May 31st 2018
The Apple Thunderbolt Port Explained
If you don’t attach any peripherals to your used Mac, then the ports are no big deal. This might be the case if have a Mac laptop and you never connect it to any external devices.
But for many Mac users, an important consideration when shopping for a used and refurbished Mac laptop or desktop is the ports and connections. The ports determine what type of peripherals and how many peripherals you can connect to your used Mac.
One of the biggest changes to happen to Macs in recent years is the addition of the Thunderbolt port.
The Thunderbolt Port is a much faster way to connect your peripheral devices, such as external displays, hard drives, RAID drives and video capture devices. The Thunderbolt port is an amazing technological advance. But it does have one problem. It looks just like the Mini Display Port.
What’s the Mini DisplayPort?
Before the Thunderbolt port, there was the Mini DisplayPort. It’s physically the same size and shape as the Thunderbolt port. You can even plug a Thunderbolt cable into the Mini Display Port. Trouble is, the Mini DisplayPort won’t work with Thunderbolt devices.
The only way you can tell the difference between a Mini DisplayPort and a Thunderbolt port is by the tiny symbol next to the port. The Thunderbolt port has a little lightning bolt, while the Mini DisplayPort has a box icon that looks like the screen of a TV or a computer display.
The Mini DisplayPort was designed for connecting external displays. You can use a Mini DisplayPort connector and attach it directly to an Apple LED Cinema Display or to an iMac. Also, with the proper adapter, you can use the Mini DisplayPort to connect VGA, DVI and HDMI displays to your used Mac.
If you have an Apple Cinema Display and need the Mini DisplayPort, you can find one on these Mac laptops and desktops.
The Mini DisplayPort was first available:
- Late 2008 for Macbook Pro
- All models for Macbook Air
- Late 2009 for Macbook
- Early 2009 for iMac
- Early 2009 for Mac Pro
- Mid 2010 for Mac mini
The Thunderbolt Port
The first thing to know about the Thunderbolt port is that you can use it just like a Mini DisplayPort. Thunderbolt is backwards compatible with the Mini DisplayPort. That means that you can connect devices to Thunderbolt that worked with the older Mini DisplayPort, such as the Apple Cinema Display.
It’s also possible to use the Thunderbolt port to connect to your Mac to HDMI compatible devices, such as your TV or stereo system, using an HDMI adapter.
But there is so much more to the Thunderbolt port! You can use it with any peripherals that support the Thunderbolt format. Since Thunderbolt first appeared, the number of devices that have a Thunderbolt port have grown considerably. And with the right adapters, you can connect your Thunderbolt-capable Mac to just about any peripheral that uses USB, FireWire or PCI Express technology.
The big deal with Thunderbolt is the speed. It’s 20x faster than USB 2.0, and 12x faster than FireWire 800. Thunderbolt has 2 channels, giving you data transfer speeds of 10Gbps in both directions.
Some Macs have more than one Thunderbolt Port, but you probably will only need just one. That’s because you can daisy-chain up to six Thunderbolt devices to a single Thunderbolt port. This is like connecting strings of Christmas lights together. You can just add more to the end of the string. Daisy-chaining is super convenient if you have a Mac laptop that you connect to devices on your desktop. All your Thunderbolt devices can be connected to your Mac laptop with one connection. Just unplug that one connector and the power cord, and you’re ready to go.
Before Thunderbolt, the slow rate of data transfer between your used Mac and your external devices caused a real bottleneck. But no more. You can store your data files, such as large images or video files, on an external hard drive and access them with blinding speed.
Which Macs have a Thunderbolt port?
When browsing the GainSaver website for used and refurbished Mac laptops and desktops with a Thunderbolt port, look for these Macs.
The Thunderbolt port was first available:
- Early 2011 for Macbook Pro
- Mid 2011 for Macbook Air
- Mid 2011 for iMac
- Mid 2011 for Mac mini
- Late 2013 for Mac Pro (black model)
Finding the right used Mac for you
While shopping at GainSaver for your cheap refurbished Mac laptop or Mac desktop, you can see the ports and connections for most refurbished Macs in the Category List View.
Clicking on an item in the List View takes you to the item Detail View. From the Detail View you can see all the specifications for that particular Mac by clicking on the Details tab. Along with complete information about the system, you can also find links there to the original Apple technical specifications and the User Guide in PDF format.
When comparing two or more different Macs using the compare, you can click the Grid button to compare all the ports and connections side by side, rather than listed one above the other.
You can always find the best deals at GainSaver. But we also have the biggest selection of used and refurbished Macs anywhere. You can browse our large select for just the used cheap Mac you’re looking for, with the right processor, screen size and ports you need. It’s just one more reason to shop GainSaver.