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Lucid Thunderbolt External GPU Demonstrated

By - Source: LaptopMag | B 76 comments

Lucid's external graphics solution is bringing back the graphics vision of time long gone.

When Lucid took the wraps off its Thunderbolt External Graphics at the IDF, I could not help but to remember a rather visionary product we discussed here at Tom's Hardware more than six years ago and at least brought it to a virtual design phase.

Back then, we speculated that external graphics based on the ATI R600 graphics core would be testing acceptable power limits and potentially make external graphics boxes a necessity due to their excessive power and cooling requirements. Similar to how we used to bring external floppy and CD-ROM drives along with our notebooks, there was the idea that graphics boxes could be an option for notebook owners. As we know, this vision never became a reality, but the idea is not dead yet.

Lucid Thunderbolt Graphics

Lucid now sees an advantage for this technology because of the Thunderbolt interface and often underpowered Ultrabooks that may have enthusiasts wanting more in the graphics department. Their external box integrates an AMD Radeon 6700 chip, which has the potential to improve the graphics performance of a base Ultrabook by a substantial margin.

So, is this technology coming to market? It is a concept right now and far from being a market-ready product. As passionate as we were about external graphics in 2006, it is still much more likely that external graphics would be, if commercially sold, a niche product and not a mainstream solution.

For more details and another video, check out LaptopMag.

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Top Comments
  • 33 Hide
    neodude007 , September 12, 2012 9:25 PM
    All this new prototype tech and they couldn't turn on a frikin light while recording this?!??!?
  • 23 Hide
    bustapr , September 12, 2012 9:43 PM
    looks great. just too bad that cables and that dock alone would cost you an arm. cables are still $50!
  • 16 Hide
    whiteodian , September 12, 2012 9:29 PM
    I would love this. Get a nice little laptop and then an external graphics card capable of running modern games at good settings.
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    A Bad Day , September 12, 2012 9:04 PM
    SLI/Crossfire anyone?
  • 1 Hide
    spartanmk2 , September 12, 2012 9:13 PM
    That opening test of 3Dmark06 and Battle of Proxicon were my favorite to watch lolol
  • 13 Hide
    chuckydb , September 12, 2012 9:15 PM
    If there's a way to use a better GPU in the future, I sure as hell would be interested
  • 33 Hide
    neodude007 , September 12, 2012 9:25 PM
    All this new prototype tech and they couldn't turn on a frikin light while recording this?!??!?
  • 16 Hide
    whiteodian , September 12, 2012 9:29 PM
    I would love this. Get a nice little laptop and then an external graphics card capable of running modern games at good settings.
  • 23 Hide
    bustapr , September 12, 2012 9:43 PM
    looks great. just too bad that cables and that dock alone would cost you an arm. cables are still $50!
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 12, 2012 9:55 PM
    egpu diy has been going on for quite sometime.
    ALthough thunderbolt enabled will definitely bring out better performance.
  • 6 Hide
    edogawa , September 12, 2012 10:01 PM
    This is amazing, I always knew this would eventually happen. While I know this won't replace the desktop anytime soon, for casual PC gamers this would be an amazing solution; you could play any game on your laptop at home then take your laptop to school/work/trips.

    Dual/TRI SLI external cases would be cool though, you could really do a lot to improve cooling and keeping the GPUS separate from everything else heat wise would be an interesting idea. Several cool possibilities with this; you could even share an expensive GPU with someone else in your home and still use your PC while they game. What about consoles having an optional thunderbolt port to use an external GPU would be another neat idea.

    Let's just hope this gets cheap. Only issues I see are bandwidth wise on Thunder-Bolt.
  • -7 Hide
    Anonymous , September 12, 2012 10:12 PM
    Well, if you buy an ultrabook, you're normally not that interested in Games.
    Gamers buy Gaming-Laptops, having a better Performance(like Alienware).
    Also: isn't a Firewire/USB quite a bottleneck, compared with a fully-integrated Notebook-GPU?
  • 3 Hide
    classzero , September 12, 2012 10:27 PM
    BlaargWell, if you buy an ultrabook, you're normally not that interested in Games.Gamers buy Gaming-Laptops, having a better Performance(like Alienware).Also: isn't a Firewire/USB quite a bottleneck, compared with a fully-integrated Notebook-GPU?

    Thunderbolt!
    http://bit.ly/PcFJBF
  • 9 Hide
    itsnotmeitsyou , September 12, 2012 10:28 PM
    edogawaOnly issues I see are bandwidth wise on Thunder-Bolt.

    BlaargAlso: isn't a Firewire/USB quite a bottleneck, compared with a fully-integrated Notebook-GPU?


    we're talking thunderbolt here, which despite all its apple-tied frustrations is essentially an external PCI-E port, something in the realm of PCI-E 4x? I am sure you could google some more accurate numbers, but it has sufficient throughput to be usefully applied.

    TL/DR thunderbolt is fast.
  • 11 Hide
    ikefu , September 12, 2012 10:47 PM
    For a low to mid range Graphics Card, the PCI-E 4x of Thunderbolt would be more than enough to run it without bogging down. We're probably not talking about putting a 7970 or 680 on it. Even a Radeon 7600 series card would be an insane jump over the HD4000 in Ivy Bridge that most ultrabooks and the upcoming Windows 8 Tablet have.

    I would jump on one of these in a hurry if they reach the market. I like the small lightweight form factor of ultrabooks for airplanes and chilling on the couch but when I get to a hotel at night I often want the graphics muscle only a giant gaming laptop of doom can give you. This could be the best of both worlds.
  • 2 Hide
    boiler1990 , September 12, 2012 10:49 PM
    If this doesn't break the bank, it might be a good add-on for those who need a little extra oomph now and then (thinking somebody who uses a MacBook Air docked every once in a while).

    Coupled with enough storage, this could actually make the Air quite the semi-mobile photo-editing machine.
  • 5 Hide
    shoelessinsight , September 12, 2012 11:09 PM
    It's unfortunate that this is being implemented on Thunderbolt, rather than with an open external PCIe solution. But it's good to see external graphics on something besides USB.

    I wonder if there are any latency drawbacks with an external graphics card that one wouldn't see with an internal one. It seems like the extra length of cabling wouldn't be able to compare to the few inches between the CPU and GPU on a motherboard.
  • -6 Hide
    jonathanrhunter , September 12, 2012 11:33 PM
    I'd be more interested in this solution if they didn't "gracefully kill" the game your playing when you unplug... Why can't they just push the graphics back to the onboard GPU when you disconnect? I can understand some sort of pause while the drivers figure things out again, but don't kill the game I'm playing and may me have to relaunch it...
  • 2 Hide
    walter87 , September 13, 2012 12:02 AM
    shoelessinsightIt's unfortunate that this is being implemented on Thunderbolt, rather than with an open external PCIe solution. But it's good to see external graphics on something besides USB.I wonder if there are any latency drawbacks with an external graphics card that one wouldn't see with an internal one. It seems like the extra length of cabling wouldn't be able to compare to the few inches between the CPU and GPU on a motherboard.


    Thunderbolt combines the PCIe standard with DisplayPort, so it is PCIe.
    Eventually the thunderbolt technology will take advantage of optics (its original codename was Lightpeak) and will allow bandwidth limits beyond the current 10GB/s limitation of copper wire.

    Thunderbolt will eventually drop in price and become mainstream and will coincide with the USB standard, just will take some time for that to happen and for the prices to drop. Intel has thunderbolt support on Ivy Bridge and all future CPUs will take the tech even further.

    It may never be able to stay up to par with full x16 PCIe standards in terms of bandwidth, it will provide more than adequate for mid range solutions (and anyone looking to get a high-end graphics solution anyway should be considering a full desktop at that point)
  • -9 Hide
    UltimateDeep , September 13, 2012 12:47 AM
    Can we have this product in USB form please?????
  • 3 Hide
    lpedraja2002 , September 13, 2012 12:55 AM
    I remember a review for a similar product here on Tom's that was basically an external enclosure for any graphics card you wanted to add to your laptop and it connected through the express card port.

    After looking through bookmarks I found the original Tom's article:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/vidock-expresscard-graphics,1933.html

    Here is the website of the company that makes the products:
    http://www.villagetronic.com/vidock/index.html
  • 3 Hide
    lpedraja2002 , September 13, 2012 1:06 AM
    Here is a very good blog of some dude regarding the ViDock4:
    http://www.jessebandersen.com/2010/11/vidock-4-unbox-hardware-setup-software.html

    The main question in mind I think everyone else has is gaming.... YES it seems to be an excellent option for people who have a crappy gpu in their laptops.
  • 6 Hide
    blazorthon , September 13, 2012 1:22 AM
    UltimateDeepCan we have this product in USB form please?????


    USB has a fraction of the bandwidth, much higher latency, is a bursty interface, and is far more reliant on the CPU than PCIe. It would be one of the least ideal configurations possible.
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