Thunderbolt on Windows: ASUS P8Z77-V Premium, Pegasus R4 and an Apple Thunderbolt Display
Pegasus R4 RAID and Apple Thunderbolt Display
Pegasus R4 External RAID
In order to test out the new Thunderbolt integration on the ASUS P8Z77-V Premium motherboard (and future Thunderbolt implementations), Promise sent along one of its new Pegasus R4 devices – recently prepared for the Windows OS.
One of the earliest Thunderbolt-compatible accessories for the Apple platform, the R4 and R6 are four bay and six bay high performance RAID solutions for external storage respectively. The R4 uses the Promise RAID engine and is powered by a 500 MHz Sierra 8011 SoC that it claims is more than capable of hitting the read and write speeds available on the Thunderbolt connection. The unit has 512MB of DDR2 memory used for caching (which we had to adjust our benchmarks to overcome).
The R4 unit has four interchangeable drive bays that allow the unit to support RAID 0, 1, 10, 5, 50 and even 6 depending on your use. The unit is very well built and is targeted at professional users that often run programs like Premiere, Photoshop and more. Our unit shipped with a set of four 1TB hard drives in a RAID 5 configuration though we mixed things up a bit by converting to RAID 0, and even using some Corsair Force 3 GT SSDs to maximize the bandwidth of the Thunderbolt connection.
The back of the unit is pretty clean. A power connection, a serial connection that goes unlisted in the manual, and a pair of Thunderbolt connections for pass through support. Interestingly, you can connect the Pegasus R4 to the system through either TB port without issue.
With the copper Thunderbolt cable installed, the R4 is basically ready for immediate use in its default state.
Apple Thunderbolt Display
In order to test some other aspects of the Thunderbolt interface such as pass through capability and performance while streaming video, we were able to get an Apple Thunderbolt Display in for some quick testing. The 27-inch 2560x1440 monitor is impressively built and the images it produces are crisp and clean. Unfortunately for most users, the display is a clean $999!
As with all Apple products, the design is clean and efficient. It even comes with an incredibly attractive brushed aluminum finish.
Even with a host of accessory ports on the display the Apple Thunderbolt Display is very clean with only a power cord and a Thunderbolt connection available on the back I/O of the monitor.
At the bottom right of the screen you'll find connections for three USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 connection, Thunderbolt pass-through and a Gigabit Ethernet jack. All of this data flows through the Thunderbolt connection to the PC, including the audio for the integrated speakers (found on the bottom of the display). For Mac users, these options are great but for Windows users, Apple has yet to release a driver to enable the Ethernet, USB or FireWire connections. The integrated audio worked immediately in Windows 7 though, which is nice.
The Thunderbolt pass through allows you to connect other devices after the display in a daisy chain configuration where as if you connect a standard mini-DisplayPort monitor it will have to be the terminating point of the chain.
In addition to the Thunderbolt connection, Apple includes a MagSafe connector that allows you to charge your notebook and plug in the monitor without having to remove your power cable from your back. This is a really slick addition.
Here is another shot of the back of the Apple Thunderbolt Display. It demonstrates the capability for a single Thunderbolt connection to clean up the clutter of cables that forms around a PC or a dockable notebook. Having an interface with the capability to stream as much as 10 Gbps as well as pass through video for a monitor on a single cable offers up a lot of interesting system integration options for PCs.