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New York, NY

ASRock Z77 Extreme6/TB4 Thunderbolt with Discrete Graphics

ASRock Z77 Extreme6/TB4 Motherboard Offers Thunderbolt with Discrete Graphics

Subject: Motherboards | December 11, 2012 - 10:34 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: asrock, thunderbolt, Z77

ASRock has a new motherboard out, the Z77 Extreme6/TB4, that promises to allow you to use discrete graphics by simply utilizing a DisplayPort connection on the graphics card itself.

Besides offering a pair of Thunderbolt connections, the motherboard claims to be the "world's only Thunderbolt motherboard supporting discrete VGA card via Thunderbolt port."

Essentially ASRock is taking the DP connection from the discrete graphics card, taking it into the motherboard through a DisplayPort input connection and then sending that back out the motherboard Thunderbolt header. More than likely this is simple electrical pass through and there isn't much or any logic going on to "trick" the system. It also raises concerns that the motherboard and display solution won't be officially approved by Intel. (We are all, after all, still waiting to see the ASUS ThunderboltEX to hit the market...)

» ··· Graphics

Take note that the board is already available on Newegg. Therefore, there should be no unfulfilled promises as was the case with Asus motherboards with the “TB_Header” depending on the Asus ThunderboltEX card that was supposed to hit the market at or near the same time as Ivy Bridge processors:

ASRock Z77 Extreme6/TB4 LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard $174.99

The ASRock Z77 Extreme6/TB4 board is also cheaper then the Gigabyte UP4 TB and UP5 TB motherboards:

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP4 TH LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard with Dual Thunderbolt $184.99

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard with Dual Thunderbolt $239.99

Caveat Emptor
Earth Orbit
Isn't Apple doing the same thing with its Thunderbolt monitor?

New York, NY
I’m not sure how Apple does things but the monitor isn’t really the focus here. I suspect that Apple Thunderbolt displays simply use DisplayPort at the end of the chain internally and supports a host of other features off of the Thunderbolt connection (USB, audio and so on). Its my Understanding that Apple Thunderbolt monitors require a Thunderbolt connection to work at all though so a DsiplayPort port wont cut it.

The focus here though is that Intel has an Intel video subsystem hardware requirement in the spec for Thunderbolt. This is why higher-end solutions like LGA2011 / X79 motherboards don’t have Thunderbolt support (since they have no built in Intel video subsystem) and why some comparatively lower-end LGA1155 / Z77 solutions do. Apparently with the use of software you can drive a display through the Thunderbolt port using a discrete video solution (AMD, nVidia and so on). This may be how Apple does it but I’m not sure. Apparently Intel is very particular about how this is done though and any solution like a hardware solution that bypass the built in Intel video subsystem or could bypass it in hardware is denied certification. Im not 100% sure on this but that was my understanding.

An example of this would be the aforementioned ASUS ThunderboltEX card that never made it to market presumably due to the lack of said certification (based on a presumed hardware bypass).

So for example, since its very likely that the Apple Mac Pro refresh in 2013 will be based on something like Intel Sandy Bridge-E or (more likely) the Intel Ivy Bridge-E LGA2011 / X79 / C606 platform then there most likely will be no Thunderbolt support.


Indianapolis, IN
reply to Octavean
Very nice looking board. Makes me want to do another build.