ASRock doubles down on Thunderbolt ports, cables

Computex — While touring ASRock's booth at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan this afternoon, we caught a glimpse of a rather interesting Thunderbolt implementation. All of the Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards selling right now feature a single port. ASRock's Z77 Extreme/TB4 has dual ports, giving it four channels of Thunderbolt connectivity with a whopping 80Gbps of total bandwidth between them.

Thunderbolt needs a DisplayPort connection to function, and each of the boards we've seen relies on the processor's integrated GPU to provide that connection. Users can still run a discrete GPU to a Thunderbolt display by using Lucid's Virtu GPU virtualization software. The TB4 removes the need for Virtu software by integrating a DisplayPort input in the rear port cluster. users can connect their discrete GPU's display output directly to that input.

Although this feature is making its debut on a Z77 board, I suspect ASRock will soon roll out a similarly equipped X79 model. The only way to get Thunderbolt its required DisplayPort connection on the X79 platform is via a discrete GPU's DP out; the Sandy Bridge-E CPU associated with the platform lacks integrated graphics.

Otherwise, the TB4 looks much like any other enthusiast-oriented Z77 board. It features dual PCIe x16 slots, extra SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 ports, and a black circuit board peppered with fancy electrical components. There's also a surprise lurking in the box: a pair of Thunderbolt cables. All the Thunderbolt-compatible hardware we've seen ships without cables, so kudos to ASRock for including two to go along with its dual-port implementation.

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