Can I use Thunderbolt 4 or 5 docks with USB4 laptops?

Can laptops with USB4 ports use Thunderbolt 4/5 docks?

Yes, but it’s complicated. USB4 brings cross-compatibility with Thunderbolt 3 and can support the same features/bandwidth as Thunderbolt 4 (and even Thunderbolt 5 in the future), but not all USB4 ports are the same. You’ll need to check the data bandwidth of your device’s USB4 port to know what you can use.

The majority of the laptops sold in the world are powered by Intel, and now most of those laptops also boast USB Type-C Thunderbolt ports. The Thunderbolt standard becoming prolific across modern Windows PCs is awesome, but it does leave non-Intel users completely out of the fun. If your PC of choice is equipped with AMD or Qualcomm hardware, it may feature USB4 ports instead of Thunderbolt. If that’s the case, are you able to use the vast ecosystem of existing Thunderbolt accessories like docks and hubs?

The answer is fortunately positive, but unfortunately convoluted in the same way that the rest of the USB format is. USB4 ports are more capable than ever, but the persistent fragmentation that has afflicted USB for generations still remains. There are multiple USB4 versions that manufacturers can equip their laptops with, and they’re not all created equal! In this article, I’ll explain it all and tell it to you straight: can you use Thunderbolt 4 or Thunderbolt 5 docks with your USB4 laptop?

Understanding USB and Thunderbolt

This is a Thunderbolt 4 cable, but it’s also backward compatible with all USB and Thunderbolt Type-C standards. (Image credit: Windows Central | Zachary Boddy)

Despite most of the world fully embracing the USB Type-C connector, USB itself is still a confusing mass of conflicting versions. This is even with USB basically being controlled by two entities; the USB-IF (Universal Serial Bus Implementers Forum) is in charge of the foundational capabilities, specs, and branding of all USB ports and cables; Intel, on the other hand, owns the Thunderbolt brand, which builds enhanced power and more features on top of USB.

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