Apple has started selling a three-meter Thunderbolt 4 Pro cable, complete with an eye-watering $159 price tag. That might seem like a lot of money for a USB cable, but there's a bit more to unpack here.
Three meters is approximately 9.8 feet. Right now, this is the longest Thunderbolt 4 cable on the market. Others, like OWC, Belkin, and Plugable tend to sell up to two meters (about 6.6 feet). That's the length Intel and its partners publish for the standard.
Those, however, are a mix of active and passive cables. Teardowns on Apple's 1.8 meter Thunderbolt 4 Pro cable revealed that it's an active cable, meaning that there are chips and retimers inside to boost the signal along a greater length. These chips can add to the cost, and technically push beyond the spec. Despite the fact that it's, well, a cable, some engineering went into this thing.
This cable is also braided, which is just a nice touch. Apple's latest Magsafe cables for its MacBook Pros are braided, albeit it in white sleeving, and they feel nice and durable. This sleeving also sometimes helps prevent tangling, which can be helpful when you're stretching a 9.8-foot cable across a room.
This is all to say that — despite the initial shock from the price tag — this cable isn't necessarily overpriced. Expensive, yes, but there's some extra tech and other niceties in there. Apple is currently the only game in town, but other vendors will eventually catch up with cheaper options. We can't say the same for a $19 polishing cloth.
Despite exceeding spec in length, Apple's other claims match up with what you expect from Thunderbolt 4, including a 40Gbps bandwidth. (Like Cake, Apple is going for both distance and speed.) This cable also supports up to 100 watts of power, meaning it can charge a MacBook or iPad Pro, as well as DisplayPort video output capabilities to connect to a monitor (such as Apple's own Studio Display or Pro Display XDR).
As of this writing, the three-meter Thunderbolt 4 Pro cable is available to pick up in some stores, and is shipping between May 13 and May 20 with standard free delivery.
For those who don't need such a lengthy cable, Apple's 1.8 meter option is $129, while other vendors typically sell for even cheaper. A two meter active cable from Belkin, for instance, is $69.99.
But if you need to snake a cable across or around a room, Apple's the only place for a cable this long. That's the price of really stretching out.
I rather buy joycons over this...
How dare apple charge a lot of money for a bleeding edge product that only they have been able to successfully produce.
Standard Ethernet is 1gbps (with extremely expensive consumer variants reaching as high as 10gbps). TB4 is either 16gbps or 32gbps (2x and 4x pcie lanes respectively).
More importantly, TB4 uses PCI express lanes which have a tiny fraction of the latency of attaching via Ethernet. This makes it ideal for something like attaching displays or external GPUs where high bandwidth and low latency is critical.
The only issue with that is that their one cable is the most expensive, complicated, fastest cable to solve every little thing.
It's like giving everybody a Ultra Large Slurpy XXL as the solution or a 16-lane highway to solve all your traffic needs.
Whatever happened to the right tool, for the right job?
We need Small / Medium / Big size USB cables.
We already have them too!
USB 2.0 with Type-A/B ports needs a slight update to the specification to deliver true 60 MBps Full Duplex on a smaller connector.
Let's call it the new "Nano-A" port where it uses Type-C micro pin contacts to shrink the cabling down to a tiny Square Connector that is reversible.
This could be your "Small USB cable" where it's physical connector is smaller than a 3.5mm Headphone Cable and is a Reversible Square Connector.
Imagine all the new devices you can make that uses "Nano-A" and deliver a Full-Duplex 60 MBps and Power Delivery on a tiny Physical connector that is Reversible like Type-C.
Update USB 4.1 (Yes bring back the decimal sub revisions) to update SuperSpeed Type-A ports to have ONLY 1x SuperSpeed lane using the latest standard and speeds.
That would mean 20 Gbps Full Duplex or a Assymetric 40 Gbps single direction and 60 MBps other direction.
Update the smaller Connector form factor to a brand new "Mini-C" connector with only 10 contact pins, a smaller but elongated Reversable Isoceles Hexagonal shape, and you're good.
10 Pins/Wires is FAR cheaper to manufacture than the 24-pin monstrosity that is Type-C.
There are plenty of devices that only need Medium Speeds of 20/40 Gbps = 2.5-5 GBps.
Update USB 4.1 Type-C to allow more Alt Modes available by default to maximize bandwidth.
Imagine what you could do if you virtualized the USB 2.0 packets to be sent over the High Speed Lanes and reuse the USB 2.0 contacts/wires as a 3rd set of High Speed lanes.
That could mean 60 Gbps Full Duplex = 7.5 GBps Full Duplex
Sacrifice the SideBand and allow Assymetric Link for 120 Gbps one direction and 20 Gbps the other direction.
That's 15 GBps one direction and 2.5 GBps the other direction
Imagine what you can do with that kind of speeds.
If you Sacrifice Power Delivery and turn those into High-Speed lanes, you could get 160 Gbps Full Duplex with 20 Gbps Sideband
That's 20 GBps Full Duplex w/ 2.5 GBps Sideban
320 Gbps One Direction and 20 Gbps Other Direction.
40 GBps One Direction and 2.5 GBps Other Direction.
This kind of bandwidth would be GREAT as a root connection between the PC controller and a USB Type-C hub to allow more parallel concurrent connections without starving them of bandwidth.
Type-C is expensive, but it should be used properly for High Bandwidth devices that need it, not to replace every single thing under the sun with it's expensive design.
That's so many raw materials, resources, & financial manufacturing costs wasted on a "One-Size Fits All" Type-C paradigm.
We can do SOOO much more with a Right USB Cable for the Right type of Device strategy.