Best Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Cards

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How can you determine the best Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card to buy from the numerous options available in the market?  Read along as we carefully review some of the TB 3 cards available for your setup in 2021.

First, let us find out why Thunderbolt 3 PCIe cards are so important. To take advantage of the power and speed of Thunderbolt 3, one of the best connectivity standards right now, you need to enhance your computer’s motherboard by inserting a Thunderbolt 3 PCle card.

What is a Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card?

Peripheral Component Interconnect Express or PCIe is a very fast serial computer expansion bus, created to replace the older PCI, PCIx, and AGP bus models.

Thunderbolt 3 is one of the most stunning advancements in USB type C technology. Offering a maximum speed of 40 Gbps, PCIe cards allow lightning-fast data transfer between computers, peripherals, and expansion hubs. 

A Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card uses a PCIe slot in your motherboard to instantly enable your computer to have Thunderbolt 3 support. You can even have up to two Thunderbolt 3 ports in the card, depending on the type of card you buy.

Of course, not all motherboards support Thunderbolt 3 PCle cards. If your motherboard is compatible, then you need to go for one of these cards.   

Here are the best choices of network cards when looking for a Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card.

Best Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Cards

ImageProductRatingPrice
BEST OVERALL
Gigabyte GC-Titan Ridge
Gigabyte GC-Titan Ridge

Brand: Gigabyte
Model: GC-TITAN RIDGE
Graphics RAM: 1 GB
Weight: 13.6 ounces
Size: 8.27 x 5.83 x 2.16 inches
Released: August 1, 2018

9.9
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SECOND PICK
ASUS ThunderboltEX 3-TR
ASUS ThunderboltEX 3-TR

Brand: ASUS
Model: ThunderboltEX 3-TR
Graphics RAM: 16 GB
Weight: 1.35 pounds
Size: 3.35 x 3.94 x 2.5 inches
Released: May 21, 2020

9.6
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BUDGET PICK
Gigabyte GC-Alpine Ridge
Gigabyte GC-Alpine Ridge

Brand: Gigabyte
Model: GC-ALPINE RIDGE
Graphics RAM: 1 GB
Weight: 12 ounces
Size: 8.26 x 5.82 x 2.2 inches
Released: September 12, 2017

9.1
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PRICE/QUALITY <3
ASRock Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Card
ASRock Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Card

Brand: ASRock
Model: Thunderbolt 3 AIC R2.0
Memory Speed: 1 GHz
Graphics RAM: 1 GB
Weight: 7.9 ounces
Size: 9 x 5.5 x 2 inches
Released: November 22, 2019

8.8
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UPGRADE CARD
Sonnet Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Upgrade Card
Sonnet Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Upgrade Card

Brand: SONNET TECHNOLOGIES
Model: BRD-UPGRTB3-E3
RAM Size: 16 GB
Weight: 3.53 ounces
Size: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1 inches
Released: April 27, 2017

8.6
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Let’s look closer at these cards, and check out the fantastic features that make them the best in the market.

1. Gigabyte GC-Titan Ridge – Best Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Card Overall

Best Overall
Best Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Card Overall

Gigabyte GC-Titan Ridge

The GIGABYTE GC-TITAN RIDGE PCIe card is a superior performance card that offers you an easy way to upgrade your motherboard with a faster Thunderbolt 3 connection without the need to upgrade to a whole new computer.

In our review, it turns out to be the best overall Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card.

This card is one of the most well-engineered add-in boards in the market. You can use it to set up two displays in 4K resolution at 60 FPS.  The GIGABYTE GC-Titan Ridge PCIe card has revolutionary features like Power Delivery 3.0 which sustains up to 100W.

This Thunderbolt 3 PCle card is compatible with all GIGABYTE motherboards that have a Thunderbolt 3 Lightning Bolt logo, especially Intel Z390, H370, and B360 series, as well as AMD X570 series.

Connectivity

GIGABYTE GC-Titan Ridge PCIe card provides you with a maximum bandwidth of 40 Gbps, which is two times faster than Thunderbolt 2, and eight times faster than USB 3. 

This card is DisplayPort 1.4 capable, with an 8K video display. It allows you to daisy-chain up to 12 devices at 6 Thunderbolt devices per port without the necessity for an additional switch or hub. This is made possible by the dual USB Type-C ports.

Accessories

The following accessories are included in the product pack.

  • Two Mini DisplayPort cables
  • One THB-C Header Cable
  • One USB 2.0 /1.1 Header Cable
PROs
  • Build with high power delivery standards
  • 8k capability with DisplayPort bus
  • Two bidirectional Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Compatible with a wide range of motherboards
CONs
  • High price
  • No HDMI port

2. ASUS ThunderboltEX 3-TR – Runner Up Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Card

2nd Overall
2nd Best Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Card

ASUS ThunderboltEX 3-TR

The ASUS ThunderboltEX 3-TR Expansion Card is the best quality card in the market for the latest motherboards like Z490 Intel 10th Gen CPU.

The ASUS ThunderboltEX 3-TR Expansion Card can support up to six devices and one 8K Ultra HD connected in a daisy-chain.

Intel’s plan was to push Thunderbolt 3 deeper into the limelight by enabling a variety of motherboards to support the standard. Thus, they allowed direct integration of this technology into their high-end Z490 and H470 motherboards. They also designed an expansion option that uses a TB3 motherboard header. 

Installation is simple. Just insert the Support DVD provided in the pack to access the ThunderboltEX 3-TR driver. Then, follow the instructions displayed to install the driver. Shutdown your computer, insert the card and start the system again. 

Connectivity

The ASUS ThunderboltEX 3-TR Expansion Card has four PCIe 3.0 interface and two Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C ports. 

The card uses Intel’s “Titan Ridge” 2-port TB3 controller. It needs a 6-pin PCIe power connection to function. 

It has 8K Ultra HD support and two Mini DisplayPort pass through, which is useful for the high performance Thunderbolt displays.   

For external connectors, a single port integrating Thunderbolt 3 with reversible USB 3.1 Type-C along with DisplayPort 1.4 provides up to 40 Gbps transfer speed. It also provides 100W USB quick charge function,

Accessories

The following accessories are included in the product pack.

  • One 14-1 pin Thunderbolt header cable
  • Two Mini DisplayPort cables
  • One USB 2.0 cable
  • 14-1 pin Thunderbolt cable
PROs
  • Supports latest Intel motherboards (10th Gen Systems)
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Provides 100W USB quick charge function
CONs
  • It does not work with older Intel chipsets

3. Gigabyte GC-Alpine Ridge – Best Budget Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Card

Best Budget
Best Budget Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Card

Gigabyte GC-Alpine Ridge

Gigabyte’s GC-Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card is another high quality card, released into the market on August 25th, 2016.

Gigabyte Technology Co. Ltd is a leading manufacturer of computer motherboards, adapter cards and graphics cards.

At just about $60, this card is one of the most affordable cards in the market. However, the card offers competitive specifications and performance that even rival some of the expensive Thunderbolt 3 PCIe cards reviewed in this article.

Acknowledging Gigabyte’s role as a pace setter, several devices in the market were designed using Gigabyte boards as standard sample. This card is capable of delivering 40 Gbps bi-directional bandwidth. It is also DisplayPort 1.2 capable, with 4K Video. 

At the Gigabyte website, there is a list of motherboards that are compatible with this card. The drivers and files required for installation of the Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3 card can also be downloaded.

Connectivity

Using GC-Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card you can simplify cables around the computer. This card provides connectivity by means of dual Thunderbolt 3 Ports – USB Type-C.

You can daisy-chain up to a maximum of 12 devices – six devices per port – with a monitor added at the end.

Accessories

The following accessories are included in the product pack.

  • Two Mini DisplayPort Cables
  • One THB Header Cable
PROs
  • It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports for connectivity
  • It has an HDMI port
CONs
  • Rigorous installation process
  • Low power supply

4. ASROCK Thunderbolt 3 AIC – Value Pick Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Card

Price/Quality <3
Best Price/Quality for a Thunderbolt PCIe Card

ASROCK Thunderbolt 3 AIC R2.0

ASRock Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card is a rugged PCIe card that has the Thunderbolt capacity for 40 Gbps bi-directional bandwidth per channel. 

This is a card that works excellently well with any versions of Microsoft Windows 10 and Windows 8.

ASRock is renowned for producing excellent computer motherboards. This add-in PCIe card is yet one of their leading devices, allowing you to take full advantage of the cutting-edge Thunderbolt 3 standard.

For power delivery, this card supports charging through USB PD 2.0 up to 12V at 3A (36W).

Connectivity

This powerful card allows for a single cable connection for linking your 5K at 60Hz display or two 4K at 60Hz displays. It allows daisy-chaining of maximum of six Thunderbolt devices.

The ASRock Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card can connect to any dock, display or device, including PCIe, USB, and DisplayPort protocols.

With Intel chipset branding, this card has four interfaces for PCIe 3.0. Its external connectors are 2 Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports, 1 DisplayPort in port and 1 mini-DisplayPort in port.

Thus, it can connect to any dock, device or display.

Accessories

  • The following accessories are included in the product pack.
  • Quick Installation Guide, Support CD
  • One TBT Header Cable
  • One DisplayPort Cable
  • One Mini DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort Cable
  • One Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort Adapter Cable
PROs
  • Simple Installation procedure
  • Compatible with a wide range of motherboards
  • It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports
CONs
  • Low power supply – 36 W
  • No HDMI port

5. Sonnet Thunderbolt 3 Upgrade for Echo Express – Best TB3 PCIe Upgrade Card

Upgrade Card
5. Sonnet Thunderbolt 3 Upgrade for Echo Express - Best TB3 PCIe Upgrade Card

Sonnet Thunderbolt 3 Upgrade Card

Sonnet designed this very impressive card as an upgrade card. For your Echo Express Thunderbolt 2 adapters to be quickly upgraded to 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3, simply replace the existing interface board with the upgrade board.

This upgrade card is different from the other PCIe cards we have discussed so far, because this card connects solely to the Echo Express expansion box instead of a motherboard.

Thus, your system will instantly support any higher speed demands, and connection to your Thunderbolt 3-equipped devices can be done without requiring an adapter. 

The advantage of having a Thunderbolt 3 interface card installed is that your upgraded Echo Express Thunderbolt 2 system will instantly start to gain from 30 percent to 100 percent more bandwidth functionality over the original system. 

The installation process for this card is quite simple. It does not require the use of cables. You simply replace any Thunderbolt 2 interface board in the Echo Express with Sonnet Thunderbolt 3 upgrade card through the PCI Express slot. Thus, with just a few simple steps, you can upgrade the transfer speeds of your devices from 20Gbps to the theoretical 40Gbps of Thunderbolt 3.

This card has a graphics RAM size of 16GB and a maximum display resolution of 4K. 

There is a two year warranty on it, with lifetime customer support.

Connectivity

There are two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on this card. One port is reserved for connection to a computer, while the second port provides daisy-chaining connectivity for maximum of five additional Thunderbolt devices. 

It can provide connection for two 4K displays or one 5K display.

The Sonnet Thunderbolt 3 upgrade card for Thunderbolt 3 has a connector retainer clip that secures cables from accidental disconnections.

Accessories

This product comes with two Thunderbolt 3 cables. in the product pack and is the only PCIe add-in card in common use that provides Thunderbolt 3 cables for ease of connectivity.

PROs
  • Upgrades the motherboard, rather than adapts it.
  • It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • It allows daisy-chaining
  • It comes with two cables
CONs
  • It should not be inserted into computer motherboards
  • It has no HDM ports, or DisplayPort ports

What is the best Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card?

The ASUS ThunderboltEX 3-TR Expansion Card is the best quality card in the market that provides excellent support for new motherboards like Z490 Intel 10th Gen CPU. The card uses Intel’s “Titan Ridge” 2-port TB3 controller.

However, for general purposes, the best overall Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card is the GIGABYTE GC-TITAN RIDGE. This card is a brilliantly engineered card with revolutionary features like Power Delivery 3.0 which sustains up to 100W of power supply.

The GIGABYTE GC-TITAN RIDGE PCIe card is compatible with all GIGABYTE motherboards that have a Thunderbolt Lightning Bolt logo, especially Intel Z390, H370, and B360 series, as well as AMD X570 series.

John Hill