What’s The Difference Between Thunderbolt And Mini DisplayPort?

Apple's Thunderbolt and DisplayPort

by Michael Alvarez

In recent years, Apple has begun to switch it’s old mini DisplayPort over to the new, more powerful, Thunderbolt port. However, the technology has confused some and left many Mac owners confused with how they can fully use the ports on their computer. This content will take a look at the difference between the mini DisplayPort (MDP) and the Thunderbolt (TB) ports, and what each one can do for your computer.

The Beginnings

First and foremost, it’s important to explain what the purpose is for either of these ports. The MDP and TB ports give the user the ability to transfer files between devices, or to hook up your device to another monitor. This is perfect for transferring large files that would take quite a while with regular USB, and the secondary monitor is perfect for more screen space and room to watch movies, work, or simply browse the internet.

However, the TB port is a new technology created by Apple that supports high-resolution displays and allows for much better graphics on your secondary monitor. Furthermore, for digital data transferring, the TB transfers files at up to 10Gbps, which is more than 20 times faster than normal USB. Overall, like most Apple products, the TB port is leading the way with technological advancement in what it does for Mac users.


The TB port can be found on newer versions of the MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini and the iMac. Where Apple may have confused its users is that the TB port looks very similar to the MDP port. As a matter of fact, the only difference is that the TB port has a lightning symbol next to it, while the MDP port has what appears to be an image of the MDP port itself. Because of the similarities, many users have been confused with knowing which technology they have.

Good News

The good news is, users who have a TB connection (ie. a newer Apple products) can connect to other systems with a TB wire, or even a backwards-compatible MDP wire. The bad news is, users who have Mini Displayport cannot use a TB wire to transfer files or get better resolution on a secondary monitor, but instead have to continue to rely on MDP technology.

Apple Technology

Apple is notorious for adding new technology to their products. A prime example is their new lightning adapter technology that came with the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. This meant that users who have accumulated many iPhone or iPad accessories, on older models, would no longer be able to use them on their new devices. This can be quite frustrating for Apple customers, and for good reason. After all, you paid all that money and the last thing you want is for it to be outdated within a year.


However, the new technology of the TB port on new Macs is a worthwhile and needed change for computers. As technology continues to advance, files are bigger, graphics are better, and the need to get things done faster is more important. With the new TB port, you now have all of these capabilities that were previously unattainable with the Mini DisplayPort. And considering the TB is backwards compatible, users will not have to worry about their technology being outdated in the near future. The Thunderbolt port is a much-appreciated technology that is sure to be useful on your Apple computer.

Citations: Apple Thunderbolt


Author Michael Alvarez has been working in the electronics and technology field for over 20 years. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise of mini displayport apple products with others; while continuing to grow his knowledge.

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