Apple's new Thunderbolt 3 cable is shockingly expensive - here's why you want it

Apple has released a new USB-C Thunderbolt 3 cable that will allow you to connect your Mac to things like Apple's Pro Display XDR and external drives. The cable will definitely turn some heads because of its $129 price tag, because at first glance, it doesn't seem like anything worth writing home about. Dig into the specifications, however, and this starts to sound like one capable cable.

According to the features list on Apple's website, this cable can transfer data over Thunderbolt 3 at up to 40Gbps. It'll also support USB 3.1 Gen 2 data transfer, at rates up to 10Gbps, which is something many cheaper Thunderbolt 3 cables won't. It also supports DisplayPort video using the High Bit Rate 3 standard. Finally, the cable supports 100 watts of power delivery.

The cable actually has a very similar feature set to the 0.8m USB-C cable that Apple offers for $39 – in fact, switching between the two product listings on Apple's website shows near-identical "highlights" sections for both cables. So, why the big difference in price?

The first reason comes down to length, as cables like these tend to get much more expensive the longer they are but still promising support for the maximum 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 rate. Apple's $39 cable is less than a meter in length, while this new cable is more than twice that length at two meters. The 2 meter cable is also braided, which means that it's more durable and less likely to tangle, so that increases the price further.

If it's hard to wrap your head around the differences between various Thunderbolt 3 cables, you could always wait until Thunderbolt 4, which will require that all cables up to 2 meters in length support 40Gbps transfer speeds. You could be waiting a while yet, though, as Intel hasn't given a solid launch date for Thunderbolt 4, saying only that it should be out by the end of the year.

So, there you have it – while Apple's cable may come with a bit of sticker shock, it seems that the high price is warranted in this instance; assuming, of course, that you're looking for a longer Thunderbolt 3 cable that handle 40Gbps data transfer rates. The cable is available on Apple's website beginning today.