For those that might not be too familiar with the standard, Thunderbolt is Intel’s high-bandwidth, do-everything connector, designed as a potential future path for all things external to a system—displays, USB devices, external storage, PCI Express, and even graphics cards. Thunderbolt supports up to 10Gb/s bandwidth (uni-directional) for each port, which is double what USB 3.0 offers, but the cost to implement Thunderbolt tends to be quite a bit higher than USB. For that reason, not to mention the ubiquity and backwards compatibility of USB 3.0 ports, we haven’t seen all that many Thunderbolt-equipped Windows laptops and motherboards; mostly the ports are found on higher-end motherboards.

For those that need high bandwidth access to external devices, however, even 10Gb/s may not be enough—specifically, 4K/60 video resolutions can require around 15Gb/s. As we’ve previously discussed, with Thunderbolt 2 Intel is doubling the bandwidth with Thunderbolt 2 up to 20Gb/s per port (bi-directional) by combining the four 10Gb/s channels into two 20Gb/s channels, thus enabling support for 4K/60 support. The ASUS Z87-Deluxe/Quad motherboard is the first motherboard to support the standard, and as expected you get two 20Gb/s ports courtesy of the single Falcon Ridge controller. Combined with the HDMI port, that gives the board the potential to drive three 4K displays at once. And if Thunderbolt 2 support isn’t enough for your enthusiast heart, ASUS is also including their NFC Express accessory for Near-Field Communication.

Here’s the short specifications summary for the Z87-Deluxe/Quad; we’re awaiting further details on expected availability and pricing, but given the Z87-Deluxe/Dual runs $350 we’d expect the new board to come in above that price point.

  • 2 x Intel Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 4 x DIMM slots
  • 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 slots
  • 10 x SATA 6Gbit/s ports
  • 8 x USB 3.0 ports with USB 3.0 Boost
  • 8 x USB 2.0 ports
  • ATX form factor

Source: ASUS Press Release

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  • Kevin G - Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - link

    Ooops, hit submit a bit too early.

    The link to the Intel PDF:

    This describes at a higher level the usage of Thunderbolt/LightPeak as a network topology.

    Here is another research paper that briefly mentions a 40 Gbit aggregate bandwidth for LightPeak:

    The unique thing here is that it shows two different implementations, a two channel implementation using standard fiber found in data centers and then a four channel implementation using a single cable but two LightPeak controllers.
  • repoman27 - Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - link

    While I appreciate the links, they actually tend to reinforce my point. The front end of a 4C Light Peak / Thunderbolt controller does provide 80 Gbit/s aggregate bandwidth, but that is not the same as saying that there is a provision for link aggregation. That 80 Gbit/s comes in the form of 4x 10 Gbit/s full-duplex channels, which prior to Apple's implementation were always treated as 4 separate links.

    The description in the MS paper isn't odd at all. It describes the on-die crossbar switch as essentially being a 5-port 10 Gbit/s switch with 4 ports being for the optical interfaces and one as an uplink to the host. That 10 Gbit/s uplink port is connected to a protocol adapter which has a PCIe 2.0 x4 (16 Gbit/s) connection to the host. And just as you can have a 5-port Ethernet switch, that in no way guarantees that the switch is capable of link aggregation. In fact, pointing out that the connection to the PCIe protocol adapter was limited to 10 Gbit/s underscores that channel bonding was not happening from the outset.

    All of the networking examples use individual 10 Gbit/s links between nodes, and link aggregation is never attempted.

    The 40 Gbit/s depiction in the Avago paper actually shows one controller but two optical modules. The modules they designed only supported 2 channels, so a 4C controller required two of them. The odd thing about that diagram, as crude as it is, is that it appears to show one port for 4 channels, which is something we have not seen yet.
  • Kevin G - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    The Thunderbolt/LightPeak networking schema in those papers included failover and multi-pathing. The implication is that there would be a means to use multiple channels to send data between two hosts, similar to how Ethernet does bonding.

    With fail over from active-to-active connections, their is a desire to regularly operate below 50% of the available bandwidth between connections. This would ensure that when fail over does happen, the single remaining link can handle the through without a degradation of service. In the context of these paper, the proposed 40 Gbit adapter with a 10 Gbit PCI-e host interface wouldn't necessarily be at a disadvantage in this scenario.

    The 4 channel device did mention the connector: an early LightPeak connector that was an adaption of USB. Take a look at it here:

    The USB style connector also had some talk of being able to use the copper connection for native USB or a slower, copper based version of Light Peak. With the USB board forbidding Light Peak to piggy back on their standard, this idea was only talked about.
  • RussianSensation - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    $350 USD for a non-ROG board that can only do 3-Way CF as PCIe 3.0 x8/x4/x4?

    ....Crickets.... This is a $220 board max with a $130 mark-up for Thunderbolt. You can just as easily get $180 MSI GD65-Gaming, buy $20 wireless USB and skip the overpriced Thunderbolt.
  • DarkXale - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Or get the Asus equivalent without the Thunderbolt ports. See the "Pro". Also, who would ever want to subject themselves to the horrors that is USB Wi-Fi.
  • RussianSensation - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Not sure what you are talking about. My USB WiFi delivers 150 Mbps. My ISP cannot even come close to those speeds at reasonable cost.

    However, if you insist, I can propose plenty of other superior options like Gigabyte UD4H for $115 at MicroCenter or even Asus' more impressive VI HERO board for $215 + $30 WiFI n Adapter:

    Either way you slice it, this board is $130-150 overpriced, easily. If someone is going to throw dual Thunderbolt ports, it better be on a high end ROG board.

    The MSI Z87 MPower that passed 24 hours of Prime95 at full CPU overclock has Wi-Fi with dual antennas + Bluetooth for only $215, free RAMDisk software, 16 power phases, digital power, etc.. So where is the $350 premium Asus charging coming from?
  • DarkXale - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    150mbps - and at what range. Hell, is it even dual-channel capable? I'm not sure why you even mention your Internet connectivity, when the point of reliable wi-fi is internal communication, with in particular, a networked NAS. When you throw in a few extra devices which has to share transmit time, then 150mbps becomes quite slow. (1/3rd of the time becomes 50mbps for example)

    And yes, in case you didn't know - TB controllers go for about 50 USD each. It is -not- a cheap technology, which is also the reason for its scarcity. An in lieu of TB not having any 'gaming' purposes at this time, it does not make sense to put them on their 'gaming' motherboards.

    It -would- make more sense to find it on the E-class motherboards though, yes.
  • glugglug - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    WiFi is a joke for a NAS. Yes, I'm including 802.11ac in that.
  • kwrzesien - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    It can do PCIe 3.0 x16 or dual x8 or x8/x4/x4, that is as flexible as Haswell allows without adding some kind of bridge chip. I'm pretty sure that PCIe 3.0 x4 (and PCIe 2.0 x8) don't bottleneck CF based on real world tests. Certainly PCIe 3.0 x8 doesn't, and who has three 7970's?

    In fact until GPU's and LCD's have a connection option that supports 4K@120Hz, or at least 4K@60Hz nonsense, I'm not sure we even need this level of performance. Maybe for extreme multi-monitor gaming in 3D you need three GPU's, but not for single monitor gaming or multi-monitor productivity.
  • RussianSensation - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    If I am spending $350 on a board, I want the option of putting 3x 7970s in it. I already have 2 7970s. Also, you are not taking into account that people don't just throw out this board in 2 years. What about getting Maxwell/Volta GPUs? Put it this way, if you only care to buy 2 GPUs, then at MicroCenter, the Gigabyte Z87 UD4H is just $115 USD!!! It has 16 power phases and everything you need, minus the overpriced WiFi and Thunderbolt. But if you still insist on WiFi, there is MSI Z87 MPower for $215, or Asus own Pro board with WiFi. Then there is the ROG VI HERO which blows this Deluxe board out of the water in terms of quality overclocking components:

    If you only want to run 2 GPUs, there are so many boards out there for hundreds less and some for less $ with higher quality components.

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