PowerColor's Devil Box, a laptop dock with space for a GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 31, 2016 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: powercolor, devil box, external gpu

Thunderbolt 3, when properly implemented, provides enough bandwidth to make external GPUs possible.  The rather large Devil Box dock offers all the connectivity generally found in a docking station but can also handle even the most recently released GPUs.  Overclockers Club tested out the effectiveness of the Devil Box with an RX 480, comparing the performance of the card when installed internally and externally.  As you would reasonably expect the performance is slower over Thunderbolt, by a fair margin in most cases but not as much in the DX12 Ashes of the Singularity.  Drop by to see the full review and ponder if adding an external desktop GPU to your laptop is interesting enough for to you invest in.

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"If you are using a laptop, you get single connection to everything you need via Thunderbolt 3. External storage, connecting USB peripherals, Gigabit LAN connectivity, display output, and charging all through one cable. Pricing will come in at $375 US for just the Devil Box enclosure and included Thunderbolt 3 40Gbps cable. Add in the cost of a good, solid $200 GPU and you fast approach $600."

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Computex 2016: Gigabyte Grants Sneak Peek at GPU Dock

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 5, 2016 - 02:02 AM |
Tagged: gigabyte, external gpu

External GPUs can be a good idea. If it is affordable, easy, and not too big, users can augment their laptop CPU, which is probably good enough to at least run most tasks, with a high-end GPU. While GPUs are more efficient that CPUs, the tasks that they are expected to do are so much larger that a decent graphics chip is difficult to cram into laptop form factor... for the most part.

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Image Credit: Tom's Hardware

Preamble aside, it's been tried and dropped numerous times over the last decade, but the last generation seems to be getting a little traction. Razer added the feature to their relatively popular Blade line of laptops, and AMD, who was one of the companies to try it several years ago, is pushing it now with their XConnect technology. Even Microsoft sort-of does this with their Surface Book, and it's been a small source of problems for them.

Now Gigabyte, at Computex, announced that they are investigating prototypes. According to Tom's Hardware, their current attempt stands upright, which is likely to take up less desk space. Looking at it, I could see it hiding in the space between my monitors and the corner of the room (because my desk slides into the corner). Of course, in my case, I have a desktop PC, so I'm not the target demographic, but who knows? It's possible that a laptop user might have a similar setup to me. It's still pretty big, though.

Currently, Gigabyte limits the power supply to 250W, which drops GPU support to under 175W TDP. In other words? Too small for a GeForce GTX 1080. The company did tell Tom's Hardware that they are considering upping that to 350W, which would allow 260W of load, which allows all 1x PCIe 8-pin graphics cards, and thus many (but not all) GTX 1080s.

No pricing or availability yet, of course. It's just a prototype.

AMD Announces XConnect Technology for External Graphics

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 10, 2016 - 01:27 PM |
Tagged: XConnect, thunderbolt 3, radeon, graphics card, gpu, gaming laptop, external gpu, amd

AMD has announced their new external GPU technology called XConnect, which leverages support from the latest Radeon driver to support AMD graphics over Thunderbolt 3.

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The technology showcased by AMD is powered by Razer, who partnered with AMD to come up with an expandable solution that supports up to 375W GPUs, including R9 Fury, R9 Nano, and all R9 300 series GPUs up to the R9 390X (there is no liquid cooling support, and the R9 Fury X isn't listed as being compatible). The notebook in AMD's marketing material is the Razer Blade Stealth, which offers the Razer Core external GPU enclosure as an optional accessory. (More information about these products from Razer here.) XConnect is not tied to any vendor, however; this is "generic driver" support for GPUs over Thunderbolt 3.

AMD has posted this video with the head of Global Technical Marketing, Robert Hallock, to explain the new tech and show off the Razer hardware:

The exciting part has to be the promise of an industry standard for external graphics, something many have hoped for. Not everyone will produce a product exactly like Razer has, since there is no requirement to provide a future upgrade path in a larger enclosure like this, but the important thing is that Thunderbolt 3 support is built in to the newest Radeon Crimson drivers.

Here are the system requirements for AMD XConnect from AMD:

  • ​Radeon Software 16.2.2 driver (or later)
  • 1x Thunderbolt 3 port
  • 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 cable
  • Windows 10 build 10586 (or later)
  • BIOS support for external graphics over Thunderbolt 3 (check with system vendor for details)
  • Certified Thunderbolt 3 graphics enclosure configured with supported Radeon R9 Series GPU
  • Thunderbolt firmware (NVM) v.16

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The announcement introduces all sorts of possibilities. How awesome would it be to see a tiny solution with an R9 Nano powered by, say, an SFX power supply? Or what about a dual-GPU enclosure (possibly requiring 2 Thunderbolt 3 connections?), or an enclosure supporting liquid cooling (and the R9 Fury X)? The potential is certainly there, and with a standard in place we could see some really interesting products in the near future (or even DIY solutions). It's a promising time for mobile gaming!

Source: AMD