Back in December, we reported that Intel's Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4 controller was shipping to customers. We can now report that ASUS has unveiled a Thunderbolt 4 expansion card, the ASUS ThunderboltEX 4. It includes support for 100 W quick charging, includes a 40 Gbps bi-directional switch, and can support up to 8K ultra HD resolutions.

Since the launch of Intel's Z590 chipset on socket LGA1200, we've seen some of the more premium models featuring Intel's latest Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4 controllers. This is primarily a feature we see on models looking to add functionality for content creators. Native Thunderbolt 4 is built into Intel Tiger Lake. Still, for motherboards without Thunderbolt capabilities, the ASUS ThunderboltEX 4 add-on card allows users to add Intel's latest Maple Ridge controller into existing systems.

ASUS hasn't unveiled a full list of technical specifications at the time of writing. Still, we cross-referenced the specifications we do know with Intel's JHL8540 Maple Ridge TB4 controller, and they match. The accessories include everything needed to get the ThunderboltEX 4 operational, which means users will require a PCIe 3.0 x4 (or PCIe 4.0 x2) and USB 2.0 motherboard header available, as well as a 6-pin PCIe 12 V ATX power cable free from the power supply. 

Adding not just one port but a total of four, the ASUS ThunderboltEX 4 includes two Type-C and two mini-DisplayPort inputs, which allow for up to five devices to be daisy-chained. This includes up to three devices and two Thunderbolt monitors, or four devices and one monitor. The top Type-C port includes support for 100 Watt quick charging and can even power a compatible notebook, with the second Type-C port offering up to 27 Watts of quick charging capability. We should also note that the ThunderboltEX 4 can accommodate monitors with resolutions up to 8K due to conforming to DisplayPort 1.4. 

At the time of writing, ASUS hasn't specified when the ThunderboltEX 4 expansion card will be available, nor how much it will cost.

Source: ASUS

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  • ZoZo - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    "Still, for motherboards without Thunderbolt capabilities, the ASUS ThunderboltEX 4 add-on card allows users to add Intel's latest Maple Ridge controller into existing systems."

    "The accessories include everything needed to get the ThunderboltEX 4 operational, which means users will require a PCIe 3.0 x4 (or PCIe 4.0 x2) and USB 2.0 motherboard header available, as well as a 6-pin PCIe 12 V ATX power cable free from the power supply."

    Ok, you might need to be more careful with the wording that article, because people will be looking for hints of whether that card requires a TB header on the motherboard to work properly. If it doesn't, that needs to be said more explicitly and should even be the title, because it's a huge deal compared to previous Thunderbolt AICs. If it does, then the text that I quoted is pretty misleading.
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  • Valantar - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    There is definitely one cable in that accessory bundle that doesn't match any standard internal I/O cable, so I would assume it requires a header. That being said, people have had some luck making previous cards like this work on non-compatible motherboards through bridging the power on pins of the header. IIRC they had some trouble with hot-swap though. Reply
  • ZoZo - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    Yes I have tried shorting of pins 3 & 5 on Gigabyte's GC-Titan Ridge myself, it does technically make it possible to get something out of the card, but it's very far from ideal and hardly viable for day-to-day use. If your devices were already plugged in upon powering on the PC (cold boot), they aren't started. You need to unplug them and plug them back in, and then reboot. Reply
  • edzieba - Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - link

    The motherboard in their ad copy appears to be the Asus Prime Z590-A. Looking at the manual for that board, the cable is indeed plugged into a 'Thunderbolt Header' as well as a USB header. Reply
  • sork0 - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    Another website said it would require a TB header. I can't tell for sure but it looks like two cables in the image: the usb2 & TB header. Reply
  • Eliadbu - Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - link

    Any idea if it will work well with x299 prime deluxe? Reply
  • littlefooch - Saturday, March 20, 2021 - link

    ThunderboltEX 4 Manual is here: https://dlcdnets.asus.com/pub/ASUS/mb/Add-on_card/... Reply
  • ajp_anton - Saturday, March 20, 2021 - link

    "users will require a PCIe 3.0 x4 (or PCIe 4.0 x2)"

    Huh? The Maple Ridge controller only supports 3.0. Did ASUS add a 4.0-capable switch? Otherwise 4.0 will just run at 3.0, in which case 4.0 x2 is misleading as it's the same as 3.0 x2.
    Reply

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