For connecting a peripheral to a
computer, there's USB 3.0, and then there's Thunderbolt. Positioned
as a sort of “professional” alternative to the former with higher
bandwidth per port (10Gbit/s vs 5Gbit/s) and other amenities,
Thunderbolt ports were initially exclusive to Apple's MacBooks. Due
to both that and a high cost of cables, TB has had to contend with
slow market growth of compatible peripherals, in contrast to USB 3.0,
which nowadays enjoys popularity on par with older versions of its
Regardless of this persisting debacle,
PC enthusiasts with lots of money will soon be able to use all of the
available Thunderbolt devices and faster future ones too, with the
help of Asus. The popular Taiwanese maker of computer ware has
updated its existing Z87-Deluxe/Dual
motherboard's dual Thunderbolt ports to Thunderbolt 2, which boosts
the per-port bandwidth to 20Gbit/s, and slapped on a new name:
The Quad, its box, and included accessories. The glossy black thing is the NFC box
For those unfamiliar with the older
model, an Intel Z87 chipset is present, alongside an LGA1150 socket
for the latest Intel “Haswell” Core i7 processors, and four
memory slots for up to 32GB of DDR3 memory. There are ten SATA 6Gbps
ports, eight each of USB 3.0 and 2.0, two Gigabit wired LAN ports,
802.11ac WiFi support, an external NFC box to login by tapping your
smartphone, a full compliment of PCIe 3.0 x16 slots for
multi-videocard configurations, and... well, a bunch of other stuff.
As one of Asus' top-end models, going over everything
would take pages, so I'll just jump right into...
The loaded rear I/O panel. See the Thunderbolt ports?
...the Thunderbolt 2 support, which
Asus is understandably quick
to promote. Daisy-chaining allows one to plug twelve different
peripherals into the two ports at once, “reducing the need for
separate hubs and helping maintain a clutter-free workspace.” USB
can't do this, of course. USB also can't be used to plug in big
monitors. A total of “three 4K
(4096x2160-pixel resolution) UHD displays” can be plugged into the
Z87-Deluxe/Quad, with the third attached to the HDMI port, and that's
having ten other TB devices attached.
what kinds of devices can those be? Unfortunately, as stated earlier,
the Thunderbolt peripheral market is growing at a sluggish pace.
are numerous, along with speedy external
SSDs. Things like TB-to-LAN adaptors are available too, but, as
you might imagine, those are targeted at notebooks. With the 4K
monitor support tied to integrated graphics, the people who will warm
a stack of videocards on their Z87-Deluxe/Quad will, at least, be
ready for the latest TB 2-supported devices as they come out, but
initially not much other than those external drives.
Glamour shot with the WiFi antenna
all of that said, the older “/Dual” model goes for around $350
online, so you can expect the Z87-Deluxe/Quad version to be
priced somewhere above that, by the time it comes available for
purchase in a month or two. A very expensive motherboard for sure,
but potentially worth it if you really
want to future-proof PC (or raise your geek “cred,” I guess).