The Alienware 13 comes with an optional Graphics Amplifier

Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2014 - 03:42 PM |
Tagged: alienware, Alienware 13, graphics amplifier, gaming laptop

The Alienware 13 is a gaming laptop which comes with a very interesting optional product, the so called Graphics Amplifier which is an external enclosure for a desktop GPU.  Finally the product which we have been waiting for has arrived, though only for a specific system.  The box will cost you $300 but will allow you to connect a GPU to your laptop with a single cord.  It does not ship with a GPU but there is a 460W PSU inside.  The GPU can be at most a double slot card, larger ones will not fit and it can have a maximum power draw of 375W which is not really an issue as that limit come from the PCIe interface.  The single cord you can see coming out of the back of the enclosure in this picture from Gizmodo provides a combined PCIe and USB connection to the laptop and when connected will disable the laptops internal GPU and allow the external desktop GPU to power the system. 

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You cannot hotswap your GPU, you will need to reboot your system to switch between the external GPU and your internal GPU and SLI an option.  You do get to choose between your integral display or an external one connected via HDMI or Mini DisplayPort; the most expensive model of Alienware 13 does ship with a 2560x1440 touchscreen but it is still only 13" in size. 

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The internals are quite nice with a Haswell Core i5 4210U, a choice of either 8 or 16GB of DDR3-1600, a GTX 860M and either a large HDD or a 256GB M.2 SSD.  That is enough power to keep this laptop from lagging behind in performance for the next few years and with the external GPU you could feasibly upgrade your graphics for a few generations which will keep you in the game without needing a whole new system.

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From the tests that Gizmodo performed the external GPU functions perfectly when it is enabled which is great news for those of us who have been hoping that PCIe would eventually bring us a product such as this one.  The proprietary nature should not be too much of a concern, if Dell has managed to pull it off there is no reason why other companies would not be able to make a version which could work with other laptops which have the proper ports.  This certainly changes the biggest issue that gaming laptops have faced; now you can upgrade the laptop through several generations instead of needing to purchase a completely new system every other generation or so.

Source: Dell

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October 28, 2014 | 03:51 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

While it is proprietary, it is a more elegant system than what MSI is about to release soon. Their laptop docks directly ontop of the GPU box. I think it will take a couple of generations or so before some kind of standardized port will be made so that you can hook up any gpu box to any newer laptop, but at least this is a start in the right direction even if it is proprietary.

October 28, 2014 | 04:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

is it usb 3.0 or can it be usb 2.0 or usb 1.0

October 28, 2014 | 05:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

GPU over USB1.0. No throughput issues there.

October 28, 2014 | 07:18 PM - Posted by highhbrid

Lol that's what I thought when I saw that too. #GPUoverSCSIftw

October 28, 2014 | 09:15 PM - Posted by GW2 (not verified)

If you're gonna be smart ass at least think first. NONE of the graphics data is sent over USB, USB is used to let the laptop know what's going on. The graphics are done over pcie or a proprietary variant.

October 28, 2014 | 05:06 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well if the stuffed shirts, marketing monkeys, and Blue Greedies, had not gotten in control at Intel, maybe thunderbolt would have been more successful, but No, Intel became fixated on thin and light, and trying force PC OEMs to be like Apple. Hopefully this product is somehow making use of the PCI-SIG groups external cabling standard, but with a proprietary plug form factor, and if not, maybe others will adopt the PCI-SIG standard, the PCI-SIG standard is faster than thunderbolt, and without all the Intel Monopoly and greed mixed in, and the holding the technology back for more profit milking!

Hopefully the Others will adopt the PCI-SIG external cable standard with a standard plug form factor. It's nice to see someone at least attempting to offer a solution, not a complete and open solution, but still it may force Intel's greedy hand from stopping the external GPU box from happening! Now maybe the others will be forced to offer external GPU solutions that can route the output back to the laptops GPU screen. While you are at it Alienware, why not offer an external PCI card based CPU, that can add to a laptop's CPU total CPU processing power to go along with the external added GPU. Get to work on getting this external box some plug and play compatibility.

"The internals are quite nice with a Haswell Core i5 4210U"

In what bizarre-O-verse parallel dimension do you live in! where such a weak processor SKU is used in a gaming laptop, again Intel must have a mothballed empty chip fab stocked to the I-beams with these unsold ultrabook SKUs, and is selling them for a song to Apple, and Dell, no wonder Intel is delaying the introduction of its next generation of more powerful standard SKUs, it has mountains of these unsold ultrabook SKUs to foist on even the gaming laptop market.
The Mac Mini is equally castrated with low power loss leader SOC SKUs from Chipzilla.

October 28, 2014 | 05:12 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Seeing that picture with the laptop and the "box" next to it makes me wonder: Why is there still a market for "gaming laptops" ?

They are hardly mobile (battery life is usually sub-par), they often face issues with nvidia m series cards, as they turn off driver support after a couple of years (users end up rolling back to year-old drivers to get good performance) and they cost a ton of money.

Seriously, add the cost of the laptop, plus the box and the gpu you need to purchase separately, you end up with a very sleek,fast desktop unit that will be faster than this.

October 28, 2014 | 07:40 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

this is exactly what I was thinking.

Seeing all that...all i could say was whats the fking point!!!

just build a LAN box if you want something to haul around to your friends house.

October 29, 2014 | 09:01 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

As far as the market for "gaming laptops" goes, people like my coworker who takes his gaming laptop with him just about everywhere, it makes sense. He has his laptop, power-cable, and mouse and that is it. They are mobile, remember that previous sentence where he has 3 things he carries with him? very mobile. Sure, he might have to plan out a little more carefully about where he can game at, but in this day and age, how likely are you not going to be near an outlet?
While I do agree that the cost factor can equal to a better desktop pc, The desktop pc that you can build has absolutely no part of it that will be mobile at all. This "gaming laptop" feature in this article, along with the new MSI one about to come out, both have something that you don't talk about at all, you can still carry it around with you and use it to do everything else that is not gaming related: homework, productivity, video streaming, web browsing, etc, you know, things that people do on a non gaming laptop which this alienware is very capable of doing too. And when you are done at the end of the day? you can still take your laptop home, dock it, and do some gaming!

October 29, 2014 | 11:40 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

sure its fine for casual gaming but nobody really wants to game all the time hunched over a laptop.

its more like a nice "bonus" in which you don't even need a gaming laptop for that... just anything with a decent gfx card.

When you are out doing work and other "stuff" how often do you think MAN I REALLY GOTA GAME RIGHT NOW!!!...?

Desktop not mobile? LAN BOX? i fit everything with keyboard and mouse in a back pack, most of my friends had extra monitors at the gaming loction...if not wooo my LED is so heavy. Again, i don't have the urge to game at starbucks or some other public setting.

Home, LAN party, thats it. I'd say thats 75% of the gamers as well.

I guess for those that have to game on planes, trains, and automobiles...they have over priced laptops you can burn your cash on.

October 30, 2014 | 11:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"sure its fine for casual gaming but nobody really wants to game all the time hunched over a laptop."

lol, hardly ever see someone "hunched" over a laptop. I use one all day at work and I'm not hunched over, and neither is the other 50+people around here who use them either. Only time i actually see someone somewhat hunched is on a plane.

"its more like a nice "bonus" in which you don't even need a gaming laptop for that... just anything with a decent gfx card." Matter of preference really, some people want to take gaming on the go with them sometimes. My friend at work brings his from home to do some gaming during lunchtime sometimes.

"When you are out doing work and other "stuff" how often do you think MAN I REALLY GOTA GAME RIGHT NOW!!!...?"
Plenty of times I have thought, man, I would much rather be playing a game right now, instead of doing .
But i get that you don't really do any gaming other that at home,so again, matter of preference.

"Desktop not mobile? LAN BOX? i fit everything with keyboard and mouse in a back pack, most of my friends had extra monitors at the gaming loction...if not wooo my LED is so heavy. Again, i don't have the urge to game at starbucks or some other public setting."
So what do you use when you are away from home and not doing any gaming? Do you take your LAN box with you then too?

"Home, LAN party, thats it. I'd say thats 75% of the gamers as well."
Again, you are missing the point, it is not only a gaming machine, but ALSO a very good laptop. You have the option of taking the laptop with you when needed to do whatever, including some light gaming(but a 860m is no slouch), and when you are ready to do some serious gaming you dock it at home.

"I guess for those that have to game on planes, trains, and automobiles...they have over priced laptops you can burn your cash on."

Again, you are missing the point, it is not only a gaming only machine, but ALSO a very good laptop. I'll agree that it isn't for everyone, but what are your options if you want to game and you want a laptop? You can get a regular gaming laptop, or you can get a regular desktop and a laptop. This alienware laptop, and for that matter the new MSI model, combine the desktop and laptop into one.

October 29, 2014 | 09:52 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Uhm yea, I don't want to sit at a desk with my laptop to game, that's what desks tops are for. i'm not going to have this big ass box sitting next to me on the couch. it's a descent first try, at least company's are working on it. Ryan reported on external gpu's 3 years ago. give it another 3 years and they will come up with something less obtrusive

October 30, 2014 | 01:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Uhm yea, I don't want to sit at a desk with my laptop to game, that's what desks tops are for."
So, you don't want to sit at a desk to game on a laptop, but you are fine with sitting at a desk to game on a desktop? That doesn't make sense, if both can do the same job at running your games while you are at your desk, then there is no difference.

"i'm not going to have this big ass box sitting next to me on the couch."
ok, so you don't want this "big ass box" sitting next to you on the couch, how about the desktop pc then, is that ok to sit next to you on the couch? Seriously though, you DON'T have to move the box at all if you don't want to, it is not like you have to keep the box connected to the laptop at all times. If you want to take the laptop with you on the couch, only take the laptop, how hard is that? But, I'm going to throw out another idea, if you are so inclined to take your pc into the living room with you to game, hook it up to your tv, with the "big ass box" and either play your games with a wireless kb&m or a controller in steam big picture mode, make sense?

Also, keep in mind that this particular laptop has a pretty decent gpu in it anyway to game with, so it isn't like you can't game at all if you don't have it connected to the "big ass box".

"it's a descent first try, at least company's are working on it. Ryan reported on external gpu's 3 years ago. give it another 3 years and they will come up with something less obtrusive"
The problem here is that in order to have the ability to upgrade the gpu on the laptop, you have to have some kind of external box to hold it. That is unless another way is developed to upgrade the gpu, like putting it in a socket(not likely at all) or using the optical drive space as a mount point for an upgradeable GPU(again, not very likely).

This laptop plus gpu box is about as close as we can come to having a laptop that has an upgradeable GPU, but still retain mobility of a laptop when needed.

October 29, 2014 | 10:05 AM - Posted by Spanish Jose (not verified)

meh...needs a carry handle

October 29, 2014 | 02:48 PM - Posted by D1RTYD1Z619

WHAT NO SLI?

October 31, 2014 | 12:38 AM - Posted by Scoob (not verified)

Or just get a laptop with a new 980m and call it a day. Maxwell is bringing mobile gpu's closer to desktop performance.

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