ASUS Introduces World's First Intel Thunderbolt 2-Certified Motherboard
I have to admit that I barely understand Thunderbolt. This just popped up in one of my news sources, but looking at the date of the news release ... this is old news?
Since I am a bit of an Asus junky I guess I will have to read up on Thunderbolt.
Well, if by old you mean a week old :P
I got caught up with things so I didn't post about it. I personally have no interest in Thunderbolt 1, so I certainly don't have interest in Thunderbolt 2, but when it comes down to it, I -really- don't like adopting the very first release of something like this. Remember when the first SATA 3 and USB 3.0 boards came out? Those connections got much faster with subsequent releases. I think this is just marketing at the moment. I don't see much use for TB among enthusiasts the the moment, so the bandwidth could be inflated 100x and it still wouldn't change anything.
Edit: Oh, and I am working on an ASUS Z87-EXPERT review atm... it has Thunderbolt. Aside from that, it's almost an identical board to the Z87-PRO. The premium? $40...
It's a little tricky to explain to people the advantage of Thunderbolt over something like USB 3.0. If you look at base bandwidth, then at face value, there is little difference. Then add in the cost of active cables over Thunderbolt, the proprietary nature of the system, it's a very expensive version of firewire to most people and simply ignored. Why use TB when USB 3.0 is already universal and cheap?
I'm not an advocate of TB, but I can see the technical advantages of the system. First of all, in its simplest form, it's a PCIe cable; anything you can do with PCIe, you can do over TB. This means that TB can carry a USB 3.0 connection if you want it to. At the same time, it can carry DisplayPort, Ethernet, S/PDIF or even graphics... further still, it can carry all of these at the same time, limited of course by the total available bandwidth of the connection. It can also be daisy-chained. Mobile users got very excited over this, because it could mean that you could have a single cable that hooks up your laptop to a dock, which then provides all the I/O that you need, and possibly an external graphics card. Peak your interest?
So far though, all that's been released is a few NAS solutions, an incompatible monitor, and an incompatible Sony variation of TB... oh, and a very expensive dock by Belkin.
But you can hook up NICs, audio and other things to a USB 3.0 port, why pay more for the same? Well... there is a more fundamental difference too. USB 3.0 is a protocol which is interpreted and then sent over PCIe, like SATA, this means that you introduce a middleman in the connection, and thus, latency is significantly increased. TB is PCIe, so there is no latency overhead (well, very little), so nearly the full bandwidth is available.
TB has its place, but because it's locked-in and misunderstood, it'll remain expensive and underutilised. Pretty much like Firewire - which in itself, was a niche but technically superior protocol to USB. There's a reason why a lot of older Pro-Audio gear used Firewire instead of USB... latency, signal quality and power filtering.
Yep, Thunderbolt offers some nice flexibility with interconnectivity with that PCIe-like capability. But it's locked in, under-utilized, and supremely over-expensive on cables while devices carrying it require their own premiums... it may catch on in the future after the costs drop to nothing and a wider array or newer devices begin using it, but until then USB 3.1 looks fine to me.
What's newsworthy about it is that if you want Thunderbolt 2 capability, you need a thunderbolt 2 capable device + controller. The Thunderbolt stuff on the market isn't going to cut it. It's a shame they couldn't make it a flexible design in channel configuration, then it wouldn't have been an issue or a need for TB2 in the first place.
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