“One cable to rule them all”. Yes, I am a big fan of the Lord of the Rings series, and that one ring is a perfect analogy to the Thunderbolt 4.0 cable connection interface. Intel has introduced the Thunderbolt 4.0 in Q4 2020 with some key advantages:

  1. Thunderbolt 4.0 features the same 40Gbps bandwidth as we have seen on the Thunderbolt 3.0 but the key difference is coming from minimum PCIe data requirements which are increased from 16Gbps (Thunderbolt 3.0) to 32Gbps (Thunderbolt 4.0). This would theoretically mean that the external storage and graphics would have a higher data transfer rate and performance.
  2. The Thunderbolt 4.0 features Wake from Sleep mode for the PC.
  3. The Thunderbolt 4.0 features VT-d based DMA protection which helps in security threats detection and prevention.

Thunderbolt cable (having a thunderbolt marking on the connector) is certified to perform all three tasks (High-Speed Data Transfer, Power Delivery PD 3.0, USB Alternate Mode) using a single cable interface. Plus, the Thunderbolt 4.0 can easily expand the single port into multiple connections using a Thunderbolt docking station.

The Thunderbolt 4.0 allows the connection of 2x [email protected] displays.Thunderbolt 4.0 also allows two PCs to connect with each other using a high-speed 10 Gigabit Ethernet network using an adapter or Thunderbolt cable over a peer-to-peer network. Since the bandwidth in Thunderbolt 4.0 is bi-directional, we have an ease of throughput without overloading the Thunderbolt port’s capacity and ensuring that the connected devices will perform at their rated speeds.

Thunderbolt 4.0 also supports external video capture devices and external graphics. Thunderbolt cables are certified and they can provide the data transfer of up to 2-meter length cable without any loss or degradation in the performance.

GIGABYTE has launched the GC-Maple Ridge Add-In card which is based on the Thunderbolt 4.0 interface. It is taking over the Titan Ridge Add-In card which is based on Thunderbolt 3.0. The GC-Maple Ridge is backward compatible with Thunderbolt 3.0 as well. The salient features of the card are:

  • Intel Thunderbolt 4 Certified Add-In Card
  • Dual Thunderbolt 4 Ports using USB Type-C
  • The maximum bandwidth is 40Gbps
  • DisplayPort 1.4 Capable
  • Daisy-Chain up to 10 Devices [5 devices per port]

This card is retailing at $209.99 on AMAZON at the time of this writing.

Closer Look

The card is shipped inside a small size cardboard-based packing box with a black color theme.

The salient features of the card are printed over here.

The card module is packed inside the anti-static container. The accessories are placed under the card.

The above picture shows the add-in card. We have black and gray stenciling on the cover. The top cover is made of aluminum material. There is a Thunderbolt marking and branding on the cover. The product name is printed in the white color at the base.

The above picture shows the PCB of the card. It is in the black color with well-soldered components.

The main chip driving this add-in card is Intel JHL8540 Thunderbolt 4 Controller. This controller features dual ports with PCIe 3.0 x4 interface having capabilities of ACS (Access Control Services), FPB, PTM (Precision Time Measurement), P2P (Peer-to-Peer), and 128b payload. The controller supports 2 DP Sink, 1 DP SRC, and DP1.4a tunnel/re-drive at x1/x2/x4 using 1.62/2.7/5.4/8.1.

Above is what seems to be responsible for the provision of a fast charge function on the Thunderbolt ports.

The card has a black color PCB which is exposed on the backside. There is a serial no sticker pasted on the front connectors’ side.

One of the major differences between the Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 is that Intel requires the vendors to implement the Thunderbolt 4 using PCIe 3.0 x4 interface without which no certification is given. The reason behind this rationale is that the Thunderbolt 3, many vendors use x2 PCIe lanes which results in 16Gbps bandwidth for the complete upstream/downstream connectivity.

In Thunderbolt 3, the 18Gbps out of total 40Gbps is reserved for video regardless of DP tunneling and the remaining 22 Gbps were for the data transfer. Thunderbolt 4 has addressed that by increasing the minimum PCIe data requirement from 16Gbps to 32Gbps.

This was only possible if the full-length x4 interface is used. The GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4 Add-In card is implemented using PCIe 3.0 x4 interface.

The GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4 Add-In card has tons of connectors on the front. We will cover them one by one.

One caveat with this design is that we have to deal with the plenty of cables on the motherboard and the Add-In card which could make a cable management task more challenging.

There are 2x 6-pin PCIe connectors on the top. The 6-pin PCIe connector can provide up to 75W power. Combined, we are talking about the 150W of power delivery using two 6-pin connectors.

If you are wondering why these power connectors when the PCIe slot on the motherboard can provide up to 75W power, these two connectors would provide power when the Add-In card is used for PD 3.0 operations i.e when the Add-In card is used to provide power to the connected and enabled device for its charging.

  • Port 1 : Support 5V/3A 9V/3A 15V/3A 19V/5A Power Delivery Spec
  • Port 2 : Support 5V/3A 9V/3A Power Delivery Spec

Next, we have a 9-pin USB 2.0 connector. A bundled cable is used to connect the add-in card on the USB 2.0 header on the motherboard.

Next, we have 5-pin and 3-pin connectors. GIGABYTE is using proprietary connectors on their motherboards for the Thunderbolt cards.

This would mean, only the GIGABYTE Thunderbolt add-in cards can be installed on the GIGABYTE motherboards unless you can mod the wires!

The main connectivity options are:

  • 1x DisplayPort
  • 2x Thunderbolt 4 Ports utilizing USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C
  • 2x Mini DisplayPort In

GIGABYTE has provided all necessary cables required to set up the card. Let’s take a look at the provided cables in the box.

GIGABYTE has provided a 5-pin cable. The cable has a flat design.

The above picture shows the connectors on the 5-pin cable. This cable connects the 5-pin Thunderbolt header on the GIGABYTE motherboard with the 5-pin connector on the card.

GIGABYTE has provided a 3-pin cable. The cable has a flat design.

The above picture shows the connectors on the 3-pin cable. This cable connects the 3-pin Thunderbolt header on the GIGABYTE motherboard with the 3-pin connector on the card.

The above picture shows the USB 2.0 cable with 9-port headers on both ends.

The USB cable has 9-pin headers on both ends. You will need one spare USB 2.0 header on the motherboard for the add-in card.

GIGABYTE has provided 2x mini DisplayPort cables as well. The user can connect the mini DP header to the Mini DisplayPort In port of the card and connect the regular DisplayPort connector to the graphics card.

The above picture shows the headers.

GIGABYTE has provided a user guide and the installation disk for the card as well.

The above picture shows the GIGABYTE compatible motherboards for the GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4 Add-In card.

As can be seen, this card is only compatible with Z590/B560 and Z690/B660 chipset series listed motherboards. The 1x PCIe 3.0 x4 slot wired with PCH would be needed on which the card will be installed.

Setting up the Add-In Card

Now that we have taken a look at the Add-In card and the bundle cables. It is time to set up the card.

We started by connecting the USB cable to the card.

Next, the 5-port cable was connected to the card.

Next, the 3-port cable was connected to the card. The above picture shows all these three cables connected with the card. The PCIe cables are optional and the user will only need them when charging the connected device.

The above picture shows a close-up view of the connected headers.

You will need a PCIe 3.0 x4 slot on the motherboard. We are using the GIGABYTE Z690 AERO-G motherboard which is compatible with this Add-In card. The above picture shows the card installed on the PCIe 3.0 x4 slot which is wired with the chipset.

The above is the top view of the add-in card installed on the GIGABYTE Z690 AERO-G.

The above picture shows the 5-pin and 3-pin cables connected to the Thunderbolt 5-pin and 3-pin headers on the motherboard.

The above picture shows the USB connector connected to the USB 2.0 9-pin header on the motherboard.

The above picture shows the Rear IO panel of the Add-In card after installing the card on the motherboard.

Optionally, the user can connect 2x 6-pin PCIe connectors to the Add-In card so that the card can charge the connected device (PD 3.0). If you are installing the card for the display and external storage then you don’t need the PCIe cable connectivity.

Software

After installing the add-in card, we powered the PC and went into BIOS. The above pictures show the Thunderbolt menu available after the card. The Wake From Thunderbolt Devices was Enabled manually as Thunderbolt 4 has this feature.

The above picture shows the Discreet Thunderbolt Configuration menu. Make sure that GPIO3 Force Pwr is enabled.

The above picture shows the menu for the OTBT controller.

Also, make sure to set Windows OS to UEFI mode in the Boot section of the BIOS.

We booted in Windows 10 and used the GIGABYTE App Center. It detected the thunderbolt and provide us with the driver option. The driver was downloaded and installed.

After installing the driver, the system was restarted. On the next start-up, the Windows downloaded and showed the notification of the Control panel for the thunderbolt.

The above picture shows the native Control Panel of Windows 10. At present, there is no connected device. The control panel successfully detected that the GC-Maple Ridge TB4 Add-In card has two TB ports.

We have used Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q 2TB Thunderbolt external drive for the testing of the GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge TB4 Add-In card.

The above picture shows the drive connected to the GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4 Add-In Card.

The drive is connected to the Port 1 of the add-in card. GIGABYTE has mentioned that when using a single storage drive or a display, it is preferred to use Thunderbolt 4 port 1 and mini DisplayPort In 1 respectively.

  • When connecting one DisplayPort monitor, please connect the Mini-DisplayPort cable to the DP IN 1 connector, then connect the monitor’s cable to the DisplayPort connector or Thunderbolt™ 4 connector 1.
  • When connecting two DisplayPort monitors, please connect one of the Mini-DisplayPort cables to the DP IN 1 connector and connect the monitor’s cable to the DisplayPort connector or Thunderbolt™ 4 connector 1. Then connect the other Mini-DisplayPort cable to the DP IN 2 connector and the monitor’s cable to Thunderbolt™ 4 connector 2.

The user can daisy chain and connect up to 5 Thunderbolt devices (Must have Thunderbolt In and Out ports) and a compatible display to a single Thunderbolt port on the Add-In card. This would mean we can have up to 10 devices and 2 displays connected to the Add-In card using its two Thunderbolt 4 ports.

GIGABYTE has also specified that a user can connect up to 5 devices in a daisy chain and 3 DisplayPort monitors to a single port on the Add-In card provided that a discreet graphics card with DisplayPort ports is attached.

The above picture shows the Thunderbolt Control Panel. The Sabrent Thunderbolt drive is detected and shown as an attached and approved drive.

The above picture shows This PC (My Computer). The Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q 2TB drive is being shown there.

Testing

The following configuration is used for the testing:

  • Intel i7 12700k [Auto, Stock]
  • PCCOOLER PALADIN S9 Cooler
  • GIGABYTE Z690 AERO-G
  • XPG Lancer RGB 6000 32GB DDR5
  • Sabrent Rocket Q 500GB NVMe Drive for OS
  • be quiet! Straight Power 11 1000W Platinum PSU
  • Thermaltake Core P6 TG Snow Edition in an open frame layout.

We ran the ATTO and CrystalDiskMark benchmarks on the drive. The drive is rated for up to 2700 MB/s in sequential read. Here are the results:

Impressive performance from the Sabrent drive! The sequential read speed hits up to 3000 MB/s and the writes speed hits up to 2000 MB/s. The 4K random read/write speeds are also good.

The maximum read speed was 2.90GB/s or roughly 2900MB/s which again validates the rated sequential read speed. The write speed was capped at 1.88GB/s or roughly 1880 MB/s.

Next, we connected the XPG S50 Lite 1TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD enclosed in SilverStone MS12 enclosure. This enclosure provides the USB 3.2 Gen2x2 over the USB Type-C connector. The idea was to determine which USB standard does this Add-In card supports in the USB mode.

It is clear that the GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4 Add-In card supports USB 3.2 Gen2 interface for the USB mode.

Conclusion

We have taken a spin on the GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4 Add-In card. This module conveniently adds the functionality of Thunderbolt 4 to your PCs without needing to change the motherboard. It is only compatible with the GIGABYTE listed motherboards in Z590/B550 and Z690/B660 chipsets. The salient features of the card are:

  • Intel® Thunderbolt™ 4 Certified add-in card
  • Intel® JHL8540 Thunderbolt™ 4 controller
  • Dual Thunderbolt™ 4 Ports (USB Type-C™)
  • Max Bandwidth 40 Gb/s
  • DisplayPort 1.4 Capable with 4K Video Throughout
  • Daisy-chain up to 10 Devices (5 devices per port)
  • Support PD3.0 standard (up to 97W)
  • Port 1: Support 5V/3A 9V/3A 15V/3A 19V/5A Power Delivery Spec
  • Port 2: Support 5V/3A 9V/3A Power Delivery Spec

The main chip driving this add-in card is Intel JHL8540 Thunderbolt 4 Controller. This controller features dual ports with PCIe 3.0 x4 interface having capabilities of ACS (Access Control Services), FPB, PTM (Precision Time Measurement), P2P (Peer-to-Peer), and 128b payload. The controller supports 2 DP Sink, 1 DP SRC, and DP1.4a tunnel/re-drive at x1/x2/x4 using 1.62/2.7/5.4/8.1.

This add-in card features a 40 Gbps data transfer rate which is double that of the Thunderbolt 2.0 on a single-wire connection. It is also double the USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C offering. It is 8 times faster than the USB 3.0 with a 5 Gbps rate.

The add-in card has 2x Thunderbolt 4.0 ports labeled as 1 and 2. The user can daisy chain up to 5 devices and a DisplayPort monitor to be connected to a single port on the add-in card. This way, we can add up to 10 Thunderbolt devices and 2x displays using 2x ports on the add-in card. All this flexibility without needing any hub or switch.

The Add-in Card can also provide a high-speed charge of up to 97W. The card has 2x 6-pin PCIe connectors to provide this charging capability to the connected device. If you are not utilizing the charging feature then there is no need to connect the PCIe cables to the card.

The Add-In card has 2 mini DisplayPort In ports and a standard DisplayPort out port as well for the display purpose. The card can support two displays in 4K resolution at 60 FPS.

The Add-In card is supported on Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit with 20H2 or a later version. GIGABYTE has mentioned that the driver for Linux may be downloaded from chipset vendors’ websites or 3rd party websites.

Setting up this card is easy though we have to use plenty of cables for the connectivity. Like we have 3x cables (USB 2.0, 5-pin TB, and 3-pin TB) which are mandatory. We would also need a spare USB 2.0 header on the motherboard. GIGABYTE motherboards come with 5-pin and 3-pin Thunderbolt ports.

The 5-pin and 3-pin cables are to be connected to these ports. Optionally, 2x PCIe 6-pin cables can be connected to the card to charge the connected device (up to 97W). The BIOS will show the menu for the Discreet Thunderbolt Configuration. Make sure to enable the GPIO 3 Force Pwr in the settings. The Windows OS must be in UEFI in BIOS as well. The GIGABYTE APP Center will detect and allow the user to download and install the driver. This would make the card ready for operations.

We have tested the card using Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q 2TB Thunderbolt drive. The drive was detected by the card and the Thunderbolt Control Panel. We ran CDM and ATTO tests to verify the speed of the drive.

The drive is rated for the sequential read speed of up to 2700MB/s and the tested speed was in the range of 2900 MB/s to 3000 MB/s. We have also tested the XPG S50 Lite 1TB SSD in the SilverStone MS12 enclosure which provides the USB 3.2 Gen2x2 interface over the USB Type-C connector. The Add-In card seems to provide USB 3.2 Gen2 standard (10Gbps) in the USB mode.

The GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4 Add-In card is listed at $209.99 on AMAZON at the time of this writing. This is a premium price tag. This card brings the powerful features and functionality of Intel Thunderbolt 4.0 to your existing PCs without changing the motherboard (See the compatibility list). In our basic testing of external storage on this card, we have found the Add-In working flawlessly.

We are grateful to GIGABYTE for the provision of a Thunderbolt Add-In card for the test and setup.

Tech4Gamers Recommended Award

GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4.0

GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge Add-in Card Verdict

The GIGABYTE GC-Maple Ridge Thunderbolt 4 Add-In card harnesses the power of Thunderbolt 4.0 and brings powerful functionality to the disposal of the user without requiring a change in the existing hardware (provided motherboard’s compatibility). It does what it is supposed to do and comes recommended by us.

Overall
8.8/10
8.8/10
  • Design - 9/10
    9/10
  • Performance - 9/10
    9/10
  • Features - 9/10
    9/10
  • Value - 8/10
    8/10
With over 10 years of experience in the Hardware Reviews and Tech Category, I've now worked at multiple publications, reviewing all sorts of products, and continue to do so at Tech4Gamers.