TB-to-TB cables seems to be more expensive than mDP-to-mDP cables.

Is there any actual difference besides the branding?

This is for use in connecting a MacBook Pro to a dock with multiple ports (USB 3.0, FireWire, Ethernet, Audio, etc.)

5 Answers 5


Yes, they are different. Display Port is a passive audio/video technology, Thunderbolt is active generic data technology. The hardware inside the cable is necessary to get the full data throughput. A Display Port cable will only carry Video/Audio to an attached monitors*, while a Thunderbolt cable is able to carry all sorts of other data, which is required for your dock with multiple types of ports.

Whilst you can get away with connecting one monitor to Thunderbolt with a mini-DP cable, that's the end of the chain.

In order to chain, you must have Thunderbolt cabling throughout.

See The technology inside Apple’s $50 Thunderbolt cable

Thunderbolt carries Displayport 1.1a video, and will not work with some newer monitors, including 4k monitors. One will need at least DP 1.2 spec cables to power 4k monitors.

Thunderbolt also carries data - 4 high-speed PCI-E channels - in addition to DP 1.1a.

*: Or to multiple monitors is all devices support DP 1.2 with MST.

  • 4
    That’s not true. DisplayPort chaining works without Thunderbolt. When you use a DisplayPort cable, it’s not Thunderbolt, just DisplayPort. Thunderbolt always requires a Thunderbolt cable.
    – Daniel B
    Jan 27, 2016 at 16:16
  • 1
    It didn't at the time this was written. Feel free to update it with current info.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 27, 2016 at 17:29

Difference #1 - performance. The comparison chart below illustrates just how efficient Thunderbolt is with handling media files:

Image up to USB 3.1 gen 2 and Thunderbolt-3

Difference #2 - compatibility. The image below shows which combinations of Thunderbolt (TB Cable) and Mini DisplayPort (DP Cable) will work (marked green) and will not work (marked red) together: Thunderbolt vs. DisplayPort (click to see large picture)

Read more in StarTech blog.

  • 5
    Please include all relevant information in your answer, in case that blog goes down.
    – Daniel B
    Nov 16, 2015 at 14:42
  • 8
    The performance comparison is between USB and TB. The chart is highly irrelevant. Dec 21, 2015 at 10:38
  • @ChristopheDeTroyer Read the question once again and then tell me, what exactly is irrelevant?
    – Erik Kaju
    Dec 21, 2015 at 13:13

According to this source and also this source, you will not be able to use a Mini Display Port cables instead of Thunderbolt cables.

MBA = Mac Book Air.

enter image description here


Mini DisplayPort Cable

       OUT       |        IN        
Mini DisplayPort | Mini DisplayPort
Thunderbolt      | Mini DisplayPort

Thunderbolt Cable

       OUT       |        IN        
Thunderbolt      | Thunderbolt

Nothing works for Mini DisplayPort to Thunderbolt.

  1. DP (DisplayPort) is a new generation hd audio and video interface standard proposed by VESA (video electronic standards association) in May 2006. Currently, it has reached DP1.2 version. enter image description here

  2. The appearance and size of the Mini DP and ThunderBolt 1, ThunderBolt 2 interfaces are the same. enter image description here

  3. The main difference between Mini DP interface and ThunderBolt interface is that ThunderBolt has data transmission function (PCI), while Mini DP has no data transmission function.
  4. ThunderBolt is a composite interface, can be understood as it provides PCI-E to external devices (Computer graphics card, sound card, etc., connected to the CPU via the PCI slot), Intel made full use of this feature to develop the Thunderbolt interface, ThunderBolt = DP + PCI, that is, the ThunderBolt interface can be As the DP transmits audio and video signals to the display, it can also transmit data as PCI. enter image description here
  5. Mini Displayport is a miniature interface of Displayport, which only supports Display. For the cable with only Display function, they have the same purpose, but ThunderBolt is developed on Mini Displayport, so the predecessor of ThunderBolt 3 is ThunderBolt 2, and the predecessor of ThunderBolt 2 is the Mini Displayport. enter image description here
  6. Now all the products of the new apple Mac are changed from MiniDP standard to ThunderBolt standard, and there are a lot of displays and hard disk storage around the thunderBolt interface. enter image description here

For more details, please refer to: http://www.shinecable.com/productlists/63.html

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