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External GPU through ExpressCard slot?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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February 12, 2013 7:42:01 PM

K, so I've been searching around for information on DIY External GPUs for some time now. My integrated graphics card is wretched, I don't have the money to invest in a new computer, and I want to play Skyrim.

I read through every word on DIY eGPU experiences, found here:
http://forum.notebookreview.com/e-gpu-external-graphics...
I barely understood a word

So can someone answer me a few questions, IN LAYMAN'S TERMS?
Firstly, what is PE4H versus PE4L?

Secondly, what does X1 and x2 and x16 mean?

Thirdly, what items do I need to put this together? I've been around the internet a bit and nearly every post or discussion I view has slightly varying pieces of equipment listed in order to build a DIY eGPU. I'm not afraid to spend a hundred or so bucks, but I want to make sure that I'm buying the right stuff.

Lastly, I want to know if I can even do this. Here are some of my laptop specs:

Lenovo IdeaPad Z565
AMD Phenom II N660 Dual-Core 3.00 GHz
3.00 GB of RAM
ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200 series
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
I also have an ExpressCard slot

If any other info is needed, just tell me and I'll gladly supply it.
a b U Graphics card
February 12, 2013 8:34:32 PM

Someone asked this question yesterday with an actual link to the build. Looks like the board you plug the GPU into is PCI1.0 x16 with means it will severly limit the effectiveness of a modern GPU.

Add to that having to go through a expresscard interface and the fact that you have an older dual core CPU, I just can't see the benefit.

There should be external enclosures on the way (maybe already here) with the new Thunderbolt interface that may actually be useful. Of course, still need TB-capable laptop.
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February 12, 2013 8:42:17 PM

Which leads me back to my original question. What do you mean by PCI1.0? What does X16 mean?
Sorry, I'd just like to understand exactly why things would be difficult on my machine. Would trying an eGPU NOT be an improvement over my current graphics unit?
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February 12, 2013 8:47:16 PM

And I'd also as many answers from as many other people as possible :) 
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a b U Graphics card
February 12, 2013 8:49:15 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express

Scroll down. Basically, the older versions had less bandwidth. X16 means it's 16 lanes wide.

Still with what you have to work with, it *might* be an improvement. Then again it would be less headache and probably not a lot more expensive to get a better laptop.
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February 12, 2013 8:50:33 PM

J_E_D_70 said:
Someone asked this question yesterday with an actual link to the build. Looks like the board you plug the GPU into is PCI1.0 x16 with means it will severly limit the effectiveness of a modern GPU.

Add to that having to go through a expresscard interface and the fact that you have an older dual core CPU, I just can't see the benefit.

There should be external enclosures on the way (maybe already here) with the new Thunderbolt interface that may actually be useful. Of course, still need TB-capable laptop.


Have you heard any rumors about any incomming external GPU solutions, since CES 2012 when MSI Gus 2 was said to soon be in stores (which was no the case...) ?
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a c 85 U Graphics card
February 12, 2013 8:50:51 PM

For one, you'd have to spend $100 just to get the stuff to make the graphics card RUN.
Then you have to actually buy the graphics card.

Secondly, PCIe is a connection type - 1.0 is an old version - 2.0 is about twice as fast, and 3.0 is twice again as fast.

Each PCIe connection has both what type of connection type it is, and how many lanes it has: anywhere from one lane (x1) to sixteen lanes (x16)

In order for a graphics card to not be bottlenecked by the connection *(i.e. the connection being too slow and holding it back), it would need at least sixteen lanes of pcie 2.0 connection.

Adding onto the fact that you wouldn't have that is the fact that it would be going through an Express Card slot, which would further impact speeds.

Simply put, it's too expensive and pointless - the graphics card would only be able to feed about a quarter (and that's being VERY optimistic) of what it should be to the computer.
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February 12, 2013 10:16:24 PM

So from what I've gathered here, having a 16 PCIe lane connection for my laptop is, in fact, NOT a good thing? Huh.
Also, how can you tell what my connection type is?

My laptop is only a couple of years old and has been fantastic, aside from the graphics card. My processor has served me very well. HD 4200 is pretty awful, but the earliest I see myself being able to get a new computer is in a couple more years. This is my ONLY option. I can gather parts whatever way possible, new or used. I'm willing to do some digging.

So yes or no question: Will attempting this improve my graphics AT ALL? I'd be more than happy to play Skyrim at medium settings with no little to no lag. I'm not picky.
And if I do attempt this, will it harm my computer? If not, then I at least want to try. Because, as I said above, this is my only option.
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January 3, 2014 2:17:47 AM

Too many people shoot down the EGPU idea for reasons that may seem logical to them, but that don't apply to everyone. E-GPU can be a great route for many people.

I've got a fantastic laptop, but the gpu on it is outdated. (P7811FX). I don't want to shell out 1500-2500.00 on a new gaming rig. So instead, I thought about the EGPU setup.

I went for it and I'll never look back. My system works GREAT. And it was NOT difficult to put together and it was not expensive. It does not look like a mess, since I do not use a desktop PSU.

1. Get a PE4L board
2. Get an Express card adapter that can hook so said board (often sold together)
3. Get a desktop GPU. (I went with an nVidia GTX 660; got it for 99.00)
4. Get some power. I use an old laptop power supply so this didn't cost me anything.

I literally just inserted my PCI card into my slot, plugged that into the PE4L board which has the GPU Card plugged into it, powered it on and wham, Windows picked it up. I optimized it with nVidia drivers but there was nothing hard, difficult or overly costly about it. Right now I'm going through 3DMark tests and so far I'm very impressed.

Was this pointless? Not for me. Instead of dropping 2000.00 on another gaming laptop, I'm going to get another 3-4 years of gaming out of this rig for about 200.00.

If you have a PCIE slot on your laptop, I highly recommend you too look into an EGPU.

Go For it!

My Rig:
-P7811FX
-Dual Intel 3.06 X9100 (I can overclock this to a stable 3.5). I game around 3.2.
-PCI slot
-64Bit OS

(the most important thing to keep in mind for using an EGPU on a laptop is your CPU power. The HD and Ram don't mean squat as far as running an add-on card)
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