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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  • PaulRod - Monday, August 19, 2013 - link

    ASUS? Lame...
  • etamin - Monday, August 19, 2013 - link

    so what IGP is expected to push those three 4K displays?? (or can PCIe GPU's be run behind them?)
  • aruisdante - Monday, August 19, 2013 - link

    There are some software hacks to enable it (Lucid's Virtuo-MVP for example). Apple does it in all of their Macs. So it's definitely possible, it's just a matter of the drivers properly supporting it.
  • solipsism - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    The only Mac that supports 4x 4K displays is the new Mac Pro, which isn't out yet. I'm certain the next MacBook Pros will have 2xTB2 ports but that would only mean 1x 4K display if the Mac Pro can support 3x 4K with 6x TB2 ports.

    The new Mac Pro will also have one HDMI 1.4 port but Apple hasn't noted you can support 4x 4K displays on that display. I'd say that has to do with the GPU power not merely drivers or having ports that can support the bandwidth.
  • Kevin G - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    The new Mac Pro has enough GPU IO to drive twelve 4k displays (six off each GPU). The catch is that there are only three TB2 controllers and each controller appears to support only one 4k display.

    The good news is that the HDMI1.4 port will like be able to drive a 4k display at 30 Hz independent of the TB2 connectors.
  • repoman27 - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Pretty sure the limiting factor is the number of available pixel pipelines, which for AMD cards (regardless of how many you have in a CrossFire style setup) is 6, and the fact that all existing 4K displays treat the panel as 2 or more separate regions. Thus 3 is the limit for 4K displays at the moment.

    The HDMI port on the Mac Pro is still subject to the 6 pixel pipeline issue, but could be used for a third 4K display at 30 Hz on any Haswell Mac with a discrete GPU, Falcon Ridge Thunderbolt controller and HDMI port.
  • repoman27 - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    "Pixel pipeline" isn't really the correct term for what I was trying to refer to. I think maybe "display pipe" or "display output" would have been more appropriate.
  • Kevin G - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Each DisplayPort on AMD's FireGL cards has full DP 1.2 bandwidth. Though you are onto another limitation of AMD cards: they do support a maximum of 6 displays per card but that is not resolution dependent. The idea of that multistream transport (MST) is used with early 4k displays would indeed make each display appear as 2 and thus be easier to bump up against that limitation.

    The HDMI port is likely coming off of the second GPU card. Remember that the new Mac Pro packs two GPU's and thus it would be trivial to support more than 6 displays.
  • solipsism - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    I have doubts Apple would say it can support only 3x 4K/60 displays when you can say it can feasibly support twice that amount. I guess we'll have to wait for people pushing its limits but I have to wonder why Apple would cut the number in half instead of marketing it.
  • shompa - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    AMD dont support crossfire on FirePro GPUs + Mac Pro uses 1 graphics for graphics. The other GPU is dedicated to Compute. And that will revolutionise computing.

    Finally we will have optimised OS and programs for compute including Final Cut X and Aperture.

    To bad that MacPro will cost 5K+ + 3x3499 4K Cinema displays.

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