ASUS' new flagship, the P8Z77-V Premium

Subject: Motherboards | July 12, 2012 - 06:50 PM |
Tagged: asus, p8z77-v premium, thunderbolt

As we mentioned on the PC Perspective Podcast ASUS has a new ultra high end motherboard on the market, the P8Z77-V Premium for the low price of $440.  There are four PCIe 3.0 16x slots, capable of running two cards at full speed or four at 8x speeds as well as a pair of PCIe 2.0 1x slots.  There are a half dozen of both flavours of USB ports and SATA 6Gbps ports as well as SATA2 and eSATA ports but the big connectivity feature is Thunderbolt.  The feature set is almost endless, up to and including an onboard 32GB SSD and it seems that the only thing this board cannot do much better than the competition is overclock.  That is not to say you cannot overclock this board, only that the overclocking potential was lower than other Z77 boards from ASUS that [H]ard|OCP tested.  If you can afford the price, you will not find a more impressive Z77 motherboard on the market.

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"It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the "Premium" moniker on any ASUS boards. ASUS reserves this for boards with truly premium features that set these apart from the rest of the product line. The end result is usually a complex product with more features than most people will ever need. Let's find out just how premium the P8Z77-V Premium truly is."

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An overview of Thunderbolt Technology

The promise of Thunderbolt connectivity has been around for a couple of years now. Today, Thunderbolt is finally finding its way to the PC platform in the form of motherboards from ASUS and MSI. First unveiled as "Light Peak" at the Intel Developer Forum in 2009, the technology started out as a way to connect multiple devices to a system over a fiber optic cable (hence the 'light' in the name), though the final products have changed the implementation slightly.

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The first prototype implementations actually used a USB-style connection and interface. It further required fiber optic cables. When it was renamed to Thunderbolt and then released in conjunction with a new lineup of Apple MacBook laptops, not only did the physical interface move to a mini-DisplayPort connection but the cable was made to use copper rather than fiber. Without diving too far into the reasons and benefits of either direction, the fact is that the copper cables allow for modest power transfer and are much cheaper than fiber optic variants would be.

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Thunderbolt's base technology remains the same, however. It is a transfer standard that allows for 10 Gbps of bandwidth for each channel (bi-directional) and concurrently supports both data and display connections. The actual interface for the data path is based on PCI Express and connected devices actually appear to Windows as if they are internally connected to the system which can offer some interesting benefits – and headaches – for hardware developers. The display connection uses the DisplayPort standard and can be used along with the data connection without affecting bandwidth levels or performance.  

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For current Intel processor implementations, the Thunderbolt connection is supported by a separate controller chip on the motherboard (or a riser card) – and some routing is required for correct usage. The Thunderbolt controller does not actually include a graphics controller, so it must be fed an output from another graphics processor, obviously in this case directly from the Ivy Bridge / Sandy Bridge processors. In theory, these could be from other controllers, but with the ubiquitous nature of integrated processor graphics on IVB and SNB processors, this is going to be the implementation going forward according to motherboard and system designers. 

Continue reading our review of Thunderbolt on Windows and the ASUS P8Z77-V Premium!!

Thunderbolt for Windows Performance Preview - ASUS P8Z77-V Premium

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Storage | May 21, 2012 - 06:57 PM |
Tagged: Z77, thunderbolt, p8z77-v premium, msi, asus

We have really been waiting for this since we first saw the release of Thunderbolt on the Apple MacBooks last year, but we finally have it: Thunderbolt support for PC users!  Both MSI and ASUS today announced availability of motherboards with integrated Thunderbolt connectivity: the ASUS P8Z77-V Premium and the MSI Z77A-GD80 will both get you a single integrated Thunderbolt port.

You can see MSI's full press release right hereWe can't find the ASUS press release anywhere Here is the ASUS press release as well, but here are a few selections:

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"Intel and ASUS have worked closely on the implementation of Thunderbolt technology onto Asus motherboards”, said Jason Ziller, Intel’s Director of Thunderbolt Marketing. “The P8Z77-V PREMIUM is the first Thunderbolt certified motherboard in the industry, a testament to its solid design and compatibility."

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With its long history of working with high tech vendors, ASUS is able to show its strength and commitment to innovation with a close relationship to three of the leading brands currently producing products with Thunderbolt technology, Elgato, LaCie, and PROMISE.

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Thunderbolt is a new, high-speed I/O technology designed for performance, simplicity and flexibility, with lightning fast transfer speeds that are twice that of USB 3.0 and up to 20 times faster than USB 2.0. It offers simultaneous bi-directional 10Gbps transfer speeds over a single cable, with the flexibility to daisy-chain up to six Thunderbolt-ready devices with a single connection as well as offering full display port support for a 7th Thunderbolt or display port equipped monitor. This allows for a clutter-free computing experience while offering unprecedented levels of performance. Users can connect multiple Thunderbolt-enabled external storage drives to a Thunderbolt-enabled display and transfer files while watching HD movies, all without experiencing any lag. In addition for content professional this connection has been designed form the ground up for multimedia offering low latency with highly accurate time synchronization for professional audio and video applications. PC enthusiast and gamers can take immediate advantage combining Thunderbolt and on-board Lucid Virtu MVP to enjoy top-notch graphics performance.

Even better, we have some in-action video of the new ASUS Thunderbolt-implementation including performance!

This video was recorded well before today's launch during our Z77 Live Review and clearly shows some of the benefits of Thunderbolt, as well as some of the limitations, you'll find if you pick up the ASUS P8ZZ77-V Premium motherboard!