Asus ThunderboltEX II Thunderbolt Expansion Card Review

Apple’s Thunderbolt display is a beautifully made, high quality screen with gorgeous and accurate color reproduction It even offers greater convenience as the single thunderbolt connection not only carries the display signal, but also USB, Gigabit Ethernet & Firewire 800 which turns it into a docking station for your notebook

How does it do this? Thunderbolt is basically a combination of PCI-Express, like the slots inside your PC, multiplexed with Display Port for transmitting graphics information The Apple monitor de-muxes the two signals, separating the Display Port video signal from the PCI Express data You can then think of the USB, Ethernet and firewire ports on the monitor as kind of like being like PCI cards in your PC, but at the end of a very long extension cable so they can sit inside the monitor It’s all very clever

And this is why you can’t plug the mini display port output of your computer into a Thunderbolt monitor even though the connector looks the same The monitor is expecting that multiplexed stream of Display Port AND PCI-Express data and doesn’t know what to do with the pure Display Port signal that you’re sending it And this is also why there is no simple adapter cable to get around the problem either Some PC motherboards do have a Thunderbolt output, but they mix in the Display Port signal from the on-board graphics, their Thunderbolt chip knows nothing of your fancy NVidia or AMD add-in card which expect to send their output via the sockets on their backplates Other manufacturers have taken a different approach, one of whom is Asus via their add-in ThunderboltEX II card which supports add-in GPU’s, so let’s take a look

Asus sell Thunderbolt expansion cards for PC’s in both single port and dual port varieties for around 70 and $100 respectively Unfortunately you can’t just throw one into any PC, even if it has an Asus motherboard Asus list several of their own boards on the compatibility list for the card, but it’s horribly out of date and owners of later motherboards may not realise that the card actually works perfectly in their systems as well

If your motherboard has a Thunderbolt header, like my Sabertooth X99, you’re all set You’ll also need a spare PCI-Express slot that provides at least PCI-Express 20 x4 speeds Asus provides a cable that runs from the expansion card to the motherboard header, which on mine is right at the bottom but the cable itself looks a bit clunky it's also ugly and difficult to hide You will need to connect the output from your Display Port graphics card into the Display Port IN on the Thunderbolt card, so it can multiplex that signal with the PCI Express from your motherboard, but don’t do it yet as we need to install the drivers first! Instead power on your system and enter the BIOS

Under Advanced make sure Thunderbolt is Enabled and the appropriate PCI slot selected I’d suggest you flash your motherboard with the latest firmware as this seems to solve a lot of issues that others have experienced Then boot up into Windows and install the latest drivers from the Asus website My card wasn’t actually detected until I did this I then plugged the Thunderbolt monitor into the expansion card via a Thunderbolt cable and it was immediately detected

I then unplugged my 980Ti from the monitor, and plugged it into the Thunderbolt card via the loopback cable provided in the box And that was it, the monitor was now running via Thunderbolt from the 980Ti Given Apple charge $50 for a lot of their display adapters, spending $70 on this expansion card to act as a kind of adapter for my 980Ti isn’t actually too bad, especially as I can now also use Thunderbolt devices on my PC as well, so it’s a good value from that perspective If you found this review helpful let me know by hitting the like button and dropping me a comment And check out some of my other reviews and how-to's And don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any future videos!

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