Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


Here's why Apple's Thunderbolt cables are so expensive

It's less a case of why it's so expensive, and more a case of why are the others so cheap?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Apple Thunderbolt cable

Apple has even put a wiggle in one of the tracks on the circuit board inside its Thunderbolt 4 Pro cable to make sure data tracks are the same length.


Apple is notorious for charging a premium price for, well, everything. Its cables are no exception. 

Take its Thunderbolt 4 Pro cables, which cost an eye-watering $69 for a 1-meter cable, $129 for the 1.8-meter cable, and $159 for the 3-meter cable (interestingly, it's otherwise hard to find a 3-meter Thunderbolt 4 cable from another vendor).

Also: Your new iPhone 15 suffering from screen burn-in? Apple has some good news for you

Compare this to a USB-C cable from the Amazon Basics line, which costs only $10. I mean, a cable is just a cable, right?


A company called Lumafield used an X-ray CT scanner to take a look at various cables, and when it examined the Apple cable, it found a high level of engineering and attention to details. I mean, it has to be, because this single cable supports Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, and USB 4 data transfer with speeds hitting 40 Gb/s. It also supports DisplayPort video output, and to top it all off, it can deliver up to 100W to devices for charging,

To achieve this, Lumafield found that Apple's cable was a marvel of engineering. 

Also: iPhone 15 Pro overheating: Thermal photos before and after iOS 17.0.3

For example, the cable entering the connector is crimped from eight different directions in order to fully shield the connector. Each of the 24 pins on the connector is mounted independently onto a 10-layer circuit board, and there's even a little wiggle in one of the tracks on the circuit board to make sure that all the data lines are the same length -- allowing for the best possible performance and reliability.

"Overall," writes Lumafield, "the Thunderbolt cable is a stunning piece of precision engineering."

Compare this to the $10 cable, which is fine for general use but is in a different league. This cable is a USB-C to USB-C 2.0 fast charge cable built for charging speeds up to 60W and data transfer speeds up to 480Mbps. This cable utilizes the plastic shell for shielding and strain relief, and it only has 12 pins used in the connector tip.

It seems that you do get what you pay for.

Editorial standards