And just like that, PowerColor is one of the precious few companies at the fore of the promising external graphics card enclosure wave. The Chinese company announced that its Devil Box is now available.
We’re a little surprised, given that our first (and last) sighting of the Devil Box was at Computex this summer, and at the time PowerColor had not decided on a release date or price. Maybe the company just saw the opportunity and pushed to insert itself into a market that has received less attention than perhaps it should.
Under The Radar, For Some Reason
To understand why graphics card docks could be important, you need not look any further, actually, than PowerColor’s Devil Box demo at Computex: It was paired with an Intel Skull Canyon NUC, powering an HTC Vive.
To be clear, that’s a NUC running a high-end VR HMD. Granted, we weren’t privy to some key details such as the framerate it was running, but the point is, the thing that makes that setup work is the external GPU.
Razer’s version of the external GPU paradigm, the Razer Core, is designed to pair with the company’s slim gaming notebooks. Initially, the Core was locked down to just its own Blade notebooks, but because of open standards like USB Type-C, Thunderbolt 3, and AMD’s XConnect, there’s no reason you couldn’t pair a Core (or any other external GPU) with any USB Type-C-equipped notebook.
This all effectively means that instead of having a laptop and a desktop, you could have a laptop and an external GPU dock and still have yourself a burly gaming setup.
In addition to PowerColor and Razer, GPU docks are here or are forthcoming from Alienware, Asus, MSI, and Gigabyte.
The Devil (Box) Is In The Details
The sticking point with all of these GPU docks, including the Devil Box, is the price. It comes in at $379, with no graphics card.
The Devil Box supports graphics cards from AMD (it supports AMD XConnect) or Nvidia up to 310mm in length that demand up to 375W. The interface is Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C, and the port features Power Delivery, so it will charge a connected laptop. There’s an internal 500W PSU, and other ports include gigabit Ethernet and four USB 3.0 ports (one of which is on the front of the chassis).
The $379 price tag may be a bit much to swallow, but it’s worth noting that the Razer Core lands at $500. On the other hand, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier costs just $200 (opens in new tab).
PowerColor said that the Devil Box is available from Newegg today, but at press time there is no listing. It should also be available in Germany (MindFactory (opens in new tab)), the UK (Overclockers (opens in new tab)), and China (JD (opens in new tab)). Shortly thereafter, it’s coming to Japan (Amazon) and Singapore (Banleong).
|Header Cell - Column 0||PowerColor Devil Box External GPU Dock|
|Max. Graphics Card Size||310 x 140 x 50mm|
|Mac. Graphics Card Power||375W|
|Connection||Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps)|
|Ports||-USB 3.0 x4 (one in front)-Gigabit Ethernet|
|Power Delivery||Yes, v.2.0, max 60W|
|Chassis Size||400 x 172 x 242mm|
Update, 10/21/16, 11:15am PT: We originally misstated the status of the MSI dock. The error has been corrected.
Then you just need more manufacturers to build devices that support it over Type C, without needing to get into the higher-end.
I think we'll see more of that very soon, from multiple dock vendors. We've been pressing Razer, Asus, etc. on that for over a year. The answer is, essentially: Any laptop with a USB Type-C (w/ Thunderbolt over Type-C) that has the proper firmware/software should be able to support the USB Type-C docks.
Those OEMs have been working directly with Nvidia/AMD to make it work. XConnect is one of the results of those efforts, as I understand it.
Basically, it's not a complex solution, but it's one that needs to be implemented. Because the docks themselves are generally pretty new, and so are the Nvidia/AMD solutions, you have to figure that step 1 is convincing laptop makers to enable the functionality at all, and step 2 is waiting for product refresh cycles.
Good catch, thanks--