A single Thunderbolt port has an obscene amount of bandwidth: 10Gbps in each direction per channel, with two channels per port. The interconnect standard also supports daisy-chaining with up to seven Thunderbolt devices. You’d think one port per motherboard would be sufficient. Nope. Gigabyte is rolling out a couple of new motherboards with dual Thunderbolt ports. The boards use a four-channel variant of Intel’s Cactus Ridge controller, which has the same PCIe 2.0 x4 interface as the two-channel flavor. Even if has to share bandwidth with a twin, the extra port at least increases the number of devices and displays that can be connected to the motherboard.
The press release’s imagery is a little low-rent, but we have some pictures left over from last month’s Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan. Gigabyte had the Z77X-UP5 TH and Z77X-UP4 TH on display, and those are the two models being introduced formally today. Here’s the UP5:
When we snapped these pictures, the boards had yet to pass certification. They now have Intel’s official blessing.
Both models target Ivy Bridge processors and are based on the Z77 Express chipset. The UP designation denotes Gigabyte’s fifth-generation Ultra Durable family, which adds exotic MOSFETs from International Rectifier to the usual mix of higher-quality components and weightier copper layers.
The UP4 pictured above is a little less exotic than the UP5, with fewer power phases and no onboard buttons or POST code display. You still get an integrated mSATA slot and three physical PCIe x16 slots, though.
There’s no mention of pricing, but Thunderbolt typically adds $30-35 to the cost of a motherboard. Interestingly, Gigabyte told us the four-channel controller is only marginally more expensive than the two-channel version. Not that Thunderbolt is for the cost-conscious; a single cable costs $54 online.