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External gaming graphics card

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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October 31, 2012 12:27:29 PM

What is the current status of external graphics card for gaming? Any powerfull and silent solution? My PC has USB 3.0 interface and I could buy a Thunderbolt expansion card
October 31, 2012 12:32:58 PM

External cards aren't good. They're not fast enough because the way that they're connected to the PC. You're better off actually putting a gpu into your computer.
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a c 141 U Graphics card
October 31, 2012 5:57:47 PM

External GPUs still get bottlenecked by most external interfaces, meaning they aren't that great for gaming. The only external interface that is really fast enough to not horribly bottleneck a gaming GPU is Thunderbolt, and Thunderbolt ports are something of a rarity on PCs right now. Thunderbolt is an Intel proprietary technology, so you won't have it on an AMD system. It is also currently only available on Apple systems, higher end Intel motherboards, and certain Intel based laptops, mostly Ultrabooks I believe.

There recently was a Thunderbolt based enclosure for GPUs released, the problem is it is very expensive, like $600 expensive. All told, just install a GPU internally with the PCI-Express slots. If your PCI-E slots aren't working, replace the motherboard, that is the most cost effective solution for you.
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October 31, 2012 6:17:02 PM

Supernova1138 said:
External GPUs still get bottlenecked by most external interfaces, meaning they aren't that great for gaming. The only external interface that is really fast enough to not horribly bottleneck a gaming GPU is Thunderbolt, and Thunderbolt ports are something of a rarity on PCs right now. Thunderbolt is an Intel proprietary technology, so you won't have it on an AMD system. It is also currently only available on Apple systems, higher end Intel motherboards, and certain Intel based laptops, mostly Ultrabooks I believe.

There recently was a Thunderbolt based enclosure for GPUs released, the problem is it is very expensive, like $600 expensive. All told, just install a GPU internally with the PCI-Express slots. If your PCI-E slots aren't working, replace the motherboard, that is the most cost effective solution for you.

Yes exactly. +1
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a c 105 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
October 31, 2012 6:17:31 PM

why not run an extended PCI-e cable ? I take it room is an issue ?
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a b U Graphics card
October 31, 2012 8:26:36 PM

Yea I have always wondered this, would a PCIe ribbon cable not work and you could build an external enclosure for the card? Or is this for a laptop or something?
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October 31, 2012 9:02:51 PM

leandrodafontoura said:
What is the current status of external graphics card for gaming? Any powerfull and silent solution? My PC has USB 3.0 interface and I could buy a Thunderbolt expansion card


If you have a desktop there's no point in buying this thing, you should just install it in your pc. If you're on a laptop i'd say wait a bit, these things aren't exactly cheap and they wont run at their full potential. I'd say you should go for something like a 7970m or a 680m instead of the external GPU
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October 31, 2012 10:05:33 PM

If this is for a laptop definitely not. Get something like 670M, 675M, or 680M.
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October 31, 2012 11:49:39 PM

I am on a low-profile case, the Moneual 320s, and I noticed video cards dont fit in....so I am curious about the possibilities...running intel HD 4000
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a b U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 12:12:22 AM

Here is the cable I was looking at:

http://www.amazon.com/BestDealUSA-Express-Extender-Exte...

Don't see why it wouldn't work, not sure on any issues regarding cable length, its cheap anyways so worth a shot...If it does work then build an enclosure for the card...

Either that or buy a bigger case :) 
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a c 141 U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 2:50:33 AM

Your best option is probably to just get a new case and power supply along with the video card. That will probably be cheaper than either putting together an enclosure and hoping a PCI-E ribbon cable works, or spending hundreds of dollars on a Thunderbolt based solution.

If you don't need too much graphics performance, there should be some low profile Radeon HD 7750s around that would fit into your case. They are low powered cards so they should work with the weak PSUs that slimline cases tend to be equipped with.
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a c 105 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
November 1, 2012 6:36:53 AM

paddys09 said:
Here is the cable I was looking at:

http://www.amazon.com/BestDealUSA-Express-Extender-Exte...

Don't see why it wouldn't work, not sure on any issues regarding cable length, its cheap anyways so worth a shot...If it does work then build an enclosure for the card...

Either that or buy a bigger case :) 


I didn't see cable length mentioned but there are longer ones. can't remember where i saw them though. No reason not being able to put more than one together for the hobbiest.
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a b U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 10:41:04 AM

I think it said 150mm, probably need a longer one, unless it affects signal...

Personally I like the idea as a project, can't seem to find anyone else who has done it, maybe theres a reason for that though

A few people mention it for workstation graphics in servers and soundcards etc so should work.... It's not like it cost hundreds...Im gonna order one of these over the weekend to have a go myself...

It really got me thinking about PCI-e and how useless and bulky an interface it is....Could it not be condensed down into a round cable with something similar to a usb3 header?

The only problem I can see is that companies would have to change the design of cases, motherboards, and graphics cards, but it would give us so many more options to save space inside our cases for things like watercooling or passthrough solutions for people with SFF PC's
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a c 141 U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 5:11:27 PM

I think the problem with doing that is two fold:
1. There is no way they could get the same amount of bandwidth using any sort of narrow USB style cable right now, at least not with it becoming prohibitively expensive. Thunderbolt is the closest we have right now, and even it isn't as fast as the PCI-E bus.
2. I don't think there is a way to transfer enough power over a single USB style cable to meet the interface standard. PCI-E 1.0 has to be able to provide up to 75 Watts of power from the slot, PCI-E 2.0 can provide up to 150 Watts of power from the slot. You just aren't doing that with a slim USB type cable that also transfers data. Basically, video cards would have to be redesigned to either take all their power from auxiliary connectors, or you would have to build a PCI-E bus into an enclosure to provide the first 75 Watts of power. Said enclosure would also have to have its own power supply.

Really, it's just more convenient to keep the GPU inside the case, and not have to worry about running extra power and data cabling so you can have it external. You can try to do it, but right now it probably is just more cost effective and less time consuming to just get a case that is big enough to accommodate a decent graphics card.
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a b U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 5:24:45 PM

So you are saying that those ribbon cables don't work? And that you cannot rearrange the pins on a PCI-e interface into something like a usb3 motherboard header shape?
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a c 141 U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 5:45:36 PM

The ribbon cables might work, but if you are using any GPU that needs more than 75 watts of power, you will need a power supply for your enclosure, or you will have to run your 6 pin PCI-E PSU cables outside of your case as well. As for rearranging the pins on the interface, you aren't going to get the same bandwidth if you do that. At absolute best you might be able to get the equivalent of PCI-Ex16 version 1, which will actually bottleneck the higher end video cards.

GPUs can get very demanding in terms of bandwidth, and the best way to deal with that is to run 16 PCI-E lanes from the GPU. I don't think you could physically fit 16 PCI-E lanes into an interface as small as a USB header, while also providing at least 75 watts of power to the card. Could it be done, possibly, but you would be making large sacrifices in bandwidth that would start bottlenecking certain graphics cards. You would also likely have to redesign graphics cards to take all their power from auxiliary connectors in that setup, as USB can't provide 75 watts of power, nor can Thunderbolt, or any other smaller interface such as that.
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a b U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 5:57:42 PM

I don't quite understand what you mean? Could the cable not be round like those IDE cables? I suppose 164 pins is to much too ask of a plug and play connection that remains practical...but still think its possible...

I know its hassle but I still think the original idea with the ribbon cables would work fine, who cares if you have to pass the 6pins through the back?

Like I said if the OP feels its too much hassle get a bigger case but its obviously for an htpc under a tv or something...

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a c 141 U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 6:35:28 PM

In any case, I doubt we'll really see such a thing developed anyway. The market for external GPUs is quite small right now, with the only real demand being people who want to play games on their ultrabook or low end laptop that has integrated graphics. External GPU enclosures are just coming onto the market, and are thus still quite expensive. That's why if you have any sort of slimline desktop system, it's much more cost effective to just buy a new case and power supply with the grpahics card and be done with it.
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a c 105 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
November 1, 2012 7:25:39 PM

why would you even need an enclosure ? and how much would you lose slipping a ribbon cable out the back of the case ? nothing ?
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