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 - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    The FirePro cards do support Crossfire on the PC side. The lack of support on the OS X side has always been a driver issue.

    As for the one card being dedicated to graphics, I'd be surprised if that was absolutely true. The chassis has ports for 7 directly connected monitors and the each individual card has a limit of 6 displays.
    Reply
  • solipsism - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    1) Will the Xeon not include an IGP?

    2) I think it's silly to assume that just because Apple offers 6TB+1HDMi that they intend for all ports to be used for displays. They surely wouldn't include an extra AMD GPU just to get that 7th display because they have 7 ports that can all be used for a display, just as they didn't add 5 additional display-capable ports to bring that total to 12.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    The Xeon E5-26xx v2's that will likely be used in the new Mac Pro lack integrated graphics.

    Although FirePro cards do support CrossFire Pro, I doubt that Apple will implement an actual CrossFire setup. I'm guessing it will be more along the lines of what AMD did for their dual-GPU FirePro S10000 server cards. I would also wager that despite having two physical cards and 7 digital display output ports, there will still be a 6 display limit. I'm sure it won't take too long for someone to try connecting displays to all 7 ports though.
    Reply
  • Kevin G - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    1) as pointed out by others, the Xeon chips I the new Mac Pro do not have integrated graphics.

    2) While the second card is seen as many compute, adding an HDMI connector for 2d display purposes really would't have a meaningful impact performance for GPGPU workloads. In fact, it would be odd if OpenCL could only use one of the cards at a time.

    Also depending on how the ThunderBolt ports are linked to each GPU, it maybe possible to connect 12 displays using an MST hub to the new Mac Pro.
    Reply
  • shompa - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    *hint* MacPro don't have crossfire. FirePro GPUs don't support it.

    Thats why MacPro only support 3 4K screens.
    Reply
  • aruisdante - Monday, August 19, 2013 - link

    It makes me sad that they came out with this so soon after I bought the Delux/Dual (exact same motherboard, but thunderbolt 1). Reply
  • Assimilator87 - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Wow ASUS, way to screw over everyone who bought the Dual. Reply
  • Sivar - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Yes, because tech companies releasing new products is "screwing over" those who bought their previous products.
    Sometimes it's like I'm reading comments from a Youtube video on here.
    Reply
  • p1esk - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    What does "dual" or "quad" refers to? Reply
  • critical_ - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    I really wanted the Z87-Deluxe/Dual but the lack of dual Intel NICs killed it for me. I went with the Z87-WS. Asus needs to realize that they need the feature-set of the Z87-WS with Thunderbolt 2 outputs and then also have a solution to output not just from the Intel IGP but nVidia/AMD add-on cards. Whether that is with Lucid software or through another method remains to be seen.

    Also, Anandtech did a story on the Asus ThunderboltEX card. Guess what? It never materialized. Rumors say Intel won't validate the outputting of video via nVidia/AMD GPUs. I'd love it if we could get clarification on this issue.

    Ulitmately, it seems like 3x 4K displays is nothing more than a specification line for these meaningless press releases that start with "WORLD'S FIRST..." instead of being usable at realistic refresh rates on modern hardware. At the moment, it seems like Thunderbolt outside of Apple is just another Firewire for storage arrays instead of a medium for displays. I'd love to be wrong so perhaps Intel/Asus/Gigabyte can clarify the point of these motherboards in real-world-getting-work-done scenarios.

    /soapbox /rant
    Reply

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