The past year has seen a flurry of Thunderbolt™ related activity. Already present on every current Apple Mac*, Thunderbolt has continued to grow within PC circles. And the Thunderbolt ecosystem responded, with over 100 Thunderbolt devices now shipping and available, most certified for both Mac and PC. Thunderbolt makes new experiences possible and developers are seeking to take advantage of Thunderbolt’s key benefits, including simultaneous data and display transfer, with speeds of up to 10Gbps, and daisy-chain connectivity of up to six devices. Building upon that foundation, the first Thunderbolt™ 2 systems were introduced in October this year, with speeds up to 20Gbps, and support for the DisplayPort 1.2 protocol. Thunderbolt is clearly the fastest, most versatile connection to your PC.
Now we have a new announcement for you — an exciting new program to quickly expand the footprint of Thunderbolt for desktop and workstation users. This new initiative is called “Thunderbolt ready”, and it enables PC manufacturers to offer Thunderbolt upgradeable motherboards within desktop and workstation computers. By using a Thunderbolt card, Thunderbolt’s blazing fast speed and uncompressed video capabilities can now be added to any motherboard that includes a GPIO header (general purpose input/output header), so even if your system doesn’t have Thunderbolt it is now possible to “upgrade” to it. Users that are interested in adding Thunderbolt 2 technology to an existing Thunderbolt ready system can combine a Thunderbolt card with a growing number of enabled motherboards, all identified by the use of the “Thunderbolt ready” moniker. The Thunderbolt ready program makes it simple to identify which components work together to upgrade your PC with Thunderbolt 2 capability.
The addition of a Thunderbolt ready card to a PC is a simple and straight forward process. All a user needs to do is connect the Thunderbolt card into the designated PCIe slot, connect a cable to the GPIO header, and utilize an available DP (DisplayPort) out connector from the motherboard processor graphics, or an external graphics card, depending on the system. And since a Thunderbolt card comes with all the necessary cables, software, and instructions, upgrading is a breeze.
The benefits of the Thunderbolt ready program are plain to see. If a user has a system with an existing Thunderbolt ready motherboard, all they will need to do is purchase the Thunderbolt card and follow the simple instructions for installation. For those looking to build a new system, the only requirement is to make sure both the Thunderbolt card and motherboard are Thunderbolt ready. Finally, for custom desktop resellers interested in expanding Thunderbolt within their available product mix, the number of potential motherboards that can be offered will increase dramatically.
The initial participant in the Thunderbolt ready program is ASUS*, and they have developed the first Thunderbolt card, the ASUS ThunderboltEX II*, to go along with the first Thunderbolt ready motherboard, the ASUS Z87 Pro*. The ThunderboltEX II is based on Thunderbolt 2 technology, and will be available in December 2013. ASUS is also planning for additional motherboards to be certified within the Thunderbolt ready program in 2014.
“ASUS ThunderboltEX II is the first expansion card certified by Intel as a Thunderbolt 2 upgrade solution — and it gives users a simple, fast and flexible option to upgrade their existing hardware whenever they want,” said Joe Hsieh, ASUS Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Motherboard and Desktop System Business Unit. “ASUS worked closely with Intel to ensure the best compatibility, quality and performance across ASUS 8-series Thunderbolt 2-ready motherboards.”
Other OEMs are following suit, and a growing number of Thunderbolt ready cards, motherboards, desktops, and workstations will become available in 2014.
Since the beginning, “Is there an add-in card for this?” has been one of the more popular questions asked of Thunderbolt. Today, the answer is an enthusiastic “yes”, and the introduction of the Thunderbolt ready program will dramatically increase the availability of Thunderbolt technology, bringing 20Gbps bandwidth, data and display over a single cable, and daisy-chain connectivity of up to six devices, to a far larger range of users in the marketplace.
*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.