We must admit we were a bit surprised when only MSI and ASUS announced Thunderbolt motherboards recently... but after visting both Gigabyte and ASRock's stands at Computex today we now know why.
Both ASRock and Gigabyte have built their Thunderbolt motherboards with Intel's higher end controller chip, which supports dual Thunderbolt connections. This means two ports on the motherboards, and the ability to run each channel at full speed. It also means that the motherboards are capable of running three independent displays from Intel's integrated graphics controller.
The reason we haven’t seen these products announced as of yet is that Intel still hasn’t gotten around to finalising its certification process for the dual controller chip. So while the motherboards are built and ready to go, manufacturers are waiting on the final tick of approval in order to get them onto the market.
In many ways electing to go with the high end controller chip is a smart idea despite the cost jump over a single port. At the moment the market for Thunderbolt is fairly minor, largely confined to those building Hackintosh computers and those needing large amounts of fast external storage. Given the premium pricetag that accompanies a Thunderbolt lifestyle, with everything from the PC, to the cable, to the devices costing more than the USB equivalents, going even higher end with the hardware makes a certain amount of sense.
We'll be keeping a close eye on the certification process, and are keen to get our hands on these new products. For now though we'll have to be satisfied with the single port solutions that are already trickling onto the market.