Looking Inside Different Cables With USB-C Connectors lumafield.com

Lumafield, which makes X-ray scanners for inspecting manufacturing quality, has done a bit of content marketing:

Does Apple’s Thunderbolt 4 cable really warrant its $129 price tag? Or does a $5 cable get the job done just as well? We’ve used our Neptune industrial X-ray CT scanner to uncover the hidden engineering differences between them.

This is, at most, an interesting look inside different cables. Apparently, it is critical for paired circuit traces to be of identical length, so one part of a trace on the board inside the Thunderbolt cable’s plug includes a wiggly area to make its length match. That is neat to see and, also, something I clearly do not understand.

I do happen to understand different types of USB cables a little bit, and Lumafield has not presented a useful way to pit the very expensive Thunderbolt cable against comparable alternatives. Instead, the three other cables Lumafield selected are: one from Amazon Basics that is limited to USB 2.0 transfer speed; one from an off-brand sold through Amazon that claims USB 3.1 speed, but Lumafield did not test this claim; and a different off-brand sold through Amazon which carries data at USB 2.0 speed. Notably, none of these cables are Thunderbolt 4 cables.

I would have loved to see what makes Apple’s $130 cable different from, say, Monoprice’s $50 equivalent or a $20 Maxonar-branded cable. Both seem to have the same specs as Apple’s, and I think assessing the construction differences between those would be more useful. Perhaps Apple’s price tag is not pure markup; there is a surprising difference in the quality of power adapters, for example.