Apple Thunderbolt 3: All You Need to Know

Featured Image - All you need to know about Mac Thunderbolt 3 Devices
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With most of the newly launched Mac notebooks supporting Thunderbolt 3 only, it is only a matter of time for the mass adoption of Thunderbolt 3.

Thunderbolt 3 is the best protocol for connecting computers and other peripherals. With just a single cable, this revolutionary technology provides:

  • Fastest transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps
  • Multiple 4K displays at 60Hz
  • Power delivery of up to 100W

If you’re out looking for a Mac notebook today, you’ll be surprised by the selection of ports. While the previous versions of Mac notebooks featured more than one connection protocol, the new line of MacBook comes with only Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Apple is taking full advantage of the Thunderbolt technology to manufacture the best gadgets in the market. Thinner and more powerful notebooks.

In this article, we will present to you all the Apple devices with Thunderbolt 3, the approved Thunderbolt 3 peripherals for Mac devices, and the best Thunderbolt 3 peripherals you can use with your Mac.

Thunderbolt 3 Benefits on Macs

When you get hold of the latest MacBook, you’ll see how Thunderbolt 3 is shaping the design of light and ultraportable laptops. Many benefits come with this revolutionary tech. Here are the top five to name a few:

1. Manufacture of thinner notebooks

Thunderbolt laptops are small, thinner, and extremely ultraportable. They come with a considerable lesser weight yet carry the most powerful Intel processors and GPUs. This is excellent for portability and small footprint but comes at the expense of other ports such as USB and Ethernet.

2. Connecting One or More Displays

Thunderbolt 3 supports multiple 4K displays with higher refresh rates to bring your multitasking goals to life. You can daisy chain Thunderbolt 3 enabled monitors for multiple displays or use HDMI/DisplayPort via a docking station.

3. Power delivery to charge your MacBook

Thunderbolt 3 supports power delivery of up to 100 watts back to the host. This is enough to charge your notebook and say goodbye to a cluttered workstation.

You can still use a MacBook USB C charger in the thunderbolt port for charging but you won’t get the 40Gbps transfers nor dual 4k displays.

4. Access ultra-fast external storage

Thunderbolt 3 lets you hook up your Mac mini or notebook to an external SSD to access data with the highest transfer speeds in the market. You can copy an entire 20GB 4K video to an external Thunderbolt 3 SSD within 12 seconds. How long will this take with your current laptop?

5. Connect external eGPUs

Unless you’re using a desktop, running AAA games or graphics-intensive video applications has always been a nightmare. With Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosures, you can use desktop-class GPUs on your notebooks to run the royale games and power games with no motion blur or lagging.

While mass adoption of Thunderbolt 3 is imminent, its worth to identify the downsides of this futuristic technology. Here’s how Thunderbolt 3 affect the design of Mac notebooks:

  • Thinner notebooks are expensive. You’ll need to buy dongles and external adapters to access other connectivity protocols as Apple slashed all the ports in favor of Thunderbolt 3.
  • Ultra-portables have inefficient cooling mechanisms making them prone to overheating.


Image Product Details Check Price
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 8GB RAM, 128GB Storage, 1.6GHz Intel Core i5) - Silver (Previous Model)
Apple MacBook Air 13" 2 x Thunderbolt 3
1 x 3.5 mm headphone jack
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Apple MacBook Pro (13-Inch, 8GB RAM, 128GB Storage) - Silver (Previous Model)
Apple MacBook Pro 13" 2 x Thunderbolt 3
1 x 3.5 mm headphone jack
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Apple MacBook Pro (13-Inch, 8GB RAM, 256GB Storage) - Space Gray (Previous Model)
Apple MacBook Pro 13" 4 x Thunderbolt 3
1 x 3.5 mm headphone jack
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Apple MacBook Pro (15-Inch, Latest Model, 16GB RAM, 256GB Storage) - Space Gray
Apple MacBook Pro 15" 4 x Thunderbolt 3
1 x 3.5 mm headphone jack
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Image Product Details Check Price
Apple iMac (21.5-inch, 8GB RAM, 1TB Storage) - Silver (Previous Model)
Apple iMac 21.5" 2 x Thunderbolt 3
4 x USB 3
1 x SDXC card Slot
1 x 3.5 mm headphone
1 x Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
1 x Kensington lock slot
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Apple iMac Retina 4K
Apple iMac Retina 4K 2 x Thunderbolt 3
4 x USB 3
1 x SDXC card Slot
1 x 3.5 mm headphone
1 x Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
1 x Kensington lock slot
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Apple iMac 27
Apple iMac 27" Retina 5K 2 x Thunderbolt 3
4 x USB 3
1 x SDXC card Slot
1 x 3.5 mm headphone
1 x Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
1 x Kensington lock slot
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Apple iMac Pro 27
Apple iMac Pro 27" Retina 5K (8-core, 32GB RAM) 4 x Thunderbolt 3
4 x USB 3
1 x SDXC card Slot
1 x 3.5 mm headphone
1 x 10 Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
1 x Kensington lock slot
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Mac Minis

Image Product Details Check Price
Apple Mac Mini
Apple Mac Mini 4 x Thunderbolt 3
2 x USB 3
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5 mm headphone
1 x Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
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Apple Approved Thunderbolt Devices

If you’re using a MacBook Air Thunderbolt 3 or any Mac device that supports Thunderbolt, it’s important to know the recommended peripherals to use with your Mac.

The approved Thunderbolt 3 devices seamlessly work any Thunderbolt 3 enabled Mac notebook, iMac, and Mac mini. Rest assured, you won’t run into any compatibility issues.

eGPU Enclosures

1. Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck

This eGPU from Sonnet technologies is certified to work with Mac devices. It comes equipped with a Radeon RX 560 external GPU to give your Mac device the juice to run triple-A games and pro video applications. Use this eGPU enclosure to accelerate demanding games and applications on any Mac device with Thunderbolt 3.

For more information, kindly check out its full review below to know more about how it performs in terms of display, GPU, and connectivity.


1. Apple Thunderbolt Display MC914LL/B

Made by Apple, this 27-inch display monitor works with all Mac Thunderbolt 3 devices. It comes with a Thunderbolt 3 port, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, and three USB 2.0 ports to connect extra peripherals.

With a resolution of 2560 x 1440 (QHD), you get clear visuals for your images and video. While this is a refurbished version, it looks as good as new and also comes with a very affordable price tag.

2. LG UltraFine 4K Display

The LG UltraFine 4K monitor is approved by Apple as a TB3 peripheral for your MacBook or Mac mini. Connect this monitor via the Thunderbolt 3 port on your Mac to enjoy ultra-clear 4K resolutions for image/video editing or gaming.

You get 85W power delivery to charge your Mac and plenty of ports to extend the Mac’s connectivity options.

The image quality is impeccable with 500 nits of brightness, P3 wide color gamut and high pixel density for vivid and sharp images. If you love image editing and content creation, monitor will fit the bill.

3. LG UltraFine 5K Display

The LG UltraFine 5K display lets you display the performance and detail of your Mac in a large 5K monitor. The monitor is compatible with all Mac notebooks, iMacs, and Mac mini with Thunderbolt 3 ports.

The monitor delivers near life images and videos with great attention to detail and color accuracy to offer a more natural experience. You’re assured of vibrant 5K resolution and razor-sharp images even for the most pixel-packed visuals.

For more information, check its full review below to know why we’ve handpicked it as the best display for Mac.

Docking Stations

1. CalDigit TS3 Plus Dock

The best Thunderbolt 3 docking station for Mac and PCs. With just single Thunderbolt 3 cable, this dock can extend your Mac’s ports into 15 expansion ports.

The dock supports dual 4K and single 5K displays at 60Hz refresh rates. You also get 85W of power delivery to charge your host. So you won’t have to worry about power issues and cabling on your desk.

Read the below full review of the CalDigit TS3 Plus for more details.

2. CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock

An alternative option to the CalDigit TS3 Plus Dock. This mini docking station is lighter and portable version of the TS3 Plus. It works flawlessly with all Mac devices with Thunderbolt 3.

It comes with two HDMI ports, Gigabit Ethernet slot, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 ports to connect other peripherals such as flash drive and keyboard. The CalDigit mini supports dual 4K displays via the two HDMI ports.

The only downside with this small and compact dock is that it doesn’t provide power delivery. You’ve to look for other options when planning to use it on the go.

The Best Thunderbolt 3 Peripherals for Mac

Here’s an in-depth review of the best Thunderbolt 3 peripherals for Mac devices. All products are compatible with the latest MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac mini. Unleash the full power of your MacBook using these handpicked Thunderbolt 3 peripherals:

1. LG UltraFine 5K Display – Best Thunderbolt Display for Mac

The LG UltraFine 5K delivers staggering 5120 x 2880 resolution and P3 wide color gamut to offer a lifelike experience.

If you’re looking to push your MacBook to the limits then adding the UltraFine 5K is a viable choice. The monitor delivers near life experiences with ultra-clear visuals and impeccable color performance. If you’re a content creator or just a movie enthusiast, you’ll absolutely love the quality of the images and video.

Leveraging the power delivery feature of Thunderbolt 3, the UltraFine 5K can deliver up to 94 watts for host charging. This power wattage is enough to sate most power-hungry Mac notebooks.

The LG UltraFine 5K is approved by Apple and seamlessly works with all Mac notebooks with a Thunderbolt 3 port. It integrates with MacOS to provide on-screen settings to control volume and display settings without the need for the physical buttons on your MacBook.


The LG UltraFine 5K is one of the flexible monitors around. It brings ergonomic design into life to bring you convenient viewing angles to enjoy your videos from every angle.

The adjustable stand lets you customize its height or tilt the monitor to create a personal and comfortable workstation. Alternatively, you can remove the stand and mount the monitor on a wall using a VESA mount bracket.

If you don’t want to spend extra, then the inbuilt stereo speakers, camera, and microphone will suit your media experience. While it may not provide the best audio quality, it is enough to get started with movies and video chats.

Image Quality

Perfectly made for photo and video editing, The UltraFine 5K Display provides plenty of tools and windows, while rendering crystal clear images and sharp text at the same time. With this monitor, your photos and videos are brought to life.

The display is a 27-inch IPS panel, P3 wide color gamut with 500-nit brightness to provide brighter and clearer pictures. The monitor can deliver more than 14.7 million pixels over the Thunderbolt 3 port which is 77 percent higher than a 4K UHD display.

Are you wondering what this means to your Mac?

The monitor is capable of offering lifelike pictures, consistent color accuracy, and wide viewing angles to provide a more natural representation. With this, you can edit your images without missing a single detail in your design layout or even FaceTime calls.


The UltraFine 5K Display provides extra connectivity options to extend your Mac notebook’s ports. It comes with a single Thunderbolt 3 port and three USB-C ports to connect other peripherals.

Our Take

The LG UltraFine 5K Display is an excellent addition to your workstation especially if you’re looking for clear visuals or to render lifelike images on your Mac notebook. It offers charging power back to the host of up to 95W. That’s more than enough for your MacBook.

With the excellent 5K 60Hz displays, an ergonomic stand, and charging power, the UltraFine 5K Display is the perfect fit for your MacBook.

  • Ultra-clear 5K display
  • Brighter visuals with 500 nits of brightness
  • Great colors and high resolution
  • VESA mount certified and adjustable stand
  • Charging power of up to 95W
  • Single Thunderbolt 3 port

2. Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck – Best eGPU for Mac mini

A portable and powerful eGPU that can provide high-performance external graphics acceleration to your Mac mini.

Do you want to play AAA games and pro applications on your Mac mini? Then, the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck is all you need. With this eGPU, you can instantly boost your Mac mini’s graphics performance with the included desktop-class Radeon RX 560 GPU.

The Sonnet eGPU isn’t all about play, it can also deliver multi-displays and power delivery of up to 60 watts to charge your Mac mini.


The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck is incredibly portable at 6 inches wide by 5.1 inches deep by 2 inches tall and only 3.3 pounds heavy. It has a small footprint on the desktop which is good for desk real estate and clean workstation.

You can even achieve zero desktop footprint using its VESA Mounting Bracket Kit by fitting the Puck to the back of a VESA certified monitor with open mounting holes.


The Breakaway Puck is an excellent addition to your Mac mini if you’re looking for smooth gaming at max settings and higher frame rates. It also comes handy to provide GPU acceleration for graphics-intensive video applications such as Adobe Premier.

Powered by the Radeon GPU, the Breakaway Puck provides up to four 4K displays via the three DisplayPort ports and an HDMI port, all connected to your Mac mini via a single cable. With this, you can achieve higher multitasking tasks on your Mac mini ranging from gaming, productivity, and entertainment.

Despite its extremely high performance, the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck is only compatible with monitors with DisplayPort and HDMI.

If you’re using a monitor with Thunderbolt 3 port only, then the Puck will not be appropriate for you. However, there are plenty of alternative options out there. Check out this article on the cheapest Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosures to the find the best alternative eGFX for your monitor with Thunderbolt ports only.


The Sonnet Breakaway Puck comes with the following ports:

  • 1 x Thunderbolt 3
  • 3 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • 1 x HDMI 2.0b
Our Take

For a small and high-performance eGFX with an integrated GPU, the Sonnet Puck is an excellent addition to your Mac mini. The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck can help you run AAA games at max settings and render pro video applications without any chances of lagging and blurred visuals.

What’s more interesting is that this eGFX can support four 4K displays at 60Hz while offering power back to the host. Don’t take chances for your workstations and go for this ultraportable and proven eGPU enclosure to accelerate the graphics performance of your Mac mini.

  • Radeon RX 560 included
  • Supports multi-displays at 4K 60Hz
  • Ultraportable with minimal to zero footprint
  • Compatible with monitors with DisplayPort and HDMI only

3. Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter – Best MacBook Pro Ethernet adapter

Access a high-performance network on the go with this small, compact Thunderbolt 3 to Ethernet adapter.

When you purchase the latest MacBook Air and MacBook Pro you’ll realize that you have fewer connectivity options. While you can easily connect to a wireless network, wired networks provide the fastest speeds to download and transfer large files or stream battle royale games for power gamers.

The Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter lets you connect your Mac to a Gigabit Ethernet network for an excellent performance. Connect the adapter to the Thunderbolt 3 port on your MacBook and enjoy the wired network via an RJ-45 port.

In the end, you’ll have an Apple Thunderbolt RJ-45 port that supports 10/100/1000BASE-T networks. Amazing.


The portable and compact design of the Ethernet adapter ensures you can stuff it inside your laptop bag or even your back pocket and enjoy wired network everywhere you go. Its small footprint means you don’t need additional desk space.


The Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter is compatible with all Mac notebooks with a Thunderbolt 3 port. Also, you’ll need Mac OS X 10.74 or later.

Our Take

Another Thunderbolt 3 peripheral that helps extend the functionality of your Mac. This Ethernet adapter ensures you don’t miss the fast speeds of Gigabit Ethernet network from your slim and ultra-portable MacBook.

If you’re working with large files on your workstation or playing the intense online games such as Fortnite and PUBG, then this adapter is a vital addition to your workstation.

  • Small and portable
  • Compatible with the latest Mac notebooks
  • Fast internet speeds
  • Support Thunderbolt 3 only

4. Samsung Portable SSD X5 – Thunderbolt 3 External Hard Drive for Mac

Compact and portable solid-state drive, the Samsung X5 delivers insane fast read-write speeds of 2,800/2,300 MB/s which are 5 times faster than SSDs using the SATA interface.

If you’re an IT pro or content creator, then the X5 is the last piece you need to complete your workstation. With most of the newly launched Apple notebooks supporting Thunderbolt 3 only, it can be a disaster if you’re still using USB powered external hard drives and SSDs. However, thanks to the adoption of Thunderbolt 3, there is something to smile about.

The Samsung X5 is compatible with Macs with Thunderbolt 3 ports and Mac OS X Sierra 10.12 or higher.


The Samsung X5 comes in a premium and elegant design that cements its position as the top Thunderbolt 3 external hard drive for Mac. The drive measures 119 x 62 x 19.7 mm and weighs 15g. It’s pretty portable, you can carry it around and use it on the go.

It has a streamlined and dynamic shape with glossy finishing on the top. It feels rigid and firm on the hand thanks to its practical matte bottom that prevents slips. Don’t worry about accidental drops from slippery portable drives anymore.

If you’re tech-savvy or computer power user, you might have experienced overheating problems from your previous portable SSDs. With the Samsung X5, you don’t have to worry about heat. The drive’s Dynamic Thermal Guard (DTG) technology assures you a cool and quiet working environment.

DTG and the inbuilt heat sink help maintain optimal surface temperatures below 45 degrees Celsius. With a reinforced magnesium alloy, the drive can survive a 2m drop. Overall, the design of the Samsung X5 results in a much lighter, durable, and cool SSD.


The great value of the X5 comes in terms of its performance. With support for Thunderbolt 3, the drive is capable of reaching lightning transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps.

You spend more time on productive work rather than spending hours waiting for your Mac to finish copying the large video files to start editing.

The test results for the X5 yielded read/write speeds of 2,800/2,300 MB/s. It’s the highest read and writes speeds that you can get on the market. The speeds are 5.2/4.5 times faster than SSD using the SATA interface and 25.5/20.9 faster than an external HDD.

The unrivaled performance of the X5 extends to its security. The X5 offers optional password protection using AES 256-bit encryption to secure your data and personal information.

However, this dominance of the Samsung X5 comes with a higher price tag than the other external SSDs. You can find other alternatives with these 8 Thunderbolt 3 external hard drives and SSDs if you’re under a tight budget.

Tech Specs

Interface Thunderbolt 3
Capacity 500 GB, I TB, and 2 TB
Sequential Read Speed Max. 2,800 MB/s
Sequential Write Speed Max. 2,300 MB/s
Security AES 256-bit Encryption
Measurements 119 x 62 x 19.7 mm, 15g
OS Supported Mac OSX Sierra 10.12 or higher
Our Take

The Samsung X5 is a perfect peripheral for your MacBook. With fast read and write speeds, it can increase your workplace productivity significantly. The Samsung X5 is a future-proof SSD that can get you going for the next years to come.

The drive comes with excellent thermal state-of-the-art technology to prevent overheating and strong magnesium chassis to withstand accidental drops. Investing in the X5 for your Mac is an excellent move.

  • Sleek design for portability
  • Compact and durable design
  • Fastest read and write speeds
  • Expensive
  • No other connectivity options

5. CalDigit TS3 Plus – Best Thunderbolt 3 Dock for MacBook Pro

CalDigit TS3 Plus connects to a single Thunderbolt 3 port on your MacBook and adds up to 15 expansion ports while seamlessly charging your notebook.

The overall best Thunderbolt 3 dock in our roundup of the best Thunderbolt 3 docking stations, theTS3 provides a lot of options to extend your MacBook pro. You don’t have to worry about power issues anymore as the dock provides 85W of power delivery which is enough to charge your MacBook to full charge. This can help declutter your desk as one cable provides a solution for all: data, video, and power.

It’s worth to note that while a USB-C cable can seamlessly fit in the Thunderbolt 3 port, you won’t get the blazing transfer speeds and Thunderbolt functionality when using a MacBook USB C charger.

The docking station is certified and approved by Apple for Mac devices. You can use the CalDigit TS3 Plus with all Mac notebooks with Thunderbolt 3 port and MacOS 10.12 or later.


If you’d like a consistent design across your Mac accessories, then the TS3 Plus will not disappoint. It comes with a compact aluminum chassis with a ribbed design to give it an industrial look. The TS3 Plus is cool and quiet thanks to its enough surface area and the fins that work as heat spreaders.

The dock offers flexibility on how you can position it on your desk. While most docks are positioned horizontal, the TS3 can be placed either horizontal or vertical depending on your needs.

It’s smaller for a powerful docking station at 5.15 x 1.57 x 3.87 inches and with a net weight of 1.04 pounds, making it very portable. However, you’ll have to deal with the relatively heavier 180W power adapter.


One of the downsides of the adoption of Thunderbolt 3 technology is the design of thinner notebooks at the expense of expansion ports. However, with the TS3 Plus dock, you get more expansion slots to connect all of your peripherals.

The dock comes with a total of 15 expansion ports. With just a single Thunderbolt 3 cable, you instantly expand the MacBook Pro ports from 2 to 15 slots. What more can you ask for?

Here’s the port selection of the CalDigit TS3 Plus:

  • 2 x Thunderbolt 3
  • 1 x DisplayPort 1.2
  • 5 x USB 3.1 Type-A
  • 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C
  • 1 x SD Card Reader (SD 4.0 UHS-II)
  • 1 x Digital Optical Audio (S/PDIF)
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x Analog Audio In (Stereo)
  • 1 x Analog Audio Out (Stereo)

However, with all the hype about the TS3 ports galore, there is still no HDMI port.

The good news is that you can still use HDMI with the TS3 docking station with the help of an adapter. Check out our article on the best Thunderbolt 3 to HDMI adapters to get started.


CalDigit TS3 Plus can support dual 4K displays at 60Hz refresh rate over the Thunderbolt 3 port and the DisplayPort or power a single 5K display at 60Hz. Factor in the LG UltraFine 5K Display and you have the best display ever.

If you want the best visuals and crystal-clear displays, then the TS3 Plus and the LG UltraFine 5K monitor should be your top priority addition to your MacBook pro. Unless you have a 5K capable monitor, you won’t enjoy the full power of this Thunderbolt 3 dock.

The TS3 also offers options to daisy chain MacBook pro with multiple devices. For instance, you can hook an external Thunderbolt 3 monitor to the TS3 and connect a Thunderbolt 3 eternal SSD to the monitor to access its files.

Our Take

Your workstation is not complete without the CalDigit TS3 Plus. The dock extends your MacBook pro ports from 2 to staggering 15 expansion ports. It also provides charging power to your MacBook reducing the amount of cabling on your desk significantly.

The dock is approved by Apple so you won’t have any issues connecting it with Thunderbolt 3 enabled Mac notebooks. If you’re a content creator and power user, imagine the amount of satisfaction you can get from the 5K display or dual 4K displays for multitasking.

The TS3 docking station is a must-have Thunderbolt 3 accessory for your MacBook pro.

  • Ports galore
  • Power delivery to charge your MacBook pro
  • Excellent displays for content creators
  • Light and portable
  • No HDMI port
  • Heavy and power-hungry 180W adapter

Bottom Line

Apple is the frontrunner in manufacturing Thunderbolt 3 enabled devices. The laptops are slim and ultraportable with powerful hardware under the hood. While the design of Thunderbolt laptops is revolutionary in terms of connectivity, it comes with some downsides.

Apple is doing away with the most ports in favor of Thunderbolt 3. You’ll need additional adapters to access USB devices and DVD drives, which can be a bit pricier.

With most tech brands embracing Thunderbolt technology, getting yourself a Thunderbolt 3 Mac device is an excellent option. Thunderbolt provides fast transfer speeds, power delivery, and excellent multiple displays.

Unleash the full power of your MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, or Mac mini using the approved Thunderbolt 3 products. The products are compatible with all Mac devices with Thunderbolt 3 ports. With this review, you can create a full Thunderbolt 3 workstation for your Mac and enjoy excellent graphics, fast transfer seeds, high speed LAN, and fast external storage.

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