asus thunderbold nude Asus Thunderbolt Sound and Killer NIC card (Rampage III Black Edition)   A Close Inspection

Asus' combined sound card and Killer NIC card has been stripped of its shrouding for the first time to revel what's hiding underneath it and although it doesn't hold too many surpirses, there are at least a couple of things that peaked our interest. For now the Thunderbolt card will only be available with the Asus Rampage III Black Edition motherboard, but it's possible that Asus will sell the card on its own in the future.

Asus' combined sound card and Killer NIC card has been stripped of its shrouding for the first time to revel what's hiding underneath it and although it doesn't hold too many surpirses, there are at least a couple of things that peaked our interest. For now the Thunderbolt card will only be available with the Asus Rampage III Black Edition motherboard, but it's possible that Asus will sell the card on its own in the future.

What struck us as a bit odd is the fact that the C-Media 6631 audio chip appears to be connected via USB rather than the PCI Express interface. The card has a USB pin header at the rear, next to the power connector and there's no visible PCI Express bridge chip which would otherwise be needed. For a card that's meant to feature a high-end sound card, this seems like a strange approach, although there's fundamentally nothing wrong with a USB sound card.

asus thunderbold nude Asus Thunderbolt Sound and Killer NIC card (Rampage III Black Edition)   A Close Inspection

Still, the audio part is rated at up to 192kHz/24-bit with a signal to noise ratio of 116dB which should lead to pretty good sound quality in the end. Asus has also thrown in a headphone amp from Texas Instruments which is meant to be one of the key selling points of the Tunderbolt card. The card only sports a pair of 3.5mm jacks for headphone out and line out as well as an optical S/PDIF out.

The Killer NIC E2100 part isn't anything out of the ordinary; in fact, it's the same components that Gigabyte is using on its G1 Killer series of motherboards as far as we can tell from the picture. That means a Freescale IC, a smaller IC, two bits of memory and a Marvell Gigabit Ethernet PHY. We're still not sold on the advantages of having a Killer NIC over a regular NIC, but Asus has at least managed to do something different with the hardware. The Rampage III Black Edition from Asus is set to hit retail in a couple of weeks' time according to the source, so if you're keen on getting your hands on it and the Thunderbolt card, the wait isn't going to be too long.

Source: Sweclockers