots is booked for a Wi-Fi card you may need in the future. Z490 Vision D also features six SATA ports to connect multiple mechanical and hybrid storage drives.
This allows you to take advantage of the maximum supported storage space of 10,000 TB.
At the price of $303, this device offers an impressive build quality hard to expect from a motherboard at such a price.
3. Gigabyte W 480 Vision D
Gigabyte W480 Vision D is quite different both in terms of aesthetics and features.
This ATX form factor motherboard comes with Thunderbolt 3 support, and you get two of those ports on this motherboard.
W480 is Intel’s brand-new workstation-class chipsets for their Xeon 1200 processors.
With its LGA 1200 socket, the motherboard can work with Xeon W and Intel 10th generation core processors, running at 5GHz clock speeds.
Other than that, the W480 features reliable and stable ECC memory support, which allows you to plug in up to 128 GB of RAM.
ECC supports you to install a Xeon processor in place of 10th generation processors. This will enable you to enjoy an overclocked RAM speed of up to 4400 MHz.
You get dual intel Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C ports that support both DisplayPort and Thunderbolt video output for a maximum resolution of 60 frames per second.
This motherboard is perfect for catering to the needs of heavy design overloads such as video editing and 3D rendering.
You also get a dual 5-volt addressable RGB header and 12-volt RGB header. There are 7 PWM fan connection pins on this motherboard to allow the best-in-class cooling.
You get Intel 2.5G and Intel 1G ethernet connectivity over LAN 1 and LAN 2 along with Wi-Fi 6 connection with support for both 2.5/5 GHz bands.
Besides LAN and Wi-Fi, you also get a Bluetooth 5.0 connection that offers a four-times range of Bluetooth 4.2 at 240 meters.
The W480 seems like the king of motherboards, as it offers three M.2 slots along with third-generation PCIe x4 slots and thermal guards for all these ports.
It also provides six SATA ports to maximize the storage capacity of your workstation.
At the rear I/O, you have regular USB ports, DisplayPort in, HDMI, two integrated Thunderbolt 3 ports, four USB 3.2 ports, Wi-Fi antenna connectors, along 7.1 digital surround sound.
At the price of just $380, the Gigabyte W480 offers a considerable advantage over its predecessors.
2. ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe II
ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe II is a premium Thunderbolt motherboard that will blow your mind.
This motherboard is designed for one-click overclocking from multi optimization and ASUS Pro clock II technology.
It supports intel core X series processors along with RAM overclocking of up to 4200 MHz. The significant aspect of this motherboard is its 8 DIMM RAM support of 256 GB.
To counter the high heat output, the X299 motherboard’s design carefully incorporates FIN array heat design with a separate heat shield of the entire I/O.
X299 features intelligent cooling for CPU and GPU-intensive tasks and comprehensive control for fins and water pumps.
Even the M.2 slots have superior grade heat shields for optimal cooling and efficient performance. You can modify all these cooling controls using the FAN Xpert 4 or UEFI BIOS.
The board is made using a 2 Oz copper layer to shift the heat away from important hardware components, further cooling the entire motherboard by up to 20 degrees Celsius.
Then again, there are multiple pins and ports to add an extra number of fans for more efficient cooling.
The 5-way optimization includes a Turbo V processing unit for fine-tuning voltage and overclocking parameters.
The energy processing unit maintains the lowest power consumption. You also get Fan xpert four applications for more control over the fan profiles.
Their turbo core application will enable you to optimize every application’s per-core performance offering more control to you.
Higher performance requires more efficient cooling to maintain the performance without thermal throttling, even in top motherboards.
Do not play around with the UEFI BIOS if you do not have an expert understanding of each setting.
You get three PCIe lanes with dual M.2 ports that have been optimized for the Intel Optane memory stick.
Each of the PCIe slots is reinforced by steel coating to bear the GPU’s weight. You can personalize this motherboard’s ambiance by customizing their flagship Aura SYNC RGB.
Yes, this motherboard is by far the most expensive one, but none of the previous motherboards can beat the ASUS prime X299 Deluxe II motherboards. You can get your hands on this premium motherboard for $472.
1. Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Xtreme Waterforce
Extreme performance requires an extreme budget, and there is no end to the highest performance you can achieve.
Our top choice is for those who do not mind spending money on exclusive performance. Just why this Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Xtreme Waterforce Thunderbolt 3 motherboard is the last on this list.
This motherboard features the LGA 1200 socket that supports the premium Intel 10th generation processors.
This 16 phase Z490 Monoblock water-cooled motherboard with Thunderbolt 3 is perhaps the most over-engineered 490 chipset board available in the market.
Apart from the board and related cabling, you get much different hardware that is meant to allow a more personalized control over its features.
You get an AORUS RGB commander, a small RGB control box that allows you to plug in all your fans and RGB lights, and the best thing is that others cannot buy this device from the market.
Since this is a water-cooled motherboard, you have several components to help mount those on the board itself.
You get an AUROS thermal compound for installing the processor and a large number of thermal pads if a replacement is required.
The package also offers washers for electronic isolation meant for preventing your motherboard from shorting.
The Monoblock will cover the entire area from processor to SDD outlets, just allowing you to access the PCIe slots along with the M.2 slots.
The entire pin and the port connection are located to the side of the board as they will be inaccessible because of the huge Monoblock water cooling rig.
You get dual 12-volt and 5-volt RGB connectors, a USB 3.0 header, 6 SATA ports for spinning drives, or 2.5-inch form factors SSDs.
You have the option to install up to 5 PWM fans for more optimized cooling. Z490 Waterforce allows a dedicated overclock button for instant overclocking.
For storage and GPU connection, you have three M.2 ports that remain underneath the Monoblock.
Of the three PCIe slots, the top one is x16, while the other two are x8. Even the Z490 chipset on this motherboard is actively cooled.
Connectivity ports are present at the I/O, which offers you two Wi-Fi 6 antenna connectors, a 2.5G ethernet, and a 10G ethernet port.
Z490 Waterforce allows you to enjoy dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI port, USB 3.2 ports, and 7.1 digital surround audio. All this for a price of $1270.
Thunderbolt 3 can surely give wings to your gaming and editing tasks, saving a huge amount, ultimately adding to your productivity. But without the need for either 3D rendering or video editing work, Thunderbolt 3 is not of much use. The Thunderbolt motherboards indeed come at a high price as compared to non-Thunderbolt boards. But if you are building a new computer, going for the best will be ultimately beneficial for you as you wouldn’t have to upgrade the entire system if you get a Thunderbolt 3 device afterward.
Our recommendation is to always invest in a good motherboard that offers more control and upgrade options.
What can I do with a Thunderbolt 3 port?
Since the Thunderbolt 3 port allows a faster connection speed of 40 Gbps, you can use this port for its faster data transfer and a large range of connectivity with external devices. You can even use the Thunderbolt 3 port to connect at least two 4K displays without the need for separate video and audio cables.
Is Thunderbolt 3 the same as USB Type-C?
There is a huge difference between Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C ports. Thunderbolt is a transmission protocol that must be supported by the motherboard while the same is not necessary for Type-C. However, while Type-C cables offer up to 10 Gbps of data transfer rate, a Thunderbolt port can deliver four times this speed.
Why are AMD motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 rare?
Thunderbolt protocol was developed by active collaboration between Intel and Apple. Hence, this protocol has not been made available in the open market yet, which is the reason behind having limited options in AMD motherboards with Thunderbolt 3.
Can I add Thunderbolt 3 to my older PC?
For an older PC, you can purchase a Thunderbolt 3 add-in PCIe card which costs under $100. Note that you should have a PCIe 3 slot available to add the card as Thunderbolt is based on the PCIe 3 protocol. If your motherboard does not have such a slot available, you need to upgrade to a Thunderbolt 3 motherboard.