We've waited quite some time for Intel's Thunderbolt interface to come to PCs, and now Asus and MSI have announced their first Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards to bring that wait to an end. Both MSI's Z77A-GD80 and Asus' P8Z77-V Premium motherboards use the same mini DisplayPort connector that Apple has been using, as opposed to Sony's custom Light Peak implementation.
We've already seen tests of MSI's model earlier this year, which is using Intel's Z77 chipset for Ivy Bridge compatibility. MSI is touting the Z77A-GD80 as having Military Class III components that have passed MIL-STD-810G testing, meaning it can survive stressful temperature fluctuations, vibration, and humidity exposure. The motherboard also offers a UEFI BIOS, USB 3.0, as well as support for three-way SLI and Crossfire GPU setups.
Asus' P8Z77-V Premium is also using Intel's Z77 chipset, but includes a few more accoutrements than MSI's offering. In addition to Thunderbolt support, the P8Z77-V Premium offers four PCI-e 3.0 sockets for four-way SLI or Crossfire setups, as well as LucidLogix Virtu MVP, which intelligently dispatches graphics workloads across all available GPUs. It includes built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 network interfaces, in addition to a 32GB on-board SSD using Asus' "SSD Caching II" feature that automatically caches frequently used files for maximum speed.
Interestingly, Asus' press release notes that the motherboard manufacturer has been working with Elgato, LaCie, and Promise to bring PC-compatible Thunderbolt storage accessories to market. From their wording, these PC-specific drives aren't any different from their Mac counterparts spare for their formatting, so incompatibility shouldn't be a problem between platforms. Neither company has revealed pricing and availability just yet, but it's a safe bet that we'll see both at Taipei's Computex show coming up in two weeks.