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Asus, MSI announce Thunderbolt-equipped boards

Asus, MSI announce Thunderbolt-equipped boards

The Asus P8Z77-V Premium is joined by the P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt and MSI Z77A-GD80 as the first boards to come with Thunderbolt connectivity on board.

Motherboard makers Asus and MSI have become the first out of the blocks with Thunderbolt-equipped models, bringing the previously Apple-exclusive peripheral connector to PCs as an on-board feature for the first time.

The Asus P8Z77-V Premium, claimed to be the first Intel-certified motherboard to include the joint Apple-Intel developed Thunderbolt technology, includes multiple features designed to enhance and extend the included Intel Z77 chipset including true four-way Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFireX on PCI Express Gen 3.0 slots, SSD Caching II with on-board 32GB mSATA SSD to get you started, two Intel-powered gigabit Ethernet ports, and six USB ports supporting the USB 3.0 Boost performance upgrade.

It's the Thunderbolt port that makes the P8Z77-V Premium special, though. Offering simultaneous bi-directional data transfer at up to 10Gb/s and support for daisy-chaining up to six devices - as well as a seventh Thunderbolt or DisplayPort display device at the end of the chain - the technology shows promise as a high-speed alternative to USB 3.0.

The same port is available on the new P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt, and while pricing has yet to be confirmed it's likely to come in at a lower cost compared to the Intel-certified Premium model above while retaining most of the stand-out features of its luxury equivalent.

MSI's Z77A-GD80, which the company claims is the 'world's first mainboard with Thunderbolt support' thanks to the fact it originally demoed the board back at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, offers many of the same features. While it lacks the on-board SSD and clever caching technology of its Asus rival, it packs MSI's top-end Military Class III components - including the usual highly-conductive polymerised capacitors (Hi-C CAP,) super ferrite choke (SFC) and solid capacitor parts - along with the MSI OC Genie II overclocking system.

At present, Thunderbolt is hardly ubiquitous. Aside from a handful of monitors and external storage devices, the port is nowhere to be seen on peripherals. As increasing quantities of motherboards with on-board support appear, that is likely to change - and with Thunderbolt offering features beyond those of USB, including the ability to use the PCI Express lanes inherent in a Thunderbolt connection to communicate with an external graphics card at full speed - it'll be interesting to see what the industry comes up with to make real use of the technology's flexibility.

This isn't the first time MSI has 'launched' its Thunderbolt board - as well as the CES outing in January, it issued a press release confirming the board earlier this month - but both companies are still quiet on UK availability and pricing.

15 Comments

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SaNdCrAwLeR 22nd May 2012, 12:17 Quote
The Asus P8Z77-V Premium,
I just peed my pants with those features...
r3loaded 22nd May 2012, 14:07 Quote
Meanwhile, the cables still cost a crapload, and the few devices that even support Thunderbolt cost even more.
Phil Rhodes 22nd May 2012, 19:50 Quote
Quote:
the port is nowhere to be seen on peripherals

This is not so. However, most of the peripherals that do exist are medium- to high-end video capture devices, which aren't of general interest.
Gareth Halfacree 22nd May 2012, 20:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
This is not so. However, most of the peripherals that do exist are medium- to high-end video capture devices, which aren't of general interest.
I can't help but notice you also trimmed the start of that sentence: "Aside from a handful of monitors and external storage devices..."
Phil Rhodes 22nd May 2012, 20:43 Quote
Well, okay, but the devices I've seen aren't either monitors or storage devices. Delete the comment if it offends you.
fodder 22nd May 2012, 21:57 Quote
This is strangely reminiscent of firewire in the early '90's, seem to remember apple pushing it as 'the next big thing' while no-one else was interested. Was much much faster than serial and cheaper than SCSI - just - but really didn't catch on that well as USB ended up being much cheaper and more flexible.
The_Beast 22nd May 2012, 22:07 Quote
Meh
Gareth Halfacree 22nd May 2012, 22:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
Well, okay, but the devices I've seen aren't either monitors or storage devices. Delete the comment if it offends you.
Why would I do that? That's censorship. (Also, I'm a lowly freelancer - I have no moderation rights on the fora.)
Cei 23rd May 2012, 00:40 Quote
I really want to know when Asus will release a new Maximus Gene with Thubderbolt onboard, rather than a top end full ATX board. Still, at least the launch is happening!
Bindibadgi 23rd May 2012, 03:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
I really want to know when Asus will release a new Maximus Gene with Thubderbolt onboard, rather than a top end full ATX board. Still, at least the launch is happening!

PM'd you.
Dave Lister 23rd May 2012, 08:05 Quote
As fodder said, this just seems like another firewire. Also I don't see it taking off as USB 3 is already here and has the backwards compatibility thing working in it's favor.
Guinevere 23rd May 2012, 09:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fodder
This is strangely reminiscent of firewire in the early '90's, seem to remember apple pushing it as 'the next big thing' while no-one else was interested. Was much much faster than serial and cheaper than SCSI - just - but really didn't catch on that well as USB ended up being much cheaper and more flexible.

Firewire became THE standard for connecting digital video cameras and still has a lot of followers today. Like other big players, Apple has been happy to be an early adopter of connectivity tech. Apple worked with Intel to put it on consumer devices, and I'd wager that this mobo from Asus will turn out to be >50% the starting price of a Mac with thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt is a very respectable interconnect and a great partner to have for USB 3.

So what if there isn't a massive torrent of flakey thunderbolt devices with limited driver support. What is available is generally speaking very solid tech.

Oh, and before anyone starts moaning about the price of a thunderbolt cable. Yes they're expensive because of the chips in them but there are now other choices than Apple's (Although they are all shorter and more expensive!)
mclean007 23rd May 2012, 11:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
I really want to know when Asus will release a new Maximus Gene with Thubderbolt onboard, rather than a top end full ATX board. Still, at least the launch is happening!

PM'd you.
That's rather telling :-)
liratheal 23rd May 2012, 12:21 Quote
I've no problem with Thunderbolt, other than I suspect it's going to go the way of Firewire. Reasonable uptake to start with, but lower sales in comparison to USB forcing it to the back of the bus for anyone not a digital video enthusiast/pro.

I'm sure its enhanced feature set will help it along some, but I'm not adopting until it's an established tech that won't go away in 5 years, and leave me needing to re-buy several peripherals in USB4, or whatever else happens to be the most ubiquitous connector at the time.
supermonkey 24th May 2012, 19:17 Quote
I've noticed a few people mention video devices. It's worth noting here that In the prosumer/professional video markets, Firewire connectivity is becoming less ubiquitous. HD-SDI and HDMI interfaces are more common in those areas, and video processing hardware is reaching a suitable price point for lower-end users.
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