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Thunderbolt vs HDMI | difference between Thunderbolt and HDMI

This page compares Thunderbolt vs HDMI and mentions difference between Thunderbolt and HDMI interface types.

HDMI is used as display connector on different types of electronic devices. Thunderbolt is used for both video and data applications and only found on computers.

Thunderbolt interface

The Thunderbolt technology is transformational high speed, dual core I/O protocol which offers excellent performance over current I/O technologies available in market with 10 Gbps bi-directional speed. It supersedes Firewire interface.

Thunderbolt interface

It supports both data and video on single cable connection (with dual protocol viz. PCI express and DisplayPort) which can daisy chain upto 6 devices. Due to thunderbolt technology, it has become possible to connect laptops over single cable to high performance storage, display and multimedia devices. It is compatible with existing DisplayPort devices. It uses native PCIe and DisplayPort Protocol software drivers. It supports power over cable for bus powered devices.

There are different types of thunderbolt viz. Thunderbolt 1, Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt -1 supports 10 Gbps bi-directional and dual channel data transfer. Thunderbolt-2 and Thunderbolt-3 supports 20 Gbps and 40 Gbps respectively.

HDMI interface

HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. It is used to interface smart devices and display types. It is used to transport both audio and video signals over single cable.

HDMI Connector types

The figure depicts different HDMI connector types viz. standard, Mini, Micro and automotive connection system. Following table mentions different pins and their designations.

HDMI Connector pins

Following are the features of HDMI cable.
• Audio formats: DTS, Dolby etc.
• Video formats: 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 480p etc.
• Supports PAL/NTPC TV standards
• Backward compatible with DVI
• Category-1 supports pixel speed of 75 MHz, bandwidth of 2.23 Gbps and carry 1080i uncompressed signal. Category-2 supports speed of 340 MHz, bandwidth of 10.2 Gbps. It supports 1440p and WQXGA resolutions.

Difference between Thunderbolt and HDMI

Following table mentions difference between Thunderbolt and HDMI types.

Features Thunderbolt HDMI
Display Support two or higher resolution 5K display Support single display at maximum of 4K 60 Hz.
Connectivity interface It supports both standard PCI express and mini displayport on single cable. It supports both audio and video signals transfer over a single cable.
Connector types Thunderbolt 1, 2 and 3, Thunderbolt-1 and 2 support Mini DisplayPort Shaped connectors, Thunderbolt 3 supports USB Type-C connector HDMI Type A (Standard HDMI), Type C (Mini HDMI) and Type D (Micro HDMI), Type E (Automotive Connection System) based on connector
Refresh Rate Thunderbolt-3 supports refresh rates of 30 to 240 Hz at resolutions upto 1440p and 4K from 30-120 Hz. HDMI is limited to 1 30 Hz refresh rate, HDMI 2.0 supports 1080p output at 144 Hz.
Universal support Initially thunderbolt is limited to Apple devices. Thunderbolt-3 supports other PCs and devices. It is universal standard for diplay interface which is ubiquitous.
Speed Thunderbolt-1 supports 10Gbps, Thunderbolt-2 supports 20 Gbps and Thunderbolt-3 supports 40 Gbps. HDMI cat-1 supports bandwidth of 2.23 Gbps and HDMI cat-2 supports bandwidth of 10.2 Gbps.
Distance 20 Gbps cable support 1-2 meters, 40 Gbps cable supports 0.5m to 2 meters. 10 Gbps cable supports maximum distance of upto 100 meters. HDMI cat-1 supports 35 meters and HDMI cat-2 supports 10 meters.

Thunderbolt and HDMI Links

Thunderbolt types
Advantages and disadvantages of Thunderbolt
Advantages and disadvantages of HDMI
HDMI to VGA converter
HDMI over USB type-C

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