The Thunderbolt Display

The first test was hooking up Apple's Thunderbolt Display, the only Thunderbolt display device available on the market today. Although I shouldn't have been, I was a bit surprised when the display just worked. Intel's HD 4000 drove the 2560 x 1440 panel just fine and there weren't any funny issues displaying the lower res UEFI setup mode.

Despite Ivy Bridge being able to drive three independent displays, I was only able to simultaneously output to two connected displays on the GD80. All combinations of two worked however (TB + HDMI, TB + VGA, VGA + HDMI).

Once in Windows, the Thunderbolt Display's integrated GigE, Firewire and other controllers started popping up. Unfortunately Apple doesn't offer a direct download package for Thunderbolt Display drivers. You can either hunt down the controllers/drivers on their own, or you can build a Windows Support (driver) package using a Mac and the Boot Camp Assistant. I'd much rather Apple just offer an easy route for non-Mac Windows users to take advantage of the Thunderbolt Display as it's the only TB display on the market, but I can understand the lack of motivation there.

With the Boot Camp drivers installed, I got working GigE and Firewire 800. The Thunderbolt Display's integrated USB hub gave me issues however. Anything I plugged into it would either partially work (e.g. my mouse was detected but moving the cursor was far from smooth) or not work at all (e.g. my attached USB keyboard never worked). The other issue with the Thunderbolt Display is you get no brightness control, which can be a problem given how bright the panel gets. I've seen reports of people getting brightness control working via software tools but the solutions don't seem permanent.

Apple's Thunderbolt Display definitely works, but Windows users will likely want to wait for a Thunderbolt display that is built specifically with Windows in mind.

Virtu and Thunderbolt: It Works

From a software perspective, Thunderbolt is treated just like another display output driven by Intel's processor graphics. I installed a GeForce GTX 680 along with Lucid's Virtu GPU virtualization software to see if I could use the 680 for gaming but drive the display using Intel's processor graphics and the Thunderbolt port. The setup worked flawlessly.

Virtu recognized the configuration immediately once I had NVIDIA's drivers installed, and I was able to run the 680 headless - using only the Thunderbolt port to drive the external display. Intel's HD 4000 powered things in Windows, while the 680 kicked in for games.

Thunderbolt under Windows The Storage Devices, Performance & Moving Forward


View All Comments

  • Zclyh3 - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - link

    Where can I actually BUY this board? I can't find it anywhere. Reply
  • slyck - Thursday, May 17, 2012 - link

    Not knocking the article, but just don't see any value in this. Reply
  • ChickenK - Saturday, May 19, 2012 - link

    Is Virtu necessary to run the dGFX? Without the software, would the Thunderbolt Display's output only be driven by Intel's processor graphics? Reply
  • timelapser01 - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I may add, that while using a Pegasus R12 in a small render/graphics office Mac network (MBP, iMac and a recently added Hckintosh ;), now the limit for me on accessing that Pegasus is the Gbit Network itself.

    Since fibre channel is far out of reach for a small business, next accompanying development necessary for TB use would be more 10GBit network PCIe cards and 10Gbit ExpressCard available for prosumers. 1 GBit is a bottleneck, once you use TB devices.

    thanks to anand for his great reviews.

  • chaoflux - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    Are they considered Windows certified Thunderbolt Devices? I'd love hot plugging and the ability to use both of my Thunderbolt Displays in Windows among other nuances.... Reply
  • Asterix007 - Thursday, June 14, 2012 - link


    do you guess it's possible to connect a GD80 MB to an IMAC27 (mid2011) with the apple Thunderbolt cable, and put imac as External display using CMD + F2 combinaison key ?

    I try to do so, but imac don't switch to GD80.

    My GD80 has FW 1.0.
    How did you put bios settings for TB part when connecting to the Apple Display 27 ?

    Thanks for your answer.

  • claptrap22 - Saturday, August 4, 2012 - link


    How did you folks get the iMac to work as a target display? I built a rig last night with the same motherboard. I tried to use my 21.5" iMac (mid-2011 with Thunderbolt) as a target display and couldn't get it to work. Please advise. Much appreciated.
  • mellertson - Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - link

    I setup an ASUS Z87-Expert. It has a Thunderbolt port. I can get the sound and other Thunderbolt connected devices to work. But, I can't get the display to work on Windows 7. Any ideas?

    Your help would be much appreciated since clearly you have it working in the video you posted. :-)

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