Not to be outdone by its rivals, Gigabyte has just showed us three new Thunderbolt-enabled motherboards at Computex 2012.
A quick refresher on Thunderbolt first: it is the latest interface for connecting peripherals to a computer. Developed by Intel in collaboration with Apple, it is a super high-speed interface capable of up to 20Gbps of data throughput (considering bidirectional transfers), which is many times faster than USB 3.0 and FireWire 800. Furthermore, apart from data, ThunderBolt also supports video, audio and even power, thereby reducing the need for separate video and audio cables.
Despite the obvious benefits of Thunderbolt, adoption for this new interface has been slow. However, with the new Ivy Bridge processors and Intel 7-series chipset, we are beginning to see a lot more motherboards being shipped with support for Thunderbolt. Likewise, we are also seeing more devices such as external hard disks, PCIe card reader and network-attached storage supporting Thunderbolt.
To demonstrate the performance of Thunderbolt, Gigabyte has set up a demo system that features two full HD displays daisy-chained with a couple of NAS systems. The system is working on three full HD video projects in Adobe Premiere off the NAS and outputting to one of the displays, all through Thunderbolt, and it was running as smooth as silk:-
The three new Thunderbolt-enabled motherboards just announced by Gigabyte are the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH, GA-Z77X-UP4 TH and the GA-Z77MX-D3H TH. The Thunderbolt-enabled motherboards are easily identified by the ‘TH” suffix.
This is the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH, which is presently one of Gigabyte’s higher-end motherboards. This board comes with two Thunderbolt connectors, supports up to 3-way CrossFireX or SLI, and makes use of Gigabyte’s latest Ultra Durable 5 technology. What is Ultra Durable 5 you might be wondering? Well, we’ll cover more of that in depth in a separate article later.
The GA-Z77X-UP4 TH, shares most of the critical features of the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH, but has a few differences. Firstly, it doesn’t have a heat pipe that connects between the MOSFETs and PCH heatsinks. And secondly, it lacks physical buttons for powering up, resetting and clearing CMOS. Lastly, it also has lesser SATA 6Gbps ports, USB 3.0 ports and doesn’t come with support for FireWire 400.
Lastly, the GA-Z77MX-D3H TH is positioned as an entry-level Thundebolt-enabled motherboard in Gigabyte’s new lineup. It is has a more compact micro-ATX form factor and features Ultra Durable 4 technology instead of the newest Ultra Durable 5. Despite the "value" proposition, this compact motherboard still supports up to 2-way CrossFireX or SLI, making it ideal for building a compact yet powerful gaming system.
Note that all of the Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards from Gigabyte feature at least dual Thunderbolt ports, which help support a maximum of 12 Thunderbolt-equipped devices by means of daisy-chaining them (each port can support up to six devices). So you can see, Gigabyte's not compromising its lead in the storage and connectivity front. This applies to even the value based GA-Z77MX-D3H shown above. We can't be certain if this will hold true in the future, but at least for Gigabyte's initial push, they will only retail boards with dual Thunderbolt ports.