Intel said the first Thunderbolt 2 products would be available by the end of the year, and it wasn't lying: Asus just announced the world's first Thunderbolt 2-equipped motherboard, the straightforwardly named Z87-Deluxe/Quad.
Why is that a big deal, you ask? Simple: The first generation of the Thunderbolt interface technology hums along at 10Gbps, more than double the 5Gbps that USB 3.0 is capable of. Thunderbolt 2 screams at a face-melting 20Gbps. Intel likes to boast that Thunderbolt 2's firehose of bits and bytes is capable of both displaying a 4K resolution video on a monitor while simultaneously transferring a 4k video file to external storage with nary a hitch, though we've yet to test the claim. (Hey, the first motherboard was only just announced!)
While shipments of Thunderbolt-equipped hardware technically surged over the past year, that's only on a percentage basis; IDC reports that Thunderbolt can only be found on 0.6 percent of all storage devices sold. Intel's tech plays second fiddle to USB 3.0 because those mind-blowing speeds come with an almost mind-blowing sticker price, which has also slowed adoption rates.
In fact, an Intel spokesperson has said that "Thunderbolt is targeted toward premium systems," and the Asus Z87-Deluxe/Quad appears poised to keep the tradition going strong. In addition to the motherboard's pair of bi-directional 20Gbps Thunderbolt 2 ports and support for Intel's cutting-edge Haswell chips, here are the rest of the short spec list Asus released.
- 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
Asus even includes a gratisNFC Express dongle with the Z87-Deluxe/Quad for all your one-tap data transferring needs. And by "needs," of course, I mean "wants."
Two glaring omissions leap out from the Asus press release: Pricing and availability. Given that Asus' closest comparable Thunderbolt 1-equipped motherboard will set you back $350, don't expect the world's first Thunderbolt 2 mobo to come cheap.
If spending that kind of cash on a single component gives you chest pains, be patient: A speedier 10Gbps USB 3.1 standard was recently approved, though the first fruits of that labor aren't expected to hit the streets until late 2014.