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.