nEO IMG DSC 8347 665x440 ASUSs AMD AM3+ Motherboards to get Intel Thunderbolt support?

In one of the more intriguing discoveries during a relatively lackluster Computex, our counterparts at Chinese VR-Zone spotted an interesting feature on the upcoming ASUS ROG Crosshair V Formula-Z and other refreshed AMD AM3+ motherboards – Intel Thunderbolt support!

Over at the ASUS Computex booth at Nangang, we noticed a top to bottom refresh of all of the motherboard giant's Sockets AM3+ offerings for the AMD Bulldozer FX/Phenom II processors. We badgered a product manager for details and he answered with a cryptic "meet Windows 8 WHQL requirements" without elaborating on the changes.

First we looked at the upcoming ROG Crosshair V Formula-Z (revised C5F), sneakily displayed at the bottom of a glass case. From what we know, the memory overclock capabilities of the board have been fine-tuned and storage options buffed up (internal SATA gains two ports and eSATA another additional port). The onboard sound solution was also bumped to Supreme FX III.

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And then we saw something in the corner… Thunderbolt expansion header (TB_HEADER) for their new ThunderboltEX add-in card (more on that futher down).

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The mainstream M5A99FX PRO R2.0 and M5A99X EVO R2.0…

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… also with the miracle header at the edge of the respective boards.

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And on the Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 too…

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The function of the TB_HEADER pinout is for power and to send/receive signalling information (for hot plug and pray events) between the ThunderboltEX expansion card and the motherboard BIOS, the former being announced this week for adding Thunderbolt functionality to select ASUS Z77 motherboards. The card itself requires a PCIe x4 slot and probably uses a Cactus Ridge 2C host router (only has one Thunderbolt port as opposed to the 4C variant which has two). Another full-sized DisplayPort interconnect cable is provided to encapsulate DP signals from the graphics card with the Thunderbolt data streams.

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What makes this discovery controversial is the fact that AMD is not part of the Thunderbolt group and has criticized the proprietary standard in the past, demonstrating their alternative “Lightning Bolt” at CES this year. Intel is also the only one supplying the Thunderbolt chips and has kept a tight leash over who or what gets the development kit and certification. Not to mention the tedious BIOS and nightmare O/S driver integration for the current handful devices to work on Windows.

It remains to been seen whether Intel will allow ASUS to bridge this divide…

References: Chinese VR-Zone