Last week, during the Computex conference, ASUS demonstrated a Thunderbolt expansion card, which receives sufficient bandwidth from its PCI-Express x4 connector to power a single Thunderbolt connector at full speed (10 Gbps). The card also has a DisplayPort connector, with which the video output of either an onboard chip or discrete GPU can be routed to the Thunderbolt connector on ASUS' card.
VR-Zone has acquired the brand new ThunderboltEX expansion card and placed it on ASUS' Rampage V Gene motherboard, which features the required 'TB-HEADER'. This header is already present on several Z77-based motherboards, but may also be added to future AMD models. While it is not exactly known what the header does, it is clear that the expansion card can only be used on motherboards with it.
VR-Zone has made several close-up images of the card, showing the controller chip as well. This chip, Intel's DSL3310 'Cactus Ridge' 2C, is the mobile version of the DSL3510 desktop chip, and has a lower power consumption. The chip offers the full 10 Gbps Thunderbolt bandwidth. The expansion card does not require any additional connectors, meaning it is powered by the PCI-Express slot alone.
After installing ASUS' ThunderboltEX expansion card, a new submenu appeared in the motherboard's UEFI interface. This menu allows several settings to be configured, such as the amount of memory allocated to the card (to address new devices). Also configurable here is whether the system can be booted by a device attached through Thunderbolt. According to Intel engineers, a decent BIOS or UEFI should be capable to handle the hot-plug connecting of devices to a Windows 7 computer, because of the way they recognize new PCI-Express devices.
No details are available on when the Thunderbolt expansion card will be launched and at what price. We'll keep an eye out on the developments. VR-Zone will release a second article in which they will share with us their experiences with the card.
ASUS' ThunderboltEX card pictured (Source: VR-Zone)
Thunderbolt submenu in UEFI (Source: VR-Zone)