What is Thunderbolt 5 and why does it matter for gamers?

Thunderbolt of lightning, very very frightening

Thunderbolt 5
(Image credit: Razer)

As a regular reviewer of the best gaming laptops, I've got a rare appreciation for a good USB port. I don't exactly make a habit of regaling people with the virtues of Thunderbolt 4 in the pub, but It is a very handy technology.

Well, now we're starting to reach the point of the very first devices with Thunderbolt 5 compatibility, with the newly announced Razer Blade 18 leading the pack. But what's new, and why should gamers care about the decidedly unsexy subject that is connectivity? 

What is Thunderbolt 5?

Simply put, Thunderbolt 5 is a better USB port. This Intel owned technology is a super speedy way of transferring and recieving data. Thunderbolt tech is now over ten years old, and the fith generation brings transfer speeds of up to 80Gbps, which is twice as fast as Thunderbolt 4. 

It's still early days for the technology, and not many devices feature it yet, but it could change computing - particularly gaming - forever. Here's some of the possibilities. 

GPU to go 

Thunderbolt 5's massive leap in bandwidth up from 40Gbps to 80Gbps (with a max of 120Gbps for external displays - more on that in a minute) means that we might see a comeback for external GPUs.

A bit like having an external hard drive that you connect to your computer, an external GPU could be used to turn a seemingly ordinary laptop or PC into a gaming great. That could be a great way to avoid having to upgrade your hardware as regularly. 

Multi-screen magic

Because of the massively increased bandwidth of Thunderbolt 5, you can use one port to power multiple high-demand accessories. One such example is displays. 

Now, having two or even three screens for office work isn't that unusual even on standard connections, but with Thunderbolt 5, you'll be able to use multiple high-performance gaming monitors at once. Thunderbolt 5 is compatible with DisplayPort 2.1 and beyond, you could in fact run three 4K displays at up to 144Hz (if you have them). That could be great for immersive gaming. I've seen setups for racing games for example that allow you to turn to a display on each side to check your flanks and inspect your wing mirrors. 

Slim stunners

Thunderbolt 5 supports up to 230W powered devices which means that we might be able to ditch a pet peeve of mine, massive charging bricks. Similarly, the machines themselves should be slimmer as they no longer need to accommodate chunky power ports and can instead use a USB-C input, or they will opt to include additional ports in the saved space - an equally welcome approach. 

Andy Sansom
Staff Writer

Andy is T3's Tech Staff Writer, covering all things technology, including his biggest passions such as gaming, AI, phones, and basically anything cool and expensive he can get his hands on. If he had to save one possession from a fire it would be his PlayStation 5. He previously worked for Tom’s Guide - where he got paid to play with ChatGPT every day. When it comes to streaming, Andy will have his headphones glued in whilst watching something that will make him laugh. He studied Creative Writing at university, but also enjoys supporting his favourite football team (Liverpool), watching F1, teaching himself guitar, and spending time with his dog.