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XConnect Puts AMD GPUs Into External Graphics Enclosures (Updated)

AMD announced a Radeon Software update that includes support for a new technology called XConnect, which allows AMD graphics cards to work in Thunderbolt 3-powered external graphics enclosures, such as the Razer Core.

We first saw the Razer Blade Stealth Ultrabook and its companion external graphics enclosure, the Razer Core, at CES. At the time, Razer was demoing the new product with an Nvidia GPU, but we were told that any GPU with driver support would work. AMD GPUs now have support for Thunderbolt 3 external graphics enclosures as well, albeit with a few caveats.

AMD revealed that R9 300-series, R9 290X, R9 290,  R9 285, R9 Fury and Nano GPUs are compatible with the new XConnect technology, leaving out the entirety of the company’s older and mid-tier GPU offerings (R9 280 and below, R7 300-series and below) and setting a strict performance entry level in order to enjoy the benefits of external graphics enclosures.

However, this is acceptable considering that most consumers purchasing these docks are likely looking for some serious GPU horsepower anyway. Fury X is not specifically listed as compatible, due to its 120 mm radiator.

AMD’s XConnect is available now as part of the Radeon Software Crimson Edition update 16.2.2 and higher.

Updated 3/10/16 4:40 PM CT: A change was made to reflect the graphics card compatibility.

Derek Forrest is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom’s Hardware and Tom’s IT Pro. Follow Derek Forrest on Twitter. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

  • lightofhonor
    The Fury X can't fit inside the case due to the water cooling.
    Reply
  • TechyInAZ
    It's a good idea and one that's been taking forever to be implemented. I can see this not only as being good for laptops but also for ultra thin desktops which can't fit a full blown graphics card.
    Reply
  • Brian_R170
    It's a good idea and one that's been taking forever to be implemented. I can see this not only as being good for laptops but also for ultra thin desktops which can't fit a full blown graphics card.

    Exactly. Just in time for the NUC6i7KYK (aka "Skull Canyon"), or similarly powerful small desktops with Thunderbolt 3.
    Reply
  • TechyInAZ
    17638351 said:
    It's a good idea and one that's been taking forever to be implemented. I can see this not only as being good for laptops but also for ultra thin desktops which can't fit a full blown graphics card.

    Exactly. Just in time for the NUC6i7KYK (aka "Skull Canyon"), or similarly powerful small desktops with Thunderbolt 3.

    Or Intel NUCs and Gigabyte BRIX's. :)
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    It's a good idea and one that's been taking forever to be implemented. I can see this not only as being good for laptops but also for ultra thin desktops which can't fit a full blown graphics card.

    Exactly. Just in time for the NUC6i7KYK (aka "Skull Canyon"), or similarly powerful small desktops with Thunderbolt 3.

    I see this being more useful with laptops. I mean, if you're adding that external graphics to a compact form factor desktop PC, why not just build something a little bigger in the first place and make it all internal? It would be cheaper and easier.
    Reply
  • TechyInAZ
    17639631 said:
    It's a good idea and one that's been taking forever to be implemented. I can see this not only as being good for laptops but also for ultra thin desktops which can't fit a full blown graphics card.

    Exactly. Just in time for the NUC6i7KYK (aka "Skull Canyon"), or similarly powerful small desktops with Thunderbolt 3.

    I see this being more useful with laptops. I mean, if you're adding that external graphics to a compact form factor desktop PC, why not just build something a little bigger in the first place and make it all internal? It would be cheaper and easier.

    I can see that for sure, but I mainly mean't that it would be good for those who already have those small PCs, but want to get into PC gaming, then it would be a good idea to get one.

    But yeah this is designed more for laptops than anything else (tablets could work aswell, but I have yet to find one with a TB 3 port).
    Reply
  • gggplaya
    17639631 said:
    It's a good idea and one that's been taking forever to be implemented. I can see this not only as being good for laptops but also for ultra thin desktops which can't fit a full blown graphics card.

    Exactly. Just in time for the NUC6i7KYK (aka "Skull Canyon"), or similarly powerful small desktops with Thunderbolt 3.

    I see this being more useful with laptops. I mean, if you're adding that external graphics to a compact form factor desktop PC, why not just build something a little bigger in the first place and make it all internal? It would be cheaper and easier.

    I can see that for sure, but I mainly mean't that it would be good for those who already have those small PCs, but want to get into PC gaming, then it would be a good idea to get one.

    But yeah this is designed more for laptops than anything else (tablets could work aswell, but I have yet to find one with a TB 3 port).

    You can buy a larger enclosure for much cheaper than you can buy one of these thunderbolt docks. A good enclosure is $60-$130. These docks will be at least $200+.

    I only see this for people in dorm rooms or small apartments that don't have alot of desk space for a dedicated desktop. Also for frequent business travelers who can take the laptop as a carryon, and keep the dock in their checked luggage.
    Reply
  • Brian_R170
    There are lots of people that don't want a ATX-sized machine. Let's face it, even mini-ITX machines that are capable of high-end graphics are not very small compared to a NUC/BRIX, and they're still full of 90% air. My sincere hope is that the emergence of external graphics will foster some innovation in the form-factor.

    Without the requirement to fit into a graphics card slot and draw power from 12V PCIe connectors, it should be possible to make an external graphics box that is much smaller. You can imagine that with an external power supply brick, an external graphics box wouldn't need to be much bigger than a NUC/BRIX.

    Of course, before any company makes that kind of investment, they will need to know there's a market, and that will likely be determined by how well these ATX-card-in-a-box solutions sell.
    Reply
  • FWCorey
    Does this mean the iMac 5k will finally be able to game under bootcamp?
    Reply
  • photonboy
    Make an APU + Shared Memory setup the size of a large HDD enclosure. Have it attach via USB (does not need to be fast as the game would copy to the memory and run from there).

    The above needs the OS to be modified but it's similar to GPU switching so wouldn't be too insane to get working.

    It would also be compatible with ANY existing computer with the software support as it would again run on the external unit (basically a mini-PS4 with no BD or HDD drive).
    Reply