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Conclusion

External Graphics Upgrade for Notebooks
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At the end of the day, is the ViDock an attractive solution for the owners of older laptops who want multiple display options, and perhaps a little more graphics power out of their laptops?

As far as multiple displays are concerned, the ViDock is an impressive solution. While the ViDock Business edition is a little pricey at the proposed $329 price point, it does offer some interesting features over competing multiple display solutions. Of course, some of those solutions are a lot cheaper, so unless the higher available resolution and digital outputs of the ViDock are a must-have for your specific application, the ViDock Gfx isn’t necessarily the best multi-display solution for everyone.

If you’re considering buying the ViDock for increased graphics performance, you’ve seen the numbers: the ViDock offers a huge leap in power over integrated video chipsets like the Radeon Xpress 1150, and even allows for HD video playback. Having said that, the ViDock Pro edition is bottlenecked by PCIe 1x bandwidth to Radeon 2600 PRO performance, even if the video card inside is swapped for a more powerful unit.

While in many cases the 2600 PRO offers huge performance leaps over integrated graphics, we have to consider the ViDock Pro’s MSRP of $429: that’s pretty close to the price of a new basic laptop. We were able to find a new laptop with an integrated Geforce 8600M / Radeon 2600 class chipset for under $900, which probably even outperforms the ViDock Pro: remember that an integrated solution wouldn’t be subject to the PCIe 1x bandwidth limitation the ViDock suffers from. To be fair, we also found a number of laptops over $1000 with underpowered integrated video chipsets as well. The lesson is that if you’re buying a laptop for graphics performance, you’re much better off simply getting a more powerful mobile graphics chipset.

Where the ViDock shines and becomes very attractive is for the user who already has a laptop but wants all of these features—multiple display functionality, increased graphics performance, HD video playback, and the convenience of a docking station—all in a single package.

Unfortunately, interested buyers must already have a laptop with an integrated GeForce or Radeon chipset, and perhaps even a specific operating system, so the ViDock’s market is somewhat limited out of the gate. But if you fit the profile, the ViDock Pro may be well worth the $429 price tag.

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  • 1 Hide
    a 6pack in , May 16, 2008 11:57 AM
    thats a nice work around for 3d graphics on laptops. but at the 429 price tag plus the price of a 8600gt or a 3870.. thats getting pricy.

    its a valid option, but one that a normal user should think twice about.

    nice write up
  • 0 Hide
    crazyhandpuppet , May 16, 2008 12:45 PM
    "If your integrated video chipset doesn’t support DHCP, or doesn’t accelerate decoding, it’s not going to play Blu-ray movies."

    Amazing how far DHCP has come over the last few years... Looks like it's already replacing HDCP :) 
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , May 16, 2008 2:05 PM
    DHCP... ugh.

    Sorry, I'm Lisdexic!

    We'll have that fixed real soon. :) 

  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , May 16, 2008 2:05 PM
    At $429, it comes with an 8600 GT or 2600 PRO.
  • 1 Hide
    gwolfman , May 16, 2008 2:48 PM
    Did they beat ASUS to the punch? When is this product available?
  • 0 Hide
    gwolfman , May 16, 2008 3:32 PM
    No Call of Duty 4 benchmarks? :*(
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , May 16, 2008 6:59 PM
    Call of Duty 4 is so much easier on hardware, I prefer to concentrate on stuff that will really challenge it like Crysis and SupCom so we have a worst-case scenario.
  • 0 Hide
    piratepast40 , May 16, 2008 11:35 PM
    There are several interesting points here. The fact that card compatability is dependant on chipset type is interesting but not really shocking. It's (sort of) similar to the hybrid SLI and Crossfire capability of the 780 series chipsets and the way the chipsets support specific GPU series. It sounds as though another header or bus type is needed to fully support the concept. The expresscard/USB bus was the holdup a year ago and it appears to still be the main bottleneck. I'm curious to see if AMD's PUMA platform or Intel's version (forgot the name) will show us something in this area. Am also wondering if one of the laptop OEM's might offer the external card setup for specific models of their computers. Will be interesting to see what others are doing. Haven't heard anything at all from ASUS since early last year.
  • 0 Hide
    spuddyt , May 17, 2008 12:36 AM
    would it be possible to run crossfire/sli with two of these things? (largely out of curiosity, twould be insane to actuall sensibly do it...) That way wouldn't you have 2 seperate pcie 1x bandwidths to play with/
  • 0 Hide
    anonymous x , May 17, 2008 12:48 AM
    aww, i wish the express card slot had enough bandwidth to suport a geforce 9800 card
  • 0 Hide
    Luscious , May 17, 2008 1:43 AM
    I see two things here that really limit the power of this device. First is the bandwidth. Chipset manufacturers will need to introduce some sort of "mobile express" port option with significantly more juice - something that I just don't see happening, especially considering this device is intended for existing/older notebooks. Second, in order to get the extra graphics horsepower you need an external display, something that will set you back at least another $300 for wuxga. Now we're at $729.

    If you've already got a laptop with upgradeable mxm graphics, you can upgrade to a better card for much less than that, and still use the laptop's display. Even better, if you've got an SLI laptop, that money could buy you a 2nd 8800M GTX.

    In my opinion $729 is a waste of money when $2149 will already buy you a nice Toshiba X205-SLI6 model notebook with dual 8600M GT graphics cards. Better value, better performance and much better looks.
  • -1 Hide
    piratepast40 , May 17, 2008 3:25 AM
    ^ I'm agreeing with you in that it can't be backwards compatable. It's just not going to work well that way. We need a new interface. Let's just hope it doesn't take as long as the "n" standard. Good grief - I bought into pre-n routers and cards 2 years ago and until a few months ago, there were people wringing their hands and saying that the world might end if you did that. It was the same thing going to s939. Naysayers were saying that it the upgrade from sempron was sooooo foolish and that only noobs would waste their money on such a thing. And then along came C2D and the magnetic poles of the planet changed places!!!

    The technology is evolving and it's evolving in multiple dimensions. I'm a little disapointed in Toms'. They just seem to be reporting instead of actually doing something. How about actually getting out a soldering iron and creating electron paths? What do you think guys - actually develop hardware .. what a concept!
  • 0 Hide
    Christopher1 , May 18, 2008 1:01 AM
    The real solution for people who want to play games on a laptop is to get a laptop with a DECENT graphics card at the get-go, meaning splurge on a $2000+ machine from HP or Alienware if you are going to want to play high-power games.
  • 0 Hide
    dmacfour , May 18, 2008 7:51 AM
    Just buy a new Dell with the dedicated 8600m gt video card... they are going for less than a grand now, and actually do run games pretty well.
  • 0 Hide
    johnlove , May 18, 2008 1:23 PM
    I think I am better off spending $2,000 on a laptop with 17" screen & 8800gt built in, than on a $1,500 laptop w/15" screen + $429 ViDock Pro + $400 video card.
  • 0 Hide
    dmacfour , May 18, 2008 6:19 PM
    sorry, no 8800gt in laptops. There are GTS models and GTX models though. I've seen setups from Toshiba and Gateway go for under $1400 with an 8800m gts. Gaming on laptops is A LOT cheaper than it used to be.
  • 0 Hide
    proctopus , May 19, 2008 1:13 AM
    for that 429$ price why don't you just build a cheap gaming pc with an 8500gt or so? it actually works with most operating systems. I feel that very few people are going to buy this but the one's who are really need it.
  • 0 Hide
    dmacfour , May 19, 2008 1:21 AM
    Gaming PC and 8500gt in the same sentence?
  • 0 Hide
    TheGreatGrapeApe , May 19, 2008 1:51 AM
    Nice to see you got the review up.
    Was getting worried there for a while. >B~/

    Nice to see the HD acceleration, I'm wondering if the 100% spikes aren't something to do with something else going on in the background. I see those every one in a while when testing and it's always some other app getting twitchy because Vista's doing something.

    Still seems very niche, like for the ultra-light portables where there is no option possible for something even GF8600M/MHD2600 level to be added something like a MacBook Air or Toshiba 500. But for the general public, best to just sell your old laptop and buy a cheap mid-level one.

    Nice review as usual, next stop LASSO and an HD4870X2! >B~)
  • 0 Hide
    psansbury , May 19, 2008 3:28 PM
    I don't want to assume that this entire discussion is gaming only. There is another device out there that has been OEM tested and works great in adding additional monitors to a laptop-even a ThinkPad(just disable Presentation Director)
    usb2dvi video adapter allows you to add an additional monitor per adapter up to 6 additional screens in addition to the 2 normally supported by the laptop. Either DVI and/or VGA through a USB hub and/or direct connection.
    It is 2D only.
    http://www.colorgraphic.net/products/MobileVideoDevices.html
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