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Asus Unveils Thunderbolt Add-In Upgrade Card

By , Benjamin Kraft - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 33 comments

Asus is demonstrating the first add-in card to extend its motherboards with Thunderbolt support.

Asus is demonstrating at Computex 2012 the first add-in card to extend its motherboards with Thunderbolt support. Available in July for about $200, the ThunderboltEX PCIe card is connected to a graphics card or onboard graphics via DisplayPort. The loop-through enables users to combine Thunderbolt with a powerful graphics card. According to Asus, the Thunderbolt card also functions without the DP port connection; however, in this case, it will only be able to support regular data transfers to other Thunderbolt devices, but will not support a Thunderbolt display.

Depending on model, either the Thunderbolt EX and Thunderbolt EX/Dual, the add-in cards feature one or two Thunderbolt ports, one or two DisplayPort in connectors (so you can input a video signal and output to a Thunderbolt monitor), 10 Gb/s max bandwidth total, and up to 6 devices in a daisy-chain.

 

Only ten Asus motherboards currently support the add-in card. A requirement for the card is a TB_Header port which is only available on Ivy Bridge boards with H77 and Z77 chipsets. The supported boards are the P8Z77-V Deluxe, P8Z77-V, P8Z77-V LE, P8H77-V, Sabertooth Z77, P8Z77-V Pro, P8Z77-V LE Plus, P8-Z77-V LK, P8H77-M Pro and Maximus V Gene.

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Top Comments
  • 17 Hide
    Anonymous , June 8, 2012 5:41 PM
    Seriously? The card is as expensive as the P877V-Deluxe I bought. Waaaaay too expensive!
  • 15 Hide
    ubercake , June 8, 2012 5:55 PM
    Can anyone please give me a practical current day application of Thunderbolt technology that does not involve simply connecting a monitor to your PC with by way of this new-fangled connection? Hardly any mainstream monitors have a display port connection but we see them on video cards and now we're talking about hooking monitors up via thunderbolt. Well, if my video card only processes so quickly the slot it is in has so many lanes and the bus it's on only supports a certain bandwidth, how does a cable from my PC to my monitor make anything faster?

    Seems like it would be a good USB replacement allowing disks to not even have to be housed within the case any longer? Will there be external video cards or something that will be faster than internal cards using this connection? Will they be faster than the next iteration of PCIe (4.0?)? Will Thunderbolt replace current internal busses? Why do I need a loop through to use a powerful graphics card?

    If a Thunderbolt card runs on a PCIe slot, doesn't that mean PCIe speeds are still faster?

    I guess I'm still trying to grasp the importance of Thunderbolt other than the latest in marketing some product that's been out a while that hardly anyone's wanted to use?

    I hate to sound like an idiot, but can someone please help me out here?
Other Comments
  • 17 Hide
    Anonymous , June 8, 2012 5:41 PM
    Seriously? The card is as expensive as the P877V-Deluxe I bought. Waaaaay too expensive!
  • 15 Hide
    ubercake , June 8, 2012 5:55 PM
    Can anyone please give me a practical current day application of Thunderbolt technology that does not involve simply connecting a monitor to your PC with by way of this new-fangled connection? Hardly any mainstream monitors have a display port connection but we see them on video cards and now we're talking about hooking monitors up via thunderbolt. Well, if my video card only processes so quickly the slot it is in has so many lanes and the bus it's on only supports a certain bandwidth, how does a cable from my PC to my monitor make anything faster?

    Seems like it would be a good USB replacement allowing disks to not even have to be housed within the case any longer? Will there be external video cards or something that will be faster than internal cards using this connection? Will they be faster than the next iteration of PCIe (4.0?)? Will Thunderbolt replace current internal busses? Why do I need a loop through to use a powerful graphics card?

    If a Thunderbolt card runs on a PCIe slot, doesn't that mean PCIe speeds are still faster?

    I guess I'm still trying to grasp the importance of Thunderbolt other than the latest in marketing some product that's been out a while that hardly anyone's wanted to use?

    I hate to sound like an idiot, but can someone please help me out here?
  • 3 Hide
    bucknutty , June 8, 2012 6:05 PM
    I guess we have to keep moving forward.

    Perhaps in a few years TB will be mainstream and we will have universal TB docking ports with external video cards, and extra storage, for laptops. Thats the only consumer use I can see for this in the near future.
  • 1 Hide
    kronos_cornelius , June 8, 2012 6:20 PM
    @ubercake

    Totally agree. I will let the early adopters be the guinea pigs, but current PCIe and Display port meet or exceed current hardware. A quick read of the Thunderbolt standard even mentions there is no need for fiber optics at this point, which is the only cool thing I find about the technology.

    Maybe once the standard goes into say 40Gb/s and Intel uses fiber to communicate chips withing the mobo, maybe the the technology will catch up with the hype. For now, I think is better to spend the money in something where you can measure the improvement.
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , June 8, 2012 6:32 PM
    $200 is far to expensive... but even a Z77 board with TB costs about $200 extra. ($450 - ASUS).

    Quote:
    If a Thunderbolt card runs on a PCIe slot, doesn't that mean PCIe speeds are still faster?

    PCIe is an internal expansion slot. The slots are not serial - cannot be daisy chained TB is external.

    It means that a notebook can have a TB port and you can buy a TB video card (GeForece 890) that plugs into a TB case (with a PCIe port) or a TB native video card and get FULL desktop power.

    Of course, that doesn't matter so much in a world in which games are only for consoles.
  • 1 Hide
    rsktek , June 8, 2012 6:40 PM
    mhmm...
  • -1 Hide
    CaedenV , June 8, 2012 6:50 PM
    ubercakeCan anyone please give me a practical current day application of Thunderbolt technology that does not involve simply connecting a monitor to your PC with by way of this new-fangled connection?

    At the moment there is only 1 other application which is external HDDs for high throughput demands (think video editing off of a portable HDD or raid box). In theory we will later get functionality for high end cameras and other such devices that require mass throughput, but as of yet it is just for ultra high resolution displays and HDDs... and being able to daisy chain both devices (for example you can run multiple HD displays via a single cable from your computer) :) 
    Either way it is super expensive. until it comes integrated on the mobo like it was supposed to be, or else a $50-75 add-on card this is just an insane amount of money for a display adapter.
  • 2 Hide
    goodguy713 , June 8, 2012 7:14 PM
    the only real benefit i see with this thunderbolt upgrade ... well like 2 things .. it should enable 4k resolutions.. and the other is if you have a labtop computer .. with thunderbolt you could buy an adapter and use it to add a gpu to your laptop .. there are gpu addons of this sort that have been made .. weather or not it would be beneficial is another story.. i havent really looked into any benchmarks for it .. but that is what some are doing ..
  • 2 Hide
    warezme , June 8, 2012 7:29 PM
    TB is another technology that can't fit an industry that is far behind. In an ideal market we would all be pushing 4K displays on high end vid cards. Unfortunately the real world is stuck on console spec's and 1920x1080 TN low quality LCD screens. The promise of high res high quality panels has been promised year after year yet no one makes anything the consumer can buy. The industry is blindly stumbling over first low quality netbooks and now low quality pads and then low quality ultrabook, the rest of the world be damned.
  • 7 Hide
    danwat1234 , June 8, 2012 7:30 PM
    USB3 is just fine, thank you.
  • 4 Hide
    thecolorblue , June 8, 2012 8:00 PM
    umm... no

    *no real use for it
    *takes up a PCI slot
    *costs too much
  • 6 Hide
    livebriand , June 8, 2012 8:41 PM
    What's the point of this? And who's willing to pay that much? I'll stick with USB 3.0 (for data), and DVI/HDMI/Displayport (for video), thank you very much.
  • 1 Hide
    lp231 , June 8, 2012 10:28 PM
    They have another one with 2 TB and 2 DP connectors.
    And version 2.0 AM3+ boards will also get TB headers.
  • 2 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , June 8, 2012 10:41 PM
    :::yawn::: call me when they start having affordable Thunderbolt External Hard drives which support Windows. Otherwise, Thunderbolt is a waste. You don't need it for an external webcam and you probably don't need it for a monitor, either. For me, one of the points of having a Desktop was to have the parts installed into the box, not having another box to plug into.
  • 1 Hide
    cmi86 , June 8, 2012 11:25 PM
    HAHA CrApple can keep its garbage thunderbolt until it serves one practical application available to the masses. Until then I'm still rocking USB 3.0 !

  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , June 9, 2012 12:18 AM
    To the people who say "external drive arrays for video editing" this is like saying "I need to turbo charge my honda civic to pull the semi trailer".**** Get a decent machine to begin with and go with it. Internal will always be faster, even if it's just latency. You complain your on a Mac? Make a damn hackintosh so you can support excellent internal arrays with ssd's.

    ****Side note, horsepower does not equal torque. I understand this being in the racing business.
  • 3 Hide
    s3anister , June 9, 2012 2:32 AM
    Thunderbolt just screams niche product. It'd be cool if you could use this kind of bandwidth for a LAN but with a maximum cable length of 3 meters I can't help but feel that this technology is headed for the same fate as Firewire.
  • 1 Hide
    rantoc , June 9, 2012 9:06 AM
    Thunderbolt is technically nice BUT it is having WAY to small market share, henche the price on everything related to it. Guess Intel will have a hard time to push it out now that its been available for quite a while with so poor market penitration. Perhaps Intel will think twice before releasing it to a minuscule 5% of the worlds PC market the next time (the mac's).
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , June 9, 2012 1:23 PM
    TB is very nice but the real power applications for it are not available yet. I'm waiting to see a good monitor with decent graphics card built in plus built in RAID/NAS, 8 port USB3 hub, FW, dual Gbit ethernet, hifi soundcard with midi and any other interface you could think of, to be connected to a ultraportable laptop as a docking station.
  • 2 Hide
    germay0653 , June 9, 2012 2:52 PM
    What is up with ASUS and pricing? First it's the Premium V77 board at $449. The board is great but not at $449. Now the Thunderbolt add-in card at $200. Seriously? I thought I heard JJ say in one of the Youtube videos the card would be arounf $40. I can only imagine what they'll charge for the Maximus V Formula and Extreme. Very, very disappointed in ASUS' pricing!
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