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Asus Bows To Compatibility, Adds USB Type-C To External GPU Dock

Asus didn’t have many ROG announcements at Computex 2016, and the few it did have were mostly lost at its loud, dark, 3D laser-lightshow-like press conference. But when we had a chance to walk through the company’s booth later in the week and pepper each project manager in turn, we found that Asus’ external graphics dock has received some updates, most notably a USB Type-C port.

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Bowing To Compatibility

At CES time this past January, the external graphics docks from major companies were sorted into two camps: those that used a proprietary connector for the PC and those that relied on a standard connector (Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C).

The sticking point--at least to hear the companies say it--is bandwidth. Although on paper Thunderbolt 3 is 40 Gbps, it loses some of its total bandwidth to encoding overhead, so the actual bandwidth is closer to 32 Gbps.

In order to get the full 40 Gbps of bandwidth (and possibly for other reasons), both Asus and MSI relied on proprietary PCIe connectors. The downside there is of course compatibility; that dock can work with only a laptop with that special connectivity. Further, Asus’ XG Station 2 had two cables, which is just clunky. By contrast, Thunderbolt 3 is a one-cable solution and an open standard, so any system with the right USB Type-C port could make use of a thus-equipped GPU dock.

Razer took the USB Type-C approach with its Razer Core dock, for the reasons mentioned above, and we suspect that HP (and other companies) might be cooking up their own versions, too. Powercolor, for instance, has its Devil Box GPU dock prototype just about ready to go.

Once Razer announced the Core, Asus had two choices: It could double down on its proprietary connector or it could sheepishly revert to USB Type-C. It did neither. Instead, the company added a USB Type-C port to the XG2 and also kept its proprietary PCIe connector. (Let that be a lesson in false dichotomies, kids.)

Simply, this allows Asus to test the market without risk. If the product team finds that consumers are buying the XG Station 2 and pairing it mainly with Asus laptops, then maybe they nix that USB Type-C port. If the dock sells well as a standalone unit, that would tell them that the Type-C port should stay.

The XG Station 2 will come to market later this year, and when it does, it will have both ports.

You Got The Power

In addition to all the port drama, we learned more about the XG Station 2’s power supply. It’s a 680W PSU, and Asus broke it down for us: 500W is allotted for the graphics card, 80W is for the Quick Charge function and any connected accessories, and 100W is set aside for power delivery over the USB Type-C port. (That means you can connect a laptop to the XG Station 2, and the dock will charge the laptop.)

That leaves plenty of headroom on this PSU, and partially, that’s because Asus anticipates people overclocking the cards, and it allows for dual GPUs to be used in the XG station 2, which is something Asus is considering.

Asus also told us that there will be an Asus ROG laptop coming that will be equipped with its two-cable proprietary connector. We presume that as-yet unnamed laptop will launch alongside the XG Station 2 in Q4 2016.

Seth Colaner is the News Director for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter @SethColaner. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.