It’s taken a few years but we are finally at a point where most high-end laptops are including Thunderbolt 3 ports. This guide looks at the top eight laptops currently on the market that are offering Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.
What is Thunderbolt 3?
First of all, let’s look at what Thunderbolt 3 actually is. Thunderbolt 3 is a technology that brings Thunderbolt to USB-C. It has been dubbed “the USB that does it all” and the reason for this is that thanks to its super-fast speeds of 40Gbps, users are essentially given one compact port that can do more or less everything.
Standard USB-C connectors are only capable of delivering speeds of up to 10Gbps but by adding Thunderbolt, users can experience speeds of up to four times that and for the first time ever, we have a cable that is able to output video, connect peripherals, and transfer data between devices at super-fast speeds.
Thunderbolt 3 Laptops Comparison Table
|Dell XPS 15 9570 (Top Pick)|
Processor: Intel Core i7-9750H
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|Apple MacBook Pro 2018|
Processor: Intel Core i7-9750H
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|Alienware 13 R3|
Processor: Intel Core i7-9750H
|Check Best Price|
1. Dell XPS 15 9570 (Top Pick)
The MacBook Pro is the laptop of choice for most people these days and there are plenty of reasons why. For starters, it is an Apple product. Apart from the fact that their products have become a bit of a fashion statement, many buyers are also drawn to the devices because of the superior build quality they have. Apple goes above and beyond when it comes to building what they believe is the perfect product and although not everyone will agree, many are still willing to invest in an Apple product for the reliability and attention to detail that comes with them.
Unlike the other laptops on this list, the MacBook Pro, of course, uses MacOS. When it comes to operating systems, it really comes down to personal preference rather than which is better, however, different systems excel in different areas and MacOS is no exception. It boasts very high security and privacy when compared to Windows operating systems and in general, the UI is very pretty to look at and interact with.
The MacBook Pro has two options in terms of screen size, 13” and 15”. Most laptops these days come with screens of this size so it’s not really a surprise, however, Apple used to offer a 17” version of the MacBook Pro which, unfortunately, was scrapped some years ago. The screen is also a Retina display, meaning great color accuracy and vibrancy.
There are many different options to choose from when it comes to the components inside this device and it really depends on your budget and what you need a laptop to do. One of the most notable components in this laptop is the processor which can be an i9 if needed. The i9 processor is relatively new and it’s great to see Apple offering it as an option on their latest MacBook Pro.
Aside from the processor, this device also offers some very good options for power users elsewhere. It boasts an optional 32GB of RAM as well up to 4TB of SSD storage. This is of course very pricey but at least the options are there for those who need them. The GPU is a Radeon Pro 560X which is a huge upgrade on the previous graphics used, however, it is still unable to compete with the GPUs found in many gaming laptops. This isn’t a huge issue as the MacBook Pro isn’t really focused on being a gaming device but it still somewhat disappointing considering how powerful the other components in this laptop are.
The port selection on this laptop isn’t great. All you get are four Thunderbolt 3 ports and an audio jack. It’s become fairly common practice for Apple to try and simplify things but phasing out certain ports over time, but offering only Thunderbolt 3 ports means many users will be forced to by adapters which isn’t ideal. The Thunderbolt 3 port is very versatile though, and if your other devices and peripherals use this connector, it will make things generally easier so it’s clear to see what Apple is trying to do here.
By now it is simply accepted that Apple devices are expensive, but money aside, this is a very capable laptop and the design and quality of the device are exquisite.
2. Apple MacBook Pro 2018
The Dell XPS is quite simply, one of the best Windows laptops available today. It has been the number one choice for many power users in recent years and each year the device gets better and better.
It comes with the professional edition of Windows 10, meaning users will be able to use additional features such as Domain Join, BitLocker, and Remote Desktop. These features aren’t necessary for everyone but that’s precisely why the professional edition is reserved for high-end laptops. Windows 10 does have a few flaws though. It is not a very secure system and it is recommended that some form of antivirus software is installed to help with this issue. It is also a little clunky in areas. This isn’t that big of a deal but considering how fluid MacOS and Linux systems tend to be, it is a shame that Windows still suffers in this area. Overall though, it is a very competent system and most users will be familiar with it.
The display is 15.6” and can be either 1920 x 1080 or 3840 x 2160, depending on which model you buy. One thing to note here is that the 1080p version has an anti-glare screen which will be preferred by some users. The display is also nearly bezel-less and at a 4K resolution, it is certainly impressive to look at. It is a shame there is no 17” version though, as the smaller form factor could have made a 17” version fairly portable. The display is also a touchscreen, which is an added bonus.
Being a high-end laptop, this device boasts some very impressive internals. It uses the latest generation Intel Core i7 processor which might not be quite as powerful as the i9 on the MacBook Pro but it is still a very fast processor. It also has the option of 32GB of RAM which is very impressive and a huge amount of RAM for a laptop. The one let down in terms of components, however, is the storage. It has a 1TB SSD and although this will be more than enough storage for most users, nowadays there are laptops offering up to four times this amount. It does, however, have a GTX 1050Ti GPU, which is somewhat surprising to see on a laptop that hasn’t been specifically built for gaming.
The port selection on this device is fairly good. Users should be able to get most things done without the need for an adapter. The single Thunderbolt 3 port could be an issue though as more and more devices and peripherals adopt USB-C.An amazing laptop that can be used for just about anything. It has a couple of minor annoyances but in general, it isn’t far from perfect.
3. Alienware 13 R3
Another worthy entry for the XPS range is the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 edition. Although it shares many similarities with its bigger brother, it also has many other features that actually make it quite a different device.
It comes with the home edition of Windows 10, which while not as feature rich as the professional version, does give users enough functionality to achieve most tasks. It is also the most common variant of Windows 10, with most laptops nowadays running this version of the operating system.
The device has a 13.3”, 3200 x 1800 display and it also features the same near bezel-less design as the XPS 15. This means the overall size of the device is fairly small, giving users a lot of real estate in a small form factor. As the laptop is also a 2-in-1 device, it can also be used as a tablet and this works extremely well thanks to the compact size of the device.
The components on this device are also relatively powerful and should allow users to accomplish most tasks. It has an 8th-Gen Intel Core i7, giving the device plenty of processing power as well as 16GB of RAM for serious multitasking and 512GB of SSD storage. This isn’t as much as the other laptops on this list but this laptop is targeted at a slightly different market and the storage capacity should be adequate for those users. It also uses Intel HD Graphics 620, which will likely struggle if used for gaming but in general, it should be able to run most things with relative ease.
A great laptop, however, the port selection is rather poor and will likely turn some consumers away. Other than that it is a great little laptop offering plenty of power for its size.
4. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1(Best Budget)
When it comes to gaming laptops, Alienware is one of the most famous and reputable brands commanding the space. The 13 R3 is their latest gaming laptop to hit the market and it offers a surprising amount of power for what is a fairly compact device.
It ships with the home edition of Windows 10. This makes sense as the laptop is focused at gamers, so the professional edition isn’t really needed. Users can always upgrade though, if necessary.
The R3 has a 13.3”, 1920 x 1080 display which isn’t mind-blowing but considering most games are run at 1080p, it makes sense for this device. What’s more disappointing about the display is the large bezels surrounding it. Nowadays, most companies are trying to reduce the bezels around screens as much as possible and the thick bezels on this device make the whole thing look a bit dated.
Most gaming laptops require powerful components to run many games and the R3 is no exception. For starters, it uses an Intel Core i7 chip, so processing speeds are very fast. It also has 32GB of RAM which is surprising for a compact laptop and either 1TB SSD and an additional 2TB HDD if needed. Most users can get away with the 1TB SSD alone, however, if you are planning to store a lot of games on this device the extra storage could be necessary. As for the GPU, it has a GTX 1050Ti, which will run most games at 1080p with no issues, so it’s a sensible choice for this laptop.
The port selection is pretty good but also somewhat surprising. Gamers usually need to connect a number of peripherals to their computers and the fact that there is only one USB-A port on the device is a bit unexpected. Aside from that though, the device is all the main ports a user will likely need.A solid option for a gaming laptop, however, a USB adapter might be needed for some extra ports.
5. Apple MacBook Air
The HP Spectre series has been around for a while now and the x360 is arguably the pick of the bunch. It has a very striking design that sets it apart from many of the other laptops on this list and although its design has been known to divide opinion, it is certainly a stylish device with a lot of premium features.
Like the XPS 15, It comes preloaded with the professional edition of Windows 10, meaning users have access to the more advanced features of the system. This won’t be necessary for a lot of users but as with the Dell, it shows that this laptop is intended for power users and those who need above average features on a day-to-day basis. It is a Windows system, however, so make sure to keep it secure with some antivirus software.
The display is a 15.6” screen with a 3840 x 2160 resolution. It doesn’t quite have the near bezel-less display of the XPS 15 but it is still a very good display with plenty of detail and decent color accuracy. It is a shame not to see a 17” version of this device, however, a screen of that size would hinder portability somewhat.
The internals used in this laptop are very powerful. It uses an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, keeping it on par with most high-end laptops and ensuring super-fast processi pacities and it would be nice to see this improved on next years model. The Spectre x360 also uses Radeon RX Vega M Graphics, which will provide adequate graphics performance, however, it will struggle with games that are very graphics-intensive.
The laptop has a decent selection of ports and many users will be able to benefit from the fact that it has two Thunderbolt 3 ports on top of a range of others. This means the need for adapters will be low and users will still be able to use the speed of Thunderbolt 3 for more than one thing at a time. This combination is something that a lot of other laptops aren’t currently able to offer.
The port selection is among the best, however, it doesn’t really excel in any other area. It is still a very powerful and capable laptop though.
6. HP Spectre x360(Best Value)
The Apple MacBook Air recently got an update and the new version is simply stunning. It is made from 100% recycled aluminum and the whole thing is less than 16mm thick. On top of this, the MacBook Air also fairly high specifications that put it almost on par with some of the best performing laptops on this list.
Like all Mac computers, the Air uses MacOS and the latest device comes preloaded with MacOS Mojave. This is a very premium operating system with a beautiful UI and great security features. The operating system is usually one of the main reasons why Windows users aren’t willing to make the switch to a Mac, however, if you are tempted to buy a Mac, you should know that it really doesn’t take too much time to get used to MacOS as the system is really user-friendly.
The air has a 13.3” screen with Retina Display. This display means that the colors are very vibrant and extremely accurate. The bezels are also a lot thinner than on the previous model and the whole display just looks a lot more stylish in general.
The components are the only real weak point for the MacBook Air, most notably the processor. It uses an 8th-Gen Intel Core i5 processor and although this laptop isn’t necessarily intended power users, it is a shame that Apple hasn’t realized an i7 version. The MacBook Air does have 16GB of RAM though, which is good as well as up to 1.5TB of SSD storage. This is more than most of the high-end laptops on this list are offering so well done to Apple for that. The MacBook Air also uses Intel UHD Graphics 610, which will work fine for pretty much anything other than heavy gaming or, potentially, 3D-modelling.
The port selection on the new MacBook Air isn’t great. This isn’t surprising, given the type of device this is, however, only having two Thunderbolt 3 ports and an Audio Jack will likely frustrate a lot of people.
As a mid-range laptop it is exceptional, however, the lack of an i7 processor is a problem and the lack of ports will also be an issue for some users.
7. Huawei Matebook X Pro
The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme is potentially the most feature-rich device on this list. For starters, it comes with the professional edition of Windows 10, giving users all the extra features of the system that aren’t available on the more commonly used home edition of the software. These features aren’t usually needed by most people, however, this is a high-end premium laptop and the operating system should reflect that.
The display is 15.6” wide with a resolution of either 1920 x 1080 or 3840 x 2160. This is very similar to the options on the Dell XPS 15, with the 1080p version providing a non-touch anti-glare screen and the 4K version using a touchscreen. Although the 4K version will provide better images, the reflective screen can be an annoyance for some people and it also adds to the weight of the device, so it really comes down to preference as to which is the better option.
The components used on this device are very powerful, with the X1 again showing similarities to the XPS 15. It too uses an 8th-Gen Intel Core i7, meaning its processing speeds are super-fast. On top of this, the X1 can also be customized to have up to 32GB of RAM, so multitasking won’t be an issue. The 1TB SSD is also good to see, however, it doesn’t compare to the 4TB SSDs being put into the MacBook Pro. The GPU is a GTX 1050ti which will be more than enough to run most games at 1080p. There is a chance, however, that the X1 will get hot during longer gaming sessions as it isn’t specifically a gaming laptop and, therefore, can’t provide the same level of cooling.
The port selection on this laptop is among the best when it comes to modern high-end laptops. There are plenty of options for outputting video and connecting peripherals and the only real downside is that there is only one Thunderbolt 3 port. This might not be an issue right now, but it does affect the future-proofing of this laptop somewhat.
In terms of functionality it is arguably the best on this list, however, it is not a very pretty laptop. This might not be an issue for a lot of users but considering how good most high-end laptops look these days, it’s a shame Lenovo couldn’t come up with something a little better.
8. Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme
The Huawei Matebook X Pro might just be the prettiest looking laptop on the market today. Although it has clearly taken some inspiration from Apple’s MacBook range, it has also improved on the design in some areas, boasting a near bezel-less display.
The operating system pre-loaded onto this device is the home edition of Windows 10. This will allow users to get most tasks done, however, being a “pro” laptop, it is a shame not to see the professional edition being offered. As with any Windows laptop, there are also higher risks to security, so some form of antivirus software is recommended.
The screen is 13.9” wide with a resolution of 3000 x 2000. This isn’t quite 4K, but it is still a very high resolution and thanks to the Matebook’s almost bezel-less screen, the display is stunning. The only downside here is that there isn’t a bigger version available such as a 15” or even 17” variant, as the bezels are so small.
The components used in this device are also pretty good. Like the majority of laptops on this list, it uses an 8th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor, which will provide plenty of power when it comes to processing data. It also 16GB of RAM which isn’t huge by today’s standards but for a laptop such as this, it is plenty. The storage capacity is a bit of a let down as it only has a 512GB SSD.
This is still a decent amount of storage but so many high-end laptops are now using 1TB SSDs, so it’s a shame not to see the Matebook doing the same. As for the graphics card, it uses a GeForce GTX MX150. This is a decent card that will easily handle most tasks, although, it will struggle if used to play certain games.
Finally, the port selection on this device is average. It has two USB-C ports with one offering Thunderbolt 3, however, it only has one USB-A port and no HDMI port. These ports aren’t always necessary nowadays, and most laptops usually only offer one option for outputting video anyway, but it really depends on the individual as to whether the ports on this device will be enough.