Sitting in a dark corner of my office for the last few months have been a couple of motherboards that all have one thing in common. One of the main features on the board is the inclusion of Thunderbolt. As time went on, though, it seemed that not a whole lot was happening with this technology.
We're not talking about boards that have been sitting around for days or a few weeks. We're talking about months. I don't want to say it felt pointless testing these boards without a proper Thunderbolt device, but it's clearly one of the main features being offered so it seemed like it should be tested.
Nothing is happening, though, for Thunderbolt. We hear word that the approval process is a pain, Windows drivers that work are few and far between, devices generally speaking are pretty rare and the ones that do work don't offer any better support than USB 3.0 because of the fact they support just a single SSD. To really make use of Thunderbolt you want to have a device that has two or three SSD drives in RAID 0 - something that can take advantage of the bandwidth and really show how superior it is over USB 3.0.
The problem is while these devices do exist, they've never been a pleasure to deal with. The Promise Pegasus R6, a device that would be absolutely perfect for testing Thunderbolt, has never been graced with strong Windows drivers. You can see our initial testing with it on the MSI Z77A-GD80 last year. That R6 was also only on temporary loan and no company is jumping at a chance to send us a $1,200 6-bay RAID enclosure. The problem is if you plug this device into an OSX based computer you're up and running with no issues. Plug it into a Windows based one, though (our platform of choice for testing), and be prepared for big headaches.
So, with that all said, we found ourselves just biting the bullet and checking out the motherboards with the first one being the ASUS P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt. We'll of course follow our standard review setup which means we'll start off with the package. Once we've done that we'll take a closer look at the motherboard itself before moving into the BIOS, test system and the overclocking side of things before we finally get stuck into the performance of the board.
It's been a while since we've looked at an ASUS motherboard box, but nothing much has really changed. The front of the box has the model number clearly and is plastered in logos showing off some of the main features including Thunderbolt, Wi-Fi, Easy BIOS flash, Smart DIGI+ and Virtu MVP to name some of the main ones.
Turning over the back you can see we go into more detail on some of the main features. The left gives us a break down on the motherboard itself while the right hand side expands on the Thunderbolt technology on offer, the SMART DIGI+ Power Control, Fan Xpert 2 and Wi-Fi GO!.
Moving inside the box we've got a bunch of manuals covering the board and some of the main features again. Along with them we've got a driver CD, four SATA cables, SLI bridge and main I/O cover.
Rounding off the bundle we've got the Wi-Fi GO! 802.11 b/g/n card with antenna, along with a two port USB header and eSATA port and EZ Connectors to help plugging in your headers simpler.