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Thunderbolt has been all out of thunder lately, debuting last year on the refreshed Apple MacBook line up, it now looks like the technology will make a bigger appearance on motherboards later this year. DigiTimes is reporting that it is expected to become one of the key specifications that motherboard makers will be competing with in the second half of this year.
This is thanks to sources from motherboard players, but we all know Thunderbolt will eventually be a bigger thing as time goes on. Thunderbolt supports PCI Express and DisplayPort, allowing a Thunderbolt port to smash through data at high speeds. Compared to USB 3.0, unfortunately, the higher costs stop Thunderbolt's market penetration.
At the moment, Thunderbolt chips are offered only by Intel, with quotes of around $20-$25. This leaves non-Intel chipmakers unable to make much profit from the technology, which leaves us with adapter chips being more popular. We should hopefully see more Thunderbolt-powered products at Computex in just over a weeks time.
I love me some new hardware. I don't read Chinese the best, if at all, but what I gather from these pictures and a bad Google Translate is that ASUS has released two new motherboards that support Intel's super fast Thunderbolt port. The products in question are the P8Z77-V PREMIUM and P8Z77-V PRO/THUNDERBOLT and ASUS claims they have been Intel certified.
The boards appear to be ATX standard based and the P8Z77-V PREMIUM features 4 PCIe-x16 slots and 2 PCIe-x1 slots. It also comes with dual Gigabit Ethernet ports. Additionally, it features an mSATA SSD for Smart Response and a front USB 3 expansion module. These boards are both, as the name implies, using the Intel Z77 chipset that was released in conjunction with Ivy Bridge.
The second board, the P8Z77-V PRO/THUNDERBOLT, sports the same 2 PCIe-x1 slots with only 3 PCIe-x16 expansion ports. It features a single Gigabit Ethernet port and DVI, VGA, and HDMI video connectors. It does not come with an mSATA SSD, nor does it feature a DisplayPort output. Prices are unknown at this time. More as it comes.
ASRock has unveiled a high-end Z77 motherboard, the ASRock Z77 Extreme9, and when I say high-end, it's filled to the brim with features. First up, it sports the Z77 chipset which will give us compatibility for Intel's latest 22nm Ivy Bridge CPUs. The Z77 Extreme9 sports 4-way NVIDIA SLI support as well as 4-way AMD CrossFireX support.
As for the SLI and CrossFireX support, if all four PCI-Express 3.0 ports are filled, we're looking at x8 for all four slots, or if a 2-way setup is used, it will sport x16 speeds. With graphics out of the way, the board includes no less than twelve (12!) SUB 3.0 ports, with four on the front, and eight on the rear, as well as six SATA 6Gbps ports.
The ASRock Z77 Extreme9 comes with a single x1 PCI Express 2.0 slot, backed up by a mini PCI Express slot that takes a dual-band combo 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 card. On the back of the board along with the eight USB 3.0 ports, you'll find two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, a FireWire port, dual Gigabit Ethernet, 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out, an HDMI-out port, and a clear CMOS button.
Ultra-small-form-factor PCs are all the rage right now. Look around and you'll see Ultrabooks, Zotac Zboxes, and all kinds of other small-form-factor systems. Intel, apparently, was unhappy with the size of the systems and wants to push the envelope just a wee bit further with its new form-factor dubbed the Next Unit of Computing (NUC).
The new 4"x4" (100mm x 100mm) board was shown off by Intel at an event in London last week. It has quite a bit more power than one would think a board of that size would contain. The board currently features Sandy Bridge-based mobile Core i3 and i5 processors. Along with the mobile theme, the board sports a pair of SO-DIMM memory slots.
A pair of Mini PCI Express slots, HDMI, USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt ports are also included. Intel expects these NUC PCs to be available in the second half of the year. Most likely they will be sporting Ivy Bridge CPUs by that time. The more capable GPU will be a nice addition as it appears that there is no room for a discrete GPU.
ASUS and Pegatron enjoy quite the relationship, but 2012 is the year of the end of everything, and ASUS now have plans to end their ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) partnership with Pegatron. ASUS first have plans to decrease ODM production of motherboards from Pegatron which will start mid way through the year, after which they'll completely end their ODM relationship by Q3 2012, according to component manufacturers.
After ending their ODM partnership with Pegatron, ASUS will have other companies stand up and take ODM motherboard production, these companies are: Thailand-based Cal-Comp Electronics, Taiwan-based Global Brands Manufacture, Info-Tek and Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS). ECS and ASUS aren't strangers to each other, either, as ECS has been an ODM of graphics cards for ASUS.
It's been a fairly busy day for the TweakTown Taipei team with a visit to GEIL and then we headed on over to MSI who were nearby.
We were shown a few products during our meeting, but the one that stood out to us the most was their upcoming Z77A-GD80 motherboard, which you can get up close and personal with in the video we embedded above. This board supports the upcoming Intel Ivy Bridge processors which if you have been reading TweakTown this past week, you know quite a bit about now.
What's probably the most interesting feature of this motherboard is that it comes with a Thunderbolt connector. It's the first time we've seen a Z77 board with Thunderbolt onboard and that's pretty impressive. We have heard rumours around Taipei of more boards including Thunderbolt, but at this stage of the game, MSI is out in front in this department...
A little birdy sent me an e-mail late last night with some pretty amazing contents: 3GHz memory barrier, smashed. The following goodies were used: Intel Core i7 3770K processor, GIGABYTE Z77X-UD5H and some G.Skill memory, in particular, the F3-2666CL10-4GBZHD kit.
The achievement is quite amazing, and there should be some proud people here. First up, the person behind the overclock: sin0822. Secondly, GIGABYTE for their motherboard allowing this, and thirdly, G.Skill for some insanely overclockable memory. The exact speed hit on the memory was 1501.5MHz, just over the 3GHz barrier.
Insane results! sin0822 - you should be very happy with yourself right now. I dub thee with the TT Hero of the Day award. If I had awards, I'd send you one. 3GHz on RAM! WOW!
You may have already seen the first video from our ASRock HQ visit today that checked out their full range of Intel Z77 Express Ivy Bridge boards and now we have two boards based around the Socket 2011 X79 chipset which deserve your attention, and here's why.
Let's start off with the Fatal1ty X79 Champion which as you may have guessed is a high-end gaming motherboard. You could probably consider this an X79 motherboard refresh from ASRock as it gets some nifty features such as the inclusion of the Creative Sound Core3D audio processor which includes "Scout Mode" that allows you to get a better idea of where your enemy is, probably with better audio positioning support compared to other cheaper audio codecs. it also comes with other high-end gaming features such as quad-SLI support.
And next up we have the ASRock X79 Extreme11 which really got out attention, nothing against the Fatal1ty board, but this one is really one to pay attention to for the following reasons. This is one of the biggest motherboards ASRock has produced and it comes totally packed with features. Let's start off with storage - it comes with no less than 14 onboard SATA 3.0 ports and eight of those SATA 3.0 ports are actually SAS 3.0 ports for more critical storage requirements...
Earlier on today we visited the ASRock headquarters here in Taipei where we were introduced to their range of Intel Z77 Express Ivy Bridge based motherboards. You know, the ones we have been covering lately over the past couple of days - with more coming!
ASRock literally had a large room filled with Ivy Bridge based motherboards with not just Z77 based products, but also H77, Q77, B75 and so on - the whole shebang. In our video above we have focused just on the boards our audience will be most interested in and knowing you guys, that is the more high-end boards in the new line-up from ASRock.
We are going to let the video above do the talking, but as an introduction to it we got a look at ASRock's gaming boards including the Fatal1ty Z77 Performance, Professional and Professional-M. What's probably most interesting for us is that the Professional-M is the first Micro-ATX based board from ASRock to get the Fatal1ty treatment. We can't wait to test it...
We just posted about our video hands-on coverage of three upcoming ASUS Z77 boards including the P8Z77-V Deluxe, Maximus V Gene ROG and Sabertooth right here and now we have yet another ASUS Ivy Bridge motherboard to tell you about it. It's tiny, but definitely not a small deal.
The tiny item we are talking about is the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe which is a Mini-ITX based motherboard based on the upcoming Intel Z77 Express Ivy Bridge platform. It's small in size, but not in features - that's for sure. Starting off ASUS has created what we think is a super intelligent design by creating a separate daughter board which houses the Digi+ VRM (the power stuff) for this ITX platform instead of squeezing it onto the motherboard and sacrificing the inclusion of other features on the board. Actually, they probably wouldn't have been able to fit the digital VRM stuff on the board itself as it features a 10 phase CPU power setup, which is simply amazing amount of power to be given to a motherboard of this miniature size.
What this all means is that instead of expecting mediocre performance as with most Mini-ITX based motherboards, you get a similar type of experience as you would on even a full sized ATX motherboard in terms of overclocking and gaming performance...