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External Thunderbolt Graphics Adapter in the Works

By - Source: ExtremeTech | B 35 comments

Village Instruments is currently working on a Thunderbolt version of its ViDock external graphics card chassis.

Last week Village Instruments used its Facebook page to poll customers about a Thunderbolt version of its ViDock expansion for the PC and Mac platforms. The post claimed that if more than fifty people posted a comment in favor of the device, then development would commence. So far 509 people have responded.

"ViDock Thunderbolt is a go!" said CEO Hubert Chen last week. "Thank you to everybody in this wonderful community! Special thanks to Manu Marea, Nino Ri and Jim Atchue! My in boxes are flooded. Please allow me a day or two to get back to everybody and to work with engineering and production to make a project schedule for ViDock Thunderbolt."

For the uninitiated, ViDock could likely be the answer for many laptop gamers who simply can't afford to purchase the more expensive gamer-oriented configurations. ViDock is essentially an extension chassis that connects to a laptop via an ExpressCard slot and allows the consumer to use a discrete PCI Express-graphics card. Of course, this doesn't help in dealing with upgrading the CPU at a later date, but at least the current laptop can be extended a few more years simply by swapping out the external graphics card for something newer.

"ViDock is not only compatible with Windows 7 but takes full advantage of its latest features," reads the product description. "Windows 7 instantly remembers and restores your display configurations when you hot plug your ViDock then again when you gracefully remove ViDock. No need to go into the display set-up dialog box to configure your displays. Also, with Windows 7, the graphics card in ViDock will show up in the eject tray as a removable device. ViDock also works with Vista, Windows XP, and Mac OS X."

According to the company, a laptop can connect to a large format display (or two), keyboard, and mouse with just one cable. The chassis also features a 2-port USB hub that allows the user to add more devices to the one-step plug-in such as a printer, external hard drive, USB headset, and more.

Currently Village Instruments is offering three versions of its ViDock device: the ViDock 3 for cards that consume up to 75W of power, the ViDock 4 for higher performance cards requiring up to 150W of power and use a 6-pin power connector, and the ViDock 4 Plus which includes a second 2 x 3 pin power connector for cards that leech up to 225W of power.

But with the launch of a Thunderbolt version, the Mac community will receive the benefits of what ViDock offers at a much faster rate first – PC gamers won't see this version until 2012 when Thunderbolt ports eventually become standard for Windows-powered PCs. The current ExpressCard version is only capable of around 2.5 Gb/s whereas the Thunderbolt should shoot graphics into a connected laptop or desktop using a 10 Gb/s bandwidth.

So far there's no indication of when the Thunderbolt version will be available, nor have there been any hints of pricing. The current ExpressCard models aren't exactly cheap: $199 USD for the ViDock 3, $239 for the ViDock 4 and $279 for the ViDock 4 Plus. Throw in an additional $240 GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics card, and you've spent up to $520 to get decent gaming up and running on a mid-level laptop.

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  • 2 Hide
    mister g , August 10, 2011 1:18 AM
    On the go and powerful graphics card are now a real possibility. Now if only the CPU could be this easily upgradeable then people could drop the desktop and heft the laptop and these components around instead. not that I expect this setup would be too far from a power plug.
  • 9 Hide
    Pyree , August 10, 2011 1:21 AM
    10Gb/s that's not even 4 lane in PCIe 2.0/2.1! Not ready for mainstream gaming yet. Need at least 4 lane 16Gb/s before I will consider using it as a GPU interface and need 8 lane 32Gb/s to be sufficient for now.
  • 4 Hide
    alextheblue , August 10, 2011 1:33 AM
    Pyree10Gb/s that's not even 4 lane in PCIe 2.0/2.1! Not ready for mainstream gaming yet. Need at least 4 lane 16Gb/s before I will consider using it as a GPU interface and need 8 lane 32Gb/s to be sufficient for now.
    Agreed. At this point I'd say get Llano for a budget/mid-range laptop, or an Intel SB + AMD discrete setup for higher end.

    That's if you really need a laptop at all. A lot of people just use laptops like desktops, never move em, plugged in all the time. Cracks me up. By the time they take it on the road, the battery will be so shot it might as well be a desktop.
  • 0 Hide
    leandrodafontoura , August 10, 2011 1:33 AM
    Now a MacMini or macbook will have powerfulll gaming performance...Mac users will no longer need a desktop windows gaming machine, bootcamp will rule
  • 0 Hide
    christop , August 10, 2011 1:49 AM
    Cool..
  • -1 Hide
    christop , August 10, 2011 1:53 AM
    Does the gpu get power from a wall socket.
  • 1 Hide
    applegetsmelaid , August 10, 2011 1:54 AM
    Now I can play Angry Birds on my MBP without all that annoying lag....
  • -1 Hide
    lauxenburg , August 10, 2011 2:36 AM
    Why
  • 4 Hide
    drumsrule786 , August 10, 2011 2:57 AM
    leandrodafontouraNow a MacMini or macbook will have powerfulll gaming performance...Mac users will no longer need a desktop windows gaming machine, bootcamp will rule


    except for the fact that most games are only for the PC
  • 8 Hide
    inthere , August 10, 2011 3:13 AM
    All Macs have been able to run Windows natively for 5 years now. My 3 Macs all have Windows 7 and running plenty of vWindows only games.

    All Macs come with Bootcamp, which installs a Windows partition in less than a minute. Putting windows on your Mac is as easy as installing a video game now.
  • 0 Hide
    t_wilson , August 10, 2011 3:45 AM
    The Sony Vaio Z21 comes with an external GPU unit connected thru lightpeak.
  • 0 Hide
    Travis Beane , August 10, 2011 5:41 AM
    I like the idea, especially since I have a 5770 1GB just laying around. Doesn't everybody?

    It costs far too much however. I see no reason to spend on anything better than a ATi 5770 for most laptops, and then the dock costs far more than the GPU. At this price range, you can consider buying a high-end gaming laptop (17" Clevo preferably) instead.

    I do however prefer the idea of a $50 dock and a $100 GPU to match on a $400-500 laptop.

    Regardless, I'm interested, and I'll be keeping my eye out on this.
  • -1 Hide
    Parsian , August 10, 2011 7:05 AM
    this is somewhat not as great as it sounds since the CPU's u get for laptops are going to be the bottleneck as well.
  • 0 Hide
    americanbrian , August 10, 2011 8:40 AM
    Well, if you buy one of these not only can you use it for your laptop, but say someone comes over for a LANparty with there rubbish low-end laptop. Now you can plug them into this and have a proper session.

    I kind of like the idea of having a graphics boosting tool, which is what I consider this to be. Not an installation but a tool that can be used in lots of places.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 10, 2011 9:14 AM
    It's 20Gb/s bi-directional, not 10.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 10, 2011 9:20 AM
    this could work well specially when nvidia graphics cards with optimus technology feature pci-express compression technology causing the 10 gbs to act like a 20gbs conection. as the guys at notebook check have managed to get the optimus drivers to works with full with nvidia on their vidocks which feature the pci-express compression and have shown that it yields more performance and since like the express card it also is based on pci-e it should then have round about enough bandwidth for a mid range card
  • 0 Hide
    ilysaml , August 10, 2011 10:37 AM
    sounds good
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , August 10, 2011 1:26 PM
    I have never heard of anyone gaming on such a device. I have some art student friends who have similar things that run through esata and firewire 800 that they use for rendering, but the bandwidth is too slow to get a decent frame rate out of for real time apps. It does lower render time dramatically, especially for 5th year students who cannot afford to upgrade their Freshman laptop that the school required them to buy
  • 1 Hide
    freggo , August 10, 2011 2:14 PM
    It's like adding a ground effects package and a tuning package to a Honda Civic to compete with a 911 or Vette.
  • -1 Hide
    captaincharisma , August 10, 2011 2:37 PM
    mister gOn the go and powerful graphics card are now a real possibility. Now if only the CPU could be this easily upgradeable then people could drop the desktop and heft the laptop and these components around instead. not that I expect this setup would be too far from a power plug.


    sorry dude even with this the desktop will never be replaceable. now go back to hugging you're pink dell laptop :) 
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