ASRock Arrow Lake-S Taichi Aqua with 10 Type-C Ports

(Image credit: Future)

ASRock showcased its next-generation Z890 Taichi Aqua flagship motherboard at Computex, with support for Intel’s upcoming Arrow Lake-S processors. By far the most significant change ASRock has made to its future flagship is the complete removal of all USB Type-A ports on the back, replacing them with ten Type-C ports — two of which are Thunderbolt enabled. It provides a glimpse of what the best motherboards could look like in the future when it comes to I/O.

We already discussed most aspects of the new Taichi Aqua in our look at ASRock’s upcoming Intel motherboards, but this board deserves special note for its USB Type-C exclusive rear I/O. It’s like nothing we’ve seen on any other motherboard to date, and the removal of all Type-A ports could be a potential drawback for many people — most mice and keyboards still use a Type-A connector, which means you’ll need to upgrade or buy a separate USB hub.

In total ASRock’s next-gen Taichi Aqua has a whopping ten Type-C ports. Eight are rated for USB 3.2 connectivity, with the final two also supporting the more powerful Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 standards. However, not all of the USB ports are equal. Four of the 3.2 ports are rated for 10Gbps (aka USB 3.2 Gen 2×1), while the other four are 5Gbps ports (USB 3.2 Gen 1).

That means four of the rear Type-C ports aren’t any better than your typical USB Type-A ports. Note also that ASRock’s next gen Taichi Aqua does not come with any of the 20Gbps (USB 3.2 Gen 2×2) ports, which is only available in Type-C format, though it perhaps makes up for that with the two USB 4 / Thunderbolt 4 ports. ASRock has not confirmed this yet, but we also don’t believe the Type-C ports come with display alt functionality or significant amounts of power delivery, both of which are optional perks of the Type-C form factor.

This is to be expected, as building a board with ten USB 4 ports — or even USB 3.2 Gen2x2 — would be very complex and result in a very expensive motherboard, not to mention the fact that few people would even take advantage of all those maxed out Type-C ports.

USB ports also come from the Intel PCH (platform controller hub), which is linked to the CPU via eight lanes of DMI 4.0 connectivity on current platforms — though Intel could upgrade that to 5.0 on Z890. That means there’s a maximum of 16 GB/s of bandwidth between the PCH and CPU, and ten USB 3.2 Gen2x2 ports would top out at an aggregate 25 GB/s — and if those were all USB4 Gen3x2 ports with 40Gbps of bandwidth, that would require 50 GB/s in aggregate.

It will be interesting to see if customers will be swayed by ASRock’s Type-C configuration on the new Taichi Aqua. Type-C has grown in popularity since it debuted several years ago, but it’s still relatively uncommon to see in desktop peripherals like keyboards and mice.

ASRock could be starting a whole new trend with its Type-C-only motherboard. Greater Type-C adoption in the desktop space would help unify the Type-C form factor on all devices, improving compatibility and reducing waste. Having all devices on Type-C could allow users to ditch clunky adapters and allow more peripherals and devices to work with both desktops and mobile phones. But USB Type-A connectors have proven persistent if nothing else, and aren’t likely to ride off into the sunset any time soon.

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Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.

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