For those that might not be too familiar with the standard, Thunderbolt is Intel’s high-bandwidth, do-everything connector, designed as a potential future path for all things external to a system—displays, USB devices, external storage, PCI Express, and even graphics cards. Thunderbolt supports up to 10Gb/s bandwidth (uni-directional) for each port, which is double what USB 3.0 offers, but the cost to implement Thunderbolt tends to be quite a bit higher than USB. For that reason, not to mention the ubiquity and backwards compatibility of USB 3.0 ports, we haven’t seen all that many Thunderbolt-equipped Windows laptops and motherboards; mostly the ports are found on higher-end motherboards.

For those that need high bandwidth access to external devices, however, even 10Gb/s may not be enough—specifically, 4K/60 video resolutions can require around 15Gb/s. As we’ve previously discussed, with Thunderbolt 2 Intel is doubling the bandwidth with Thunderbolt 2 up to 20Gb/s per port (bi-directional) by combining the four 10Gb/s channels into two 20Gb/s channels, thus enabling support for 4K/60 support. The ASUS Z87-Deluxe/Quad motherboard is the first motherboard to support the standard, and as expected you get two 20Gb/s ports courtesy of the single Falcon Ridge controller. Combined with the HDMI port, that gives the board the potential to drive three 4K displays at once. And if Thunderbolt 2 support isn’t enough for your enthusiast heart, ASUS is also including their NFC Express accessory for Near-Field Communication.

Here’s the short specifications summary for the Z87-Deluxe/Quad; we’re awaiting further details on expected availability and pricing, but given the Z87-Deluxe/Dual runs $350 we’d expect the new board to come in above that price point.

  • 2 x Intel Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 4 x DIMM slots
  • 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 slots
  • 10 x SATA 6Gbit/s ports
  • 8 x USB 3.0 ports with USB 3.0 Boost
  • 8 x USB 2.0 ports
  • ATX form factor

Source: ASUS Press Release

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  • repoman27 - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    @Jarred, "Thunderbolt supports up to 10GB/s bandwidth (bi-directional) for each port..." You want a little "b" there, and actually, it's 10 Gbit/s, full-duplex, per channel, up to 20 Gbit/s, full-duplex, per port. This is true even for OG Thunderbolt; Thunderbolt 2 merely allows channel-bonding for devices requiring greater than 10 Gbit/s of either display or data bandwidth.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Fixed. Basically, I messed up when I said bi-directional on the four channels; it's uni-directional I believe, but TB2 allows bonding with bi-directional. Or put another way, TB1 was two 10Gb/s up and two 10Gb/s down; TB2 is two 20Gb/s and that can be either up or down. I think it can switch on the fly as well? Not entirely sure about that, and maybe I still need to clarify. Hahaha. As for the little b, that was one typo out of four Gigabit references; probably just holding down Shift still from typing the G and didn't notice.
  • repoman27 - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Both Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 host controllers provide 4 simplex 10 Gbit/s lanes per port, configured as 2 full-duplex 10 Gbit/s channels. Thunderbolt 2 allows bonding of the two channels to create a single 20 Gbit/s full-duplex link. The direction of the individual lanes is fixed; the active cables have two transmitters and two receivers at each end.
  • StrangerGuy - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    "but given the Z87-Deluxe/Dual runs $350 we’d expect the new board to come in above that price point."

    So I heard there is huge mass market demand for >$350 mobos.
  • boeush - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Stupid question: why insist on including 8 x USB 2.0 ports, *in addition to* 8 x USB 3.0?

    Who in blazes, I'd like to know, ever used or wanted to use more than 8 USB devices simultaneously on the same computer?

    Aside from the above, I just don't get the persistence of USB 2.0. USB 3.0 has been out and around long enough already; why does USB 2.0 still keep showing up in new and supposedly premium products?? Someone please enlighten me...
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Because Intel only offers 4 or 6 USB3 ports (to get six you either need to drop to 4xSATA6 or 6xPCIe2 on the southbridge); and each additional pair of 3.0 ports beyond that requires an additional controller and PCIe lane to connect it. The boards that offer a dozenish 3.0 ports probably are also spending more on a PLX chip to multiplex all the IO onto the southbridge's limited supply of pcie lanes.

    The single picture isn't entirely clear; but it appears to be 4 and 4 on the back; and presumably 2 headers of each type for front panel connections. At least for the next few years 2 headers of each type is IMO the way to go since some people will be using older cases with only 2.0 ports and others new cases with 3.0 built in. Some of the former will add a 3rd party bay device for front panel ports; some of both groups will have a card reader which as a bottom denominator device will probably stay 2.0 for a few years (if anything; this argues for a 3rd 2.0 header in addition to the pair of 3.0 ones).
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    PS The reason why only some of the USB ports on the chipset are the 3.0 variety is that the chip is a low margin part whose size is primarily defined by the number of IO pins that need to be squeezed onto it; and that USB3 controllers need significantly more die area than USB2 controllers. Since Broadwell is planned a BGA(mobile) only part, most likely this means that we won't see an increase until Skylake launches in 2015 (since that chipset will presumably have gotten a process shrink as well). Intel could launch a desktop chipset refresh with more 3.0 ports next year even if we don't get a new CPU; but with AMD foundering there's no real pressure for them to do so.
  • boeush - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Thanks for answering, but I still don't completely get it.

    USB 3.0 is supposed to be completely (and transparently) backward-compatible with 2.0 (or am I missing something??) -- so if a motherboard provided only and exclusively 3.0 ports/headers, any legacy 2.0 ports/cables on the case or legacy devices should be able to plug into those 3.0 extension points without any issue or degradation of performance.

    An 'intense' USB usage scenario might involve 1 keyboard and 1 mouse, plus maybe 1 microphone, 1 camera, 1 printer, 1 gaming controller, 1 card reader. I'm counting 7 ports (and not including WiFi, since this premium mobo already provides WiFi), leaving 1 port free. That's before considering that USB can chain, so for instance a lot of monitors these days integrate USB hubs and provide extra ports (and come with a USB extension cable), meaning you get 2-4 additional ports "for free" with each of your monitors (and most of the devices I listed, don't need the full bandwidth of USB 3.0 so would work perfectly fine over 2.0 links through hubs.)

    I'm just saying: *in practice*, already having 8 USB 3.0 ports should make any additional 2.0 (or 3.0) ports utterly redundant and unnecessary. So why continue bundling in the expense and taking up the space? Still not getting it...
  • jwcalla - Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - link

    I can't answer all your questions, but the on-board USB 3.0 headers are not compatible with the USB 2.0 connectors. It's a completely different connector style. So cases and devices with USB 2.0 connectors would require USB 2.0 motherboard headers. Of course the user interface USB ports are backwards-compatible as you mention.

    It could be that servicing USB 2.0 motherboard headers requires a USB 2.0 controller, and so maybe that is the reasoning for including it. In such a case it would make sense to throw any leftover USB 2.0 ports onto the back panel.

    PS for Jarred: The source link to the ASUS press release points to the wrong URL.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - link

    Motherboard headers aren't the same; for whatever reason instead of doubling the pin density for 3.0 they went with a header 2x as large and noone's making adapters for the header cables that I'm aware of. You really can't drop below 3 headers on the board itself without causing problems for some people building higher end systems (4 case ports and a card reader); and you still need a full set on the back for people who don't only have 2 front ports or just want most of their wiring to be neatly out of sight. You can drop the number down on low end boards to cut manufacturing costs; but higher end boards are equal parts feature check and combining multiple peoples edge cases into a single package to keep the size of your product line within reason.

    The total number of ports grew as USB2 replaced various legacy ports and board vendors wanted to replace the space with USB ports. Besides which, USB2 controllers were tiny so it barely cost Intel anything to add an additional pair every other year or so during the last decade. At this point I'm not really expecting the total to go up again; with the possible exception of the PS2 keyboard port there's not really any legacy IO left to replace; and with a 10GB USB standard in the works I expect Intel/AMD will be busy using process shrink southbridge transistors to update more ports to the faster standard instead of bumping the totals.

    Counting charger/device cables I've currently got a total of 10 plugged in; not all have something attached at all times but there're 3 different device end plugs (B, mini, and micro) and I've got stuff that goes with each size. I actually do use a hub for some; but that's equal parts cable routing (my tower is farther away than normal), not wanting to spend money replacing all the tiny cables that came bundled with gadgets, and tradition (the hub's been in place since at least my amd 939 system when my board didn't have enough total ports built in).

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