ASUS Launches First Thunderbolt Add-On Card - The ThunderboltEX

ASUS Launches First Thunderbolt Add-On Card - The ThunderboltEX

A Thundering Expansion Card Worth Waiting For

Earlier on, Intel provided us with an update on Thunderbolt technology's latest developments. If you have not been following technology news lately, Thunderbolt is a new high-speed, dual protocol I/O that provides up to 10Gbps of bi-directional transfer speeds. What this simply means is that with Thunderbolt technology integrated into today's PC and notebooks (and upcoming Ultrabooks), you'll get extreme transfer speeds between a Thunderbolt-supported device (like an external SSD) and a Thunderbolt-equipped PC over a single cable connection. On the same connection that can be daisy-chained to as many as 6 other devices, both data (PCI Express) and video (DisplayPort) can be transferred to various devices that support it.

ASUS was one of the first to announce and incorporate Thunderbolt ports to their motherboards such as the P8Z77-V Premium and the P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt. More recently, their ROG series Maximus V Extreme (Z77) also featured a Thunderbolt port on the rear-I/O panel.

In addition to those, ASUS has also extended Thunderbolt support to a variety of other Z77 and H77 boards via a Thunderbolt header integrated on the board. Here’s a list of boards that have this expansion header. And finally, to provide the Thunderbolt interface, ASUS launched the ThunderboltEX expansion card:-

After more than a month of waiting, ASUS finally launched their Thunderbolt expansion card.

Using a PCIe x4 interface, the ThunderboltEX is made to occupy one of the lower corresponding expansion slots on their motherboard. It’s also compatible with a PEG slot, but it will occupy just a small portion of a PCIe x16 slot. The compact card comes with two external connectors - a Thunderbolt port and a DisplayPort.

Shown here is the ThunderboltEX's printed circuit board. On the upper right, the card has a 9-pin connector that links to a Thunderbolt header.

The largest IC on the expansion card has the following marking: Z215T004G. It is the same chip integrated into the schema of the P8Z77-V Premium, a Thunderbolt-equipped motherboard from ASUS.

Based on the PCI-Express x4 interface, the ThunderboltEX comes with two external connectors - one Thunderbolt and the other, a DisplayPort - and a 9-pin internal connector for hooking up with the Thunderbolt header on the corresponding supported ASUS motherboards. The Thunderbolt port and the DisplayPort are designed to work independently.

Accessories that come with the card include a DisplayPort cable and a connector for a header. Sadly, a Thunderbolt cable is not included. The card itself measures 100 x 85mm and, OS-wise, is recommended for use with Windows 7 64-bit. In our discussion with ASUS, they explained that the performance that the card can deliver is the same as their more premium boards that have integrated a Thunderbolt port. Actual performance, however, still relies on the devices that will use the new interface.

Shown here is the provided DisplayPort cable that hooks up both the Thunderbolt expansion card and the motherboard’s display output. This allows video data to be handled on the Thunderbolt interface such as adding other Thunderbolt capable monitors.

The retail packaging of the card shows a design similar to that found on mainstream ASUS motherboards, although this one is much smaller in terms of size.

Price and availability of the ThunderboltEX in the region have yet to be firmed up and we’ll update that in due time. Also worth noting is that the ThunderboltEX card is currently awaiting Thunderbolt device certification, so more announcements will surely follow as soon as that’s taken care of by ASUS.