Asus THUNDERBOLT Asus gets official on its first two Thunderbolt motherboards

A little bit earlier than we anticipated, Asus has unveiled not one, but two Thunderbolt equipped motherboards, the previously seen P8Z77-V Premium as well as the P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt. The latter of the two is quite similar to the P8Z77-V Pro, although with some minor differences and of course a price tag that should be a fair bit higher.

A little bit earlier than we anticipated, Asus has unveiled not one, but two Thunderbolt equipped motherboards, the previously seen P8Z77-V Premium as well as the P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt. The latter of the two is quite similar to the P8Z77-V Pro, although with some minor differences and of course a price tag that should be a fair bit higher.

Asus THUNDERBOLT Asus gets official on its first two Thunderbolt motherboards

We got an early glimpse of the P8Z77-V Premium courtesy of Anandtech almost a month ago and then a few days later Asus released a few teaser images, although the company did its best to hide the fact that the board actually featured Thunderbolt. This attempt was somewhat in vain though, due to the fact that Asus missed to Photoshop out the word Thunderbolt on one of the images of the board and the fact that you could clearly see the connector on the same image. As a side note, this should as far as we're aware be the first Z77 chipset motherboard that supports triple-display output via Thunderbolt/miniDP, DisplayPort and HDMI.

P8Z77 V PREMIUM Asus gets official on its first two Thunderbolt motherboards

Now things are official and nothing has really changed in terms of the specifications, although it's at least confirmed that the P8Z77-V Premium will ship with a 32GB mSATA SSD for caching. We still don't know what controller Asus is using on the SSD and as such it's still impossible to make any predictions in terms of performance. Price wise nothing much has changed, as in Europe the board is still listed for around €400 (US$510/S$650) just as we reported last week when Intel launched its first Thunderbolt equipped motherboard, but we spotted the P8Z77-V Premium for a slightly more affordable US$459 (S$585) on pre-order in the US, if affordable is a word you can use at this cost level.

P8Z77 V PREMIUM 2 Asus gets official on its first two Thunderbolt motherboards

So what about the P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt? Well, for one it should be more affordable than the Premium, but we don't know by how much. The fact that you don't get an SSD, more basic Wi-Fi and a x16 PCI Express slot less should help keep costs down. In fact, the P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt is nearly identical to the P8Z77-V Pro, with only a couple of minor changes that we could spot. For one the P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt lacks the full-size DisplayPort connector and a pair of USB 2.0 ports. The USB 2.0 ports have clearly been replaced by the Thunderbolt/miniDP connector and apparently Asus figured that the extra DisplayPort connector and as such triple-display output would be reserved for the Premium, as despite the P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt having four display connectors, only two of them can be used at once.

P8Z77 V PRO THUNDERBOLT Asus gets official on its first two Thunderbolt motherboards

Some minor changes has taken place in terms of component layout at the rear edge of the motherboard as well with the ASMedia PCI Express to PCI bridge having been moved further down the PCB to make space for the Thunderbolt controller. The P8Z77-V Pro had space for what appears to be a PCI FireWire chip that was never implemented and as such this should have been a fairly minor change to the actual functionality of the board. Missing of course is also the TB_Header connector, as it makes no sense having that and it its place is another USB 2.0 header and it looks like Asus has also added a serial port header and a TPM header to the P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt.

Asus Thunderbolt 2 Asus gets official on its first two Thunderbolt motherboards

At the end of the day the big question is if there will be enough demand for these kinds of products, but it seems like all the top-tier motherboard makers – minus ASRock so far – are being on Thunderbolt as the next big thing. Admittedly Thunderbolt does offer some tangible benefits over every other external interface currently on the market, but the price premium is still very steep compared to say USB 3.0. For the professional market there's already a wealth of devices that take advantage of the new interface, but much less so for the enthusiast or high-end consumer and we can't but wonder if the professional market would splash out on either of these two motherboards rather than wait for a workstation with Thunderbolt support from someone like HP or Dell and that's only in the case of Apple not adding Thunderbolt support to its potential next gen Mac Pro.

Neither product has appeared on Asus website at the time of writing and as such we haven't included any links to the product pages.