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Thunderbolt on Windows: ASUS P8Z77-V Premium, Pegasus R4 and an Apple Thunderbolt Display

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: ASUS

Lucid Virtu: Uniting Discrete Graphics and Thunderbolt

After successfully, and quite easily, installing and connecting the Pegasus R4 I wanted to attach the Thunderbolt display to the series and see how that experience went. It was equally as seamless. 

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After plugging the Thunderbolt cable into the secondary port on the R4, Windows made its familiar "ba-dum" sound and installed the display driver. For this to work though, you must have the processor graphics on the Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge CPU enabled with the Intel driver installed. In Windows, we see the 2560x1400 display available and listed as "Thunderbolt".

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In our configuration, we also had a display connected to the GeForce GTX 560 Ti discrete card and in the control panel configurations above you see that each is interacting with the displays correctly. The Dell 3007 WFP and the Apple Thunderbolt display are both enabled and working for an easy multi-monitor environment. 

You can use the Thunderbolt display by itself but in my experience, with no other display attached to the PC, getting access to the BIOS/UEFI was somewhat finicky even when setting the integrated graphics as the default option in the UEFI before removing the discrete card. Much like we saw with standard DisplayPort implementations, there might be a little bit of a lead time for that to be implemented 100% correctly.

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We haven't talked about Lucid's Virtu technology recently, but thanks to it, Thunderbolt users are able to play games and utilize discrete graphics solutions on Thunderbolt displays. Even though the TB display MUST be attached to the HD 4000 graphics on the Intel Core i7-3770K in our configuration, Lucid's Virtu GPU virtualization software allows us to utilize the GTX 560 Ti for gaming, with or without another monitor attached to it. 

By telling Windows to make the Apple Thunderbolt Display the primary display and then installing Lucid Virtu software and enabling virtualization, gaming performance was basically identical to having a monitor connected to the NVIDIA GPU.

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This technology has been around for a couple of years now and we have been impressed with Lucid's ability to maintain compatibility and keep strong partnerships with the major motherboard vendors like ASUS. Initially sold as a way to utilize CPU-specific features like QuickSync combined with the gaming performance of a discrete GPU, I think Lucid has a much stronger selling point here with the Thunderbolt interface in the picture.

If users begin to adopt the Thunderbolt interface for storage devices, accessories and displays, then Lucid Virtu provides the only way to do so and maintain the PC gaming performance levels that users expect and demand. If I was limited to the Intel HD 4000 graphics performance in Battlefield 3 on this sweet 2560x1440 Apple Thunderbolt Display, it would not have been nearly as impressive an overall experience. 

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Without Virtu installed, our gaming performance to the Thunderbolt display was limited to what the Intel HD 4000 graphics could provide.

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After having the Lucid software enabled, the discrete GTX 560 Ti GPU was accessible for gaming even though the screen output was going through the Thunderbolt connection. Obviously this will work with any discrete graphics card from AMD or NVIDIA including the ultra-high end options. 

June 28, 2012 | 07:37 AM - Posted by OctaveanActually (not verified)

Actually its not entirely accurate to say “any monitor with a DisplayPort connection” will work with Intel Thunderbolt since I believe you need to have at least a DisplayPort v1.1 or higher compatible monitor. Version 1.0 presumably wont work.

June 28, 2012 | 08:30 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Hmm, I hadn't heard that.  I'll check!

June 28, 2012 | 07:49 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'll stick with (e)SATA and USB 3.0. Too many issues with TB performance and cost for it to be considered a true SATA and USB 3.0 replacement for the average joe.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/thunderbolt-performance-z77a-gd80,32...

June 28, 2012 | 08:33 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I read the page on that story about the problems, and I didn't see ANY of them.  I think the initial push MSI made with their GD80 board was causing much of that.  I know that ASUS went through certification with their Premium board and MSI's GD80 has gotten significant updates.

June 28, 2012 | 08:15 AM - Posted by Arb1 (not verified)

Yea its faster then USB3 but USB is on every machine for last 15 years and its cheap. TB on other hand it on a hand full of machines and cable ALONE costs a lot so i don't see TB doing much less intel dumps a ton of cast in to get every computer to have it and gets those prices WAY down.

June 28, 2012 | 06:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You realize USB was only on a handfull of machines when it first started too, right?The cables back then were costly as well.

Not exactly a good argument.

June 28, 2012 | 08:29 AM - Posted by OctaveanActually (not verified)

I believe there is already at least one Thunderbolt cable not manufactured by Apple already but it is the same ~$50 price. Instead of they typical Apple white color its black.

I agree that Thunderbolt is more expensive then the ubiquitous USB but its not exactly the same thing. For example, in theory you could run high-end graphics subsystems off of Thunderbolt such as something akin to an HD 7970 or GTX680, on a laptop or tablet (with Thunderbolt support). You just cant do that with USB. So the potential is there.

June 28, 2012 | 08:36 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Very good point.

June 28, 2012 | 03:36 PM - Posted by Bojan (not verified)

Yes indeed. Sony's latest Z series of laptops features external DVD/AMD graphics card combo.

June 28, 2012 | 09:25 AM - Posted by OctaveanActually (not verified)

The Asus “P8Z77-V Pro / Thunderbolt” edition motherboard is available now for ~$259.99. It doesn’t have all the features of the P8Z77-V Premium but its cheaper and has built in Thunderbolt.

June 28, 2012 | 09:32 PM - Posted by Draconian

I wonder if the P8Z77-V PRO/THUNDERBOLT has the same Cactus Ridge controller as the P8Z77-V PREMIUM.

There are different TB controllers that support differing amounts of daisy chaining.

June 28, 2012 | 09:49 AM - Posted by StanB (not verified)

With DisplayPort connectivity built in, is it possible we will see this replacing DVI & HDMI?

Though I love my HP z30w, I want to see 120hz 30 inch monitors. I know there is a new cable standard based on CAT5e/6 networking cables but I've not heard anything since it was announced like 2 years ago. With 4k TVs supposedly on the way we need to see some progress on this front.

June 28, 2012 | 12:01 PM - Posted by Revelation (not verified)

This is fantastic. I'm guessing this will open notebooks and limited desktops alike to portable GPUs. Finally a way to update that notebook video adapter!

June 28, 2012 | 09:32 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I've seen the sony in action, and it's like a bad joke. Good luck getting the external gpu to work on the integrated monitor. i couldn't play any games at all on it, and even aero was performing... poorly. Lots of tearing. Not to mention that the external video card requires a discrete power supply, which kills portability, and presumably is a risk to the system if it should ever come unplugged while in use, and this is looking like a design decision that puts hp's dv6000s to shame. Oh, and the laptop sitting next to it was the same size, cost $100 less, and had a faster gpu built in. It's a nice thought, but really guys? this is the future? If this is what I have to look forward to, half assed implementations...

Not that it's a bad idea in and of itself. I would kill for a displaylink adapter that could output dual link dvi and sport its own small gpu inside for hardware accelerated video that can run on only the 10w available through thunderbolt. That should be more than doable, and a killer product. But as it stands, we're no less than three generations from true external video cards.

June 29, 2012 | 09:09 AM - Posted by choco (not verified)

I agree with the side paragraph on "more than storage" although I don't think people really get this.

This is the way forward with thunderbolt and is highly underrated.

When we start seeing graphics, displays, cpus, SSD banks, in the forms of thunderbolt docs (sure cpu and memory will have to wait for v2 but so did hdd with usb 1 v 2.0)
This is where thunderbolt real benefits will be seen.

Just imaging the ability to dock your phone into your pad which can doc into a workstation or gaming rig.
Each time you get more memory, cpu and gpu power or what ever it is you docked too.
Each time getting an auto backup of your primary medium.

It gives the end consumer similar advantages to blade disk and cloud (think azure cpu scaling) hardware scaleability benefits directly.

Windows OS already allows hot swapping and adding cpus, memory, gpus, hdd (old news) and what not. Now its time for the hardware to catch up to the software.

July 6, 2012 | 07:08 PM - Posted by LawrieK (not verified)

So, what happens if you plug each end of a TB cable into separate PC's?
USB has A and B plugs to prevent this due to the risk of power related damage and competing hosts. How has TB solved this issue?
It sure would make for a killer "Laplink" cable tho.

I hope that as soon as the bios and driver issues are well settled, we will see TB ports replacing display ports on high-end video cards, a nice way to upgrade a system I think.

TB has a solid future, of that I'm pretty sure but USB will remain a more appropriate bus for cheap and low bandwidth devices for some years yet.

Thanks for the great article, now I wish my new PC had TB in place, guess I'll have to hold out for the GFX card option.

August 8, 2012 | 06:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I bought the asus p8z77 pro/thunderbolt and apple thunderbolt display but while i get an image from the iGPU HD 3000 (i7 2600K) on my thunderbolt display, it seems that the discrete card (GTX 560 ti) does not kick in in 3d games although the option is enabled in Lucid virtu MVP. Am I missing something? Can someone help, pls ? The article above seems to tell a different story than mine.....
Some games don't even start although they appear as supported in lucid mvp, so I must be doing someting wrong

Thank you in advance !

January 13, 2013 | 10:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Have you figured out how to get your discrete card to run through your thunderbolt yet? I wanted to make sure this could be done on the pro before I buy one.

January 17, 2013 | 01:21 PM - Posted by Jebbie (not verified)

I have bought the P8Z77-V PRO/THUNDERBOLT too now and an apple thunderbolt display.. i have made the installation so far as described:

- installed all latest drivers (chipset, lan, usb, whatever)
- made bios-update to 1805
- installed latest intel graphics hd driver
- installed latest nvidia driver for my Asus GTX-560 Ti
- installed lucid virtu mvp
- reboot - go to bios and activate iGPU
- connect thunderbolt display and got image..

but i have only a resolution of 640x480 - the device manager is telling me, that the hd graphics card has not enough resources (error 12) and lucid virtu drops an error "wrong gpu configuration"..

all i can find in the manual is, that i have to make sure, that the integrated gpu is not deactivated when a deticated graphics card is installed.. but in the bios, i can't find a point under "Integrated peripherals" or any other point to control that...

the other thing.. my windows is not on the latest state, cause my install cd is a little bit out-dated and currently i didn't finish running the updates of windows.. could that cause a problem?

what have configured in this review in the bios? iGPU? Auto? or something else? what whit any other settings like wakeup over tb oder tb settings itself?

February 13, 2013 | 11:42 AM - Posted by Luis (not verified)

exist laptop pc whit thunderbolt port?

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