This is what external graphics could look like.
Rumors have it that the R600, the next ATI graphics core, will consume even more power. We are certain that Nvidia's will as well, since the company must add an additional set of shader processors and organizational units for Direct3D 10. It is no wonder we have heard rumors of external graphics solutions with their own power supplies. The devices would plug into a PCI Express slot that links a card (or up to 32 of them) into the interface.
The only application where we believe this could be reasonable would be a user plugging it into a notebook and a desktop. Then you could turn a weak notebook into a gaming system and have a similar experience on both systems. That would be awesome, but if this only solves a power issue it is an asinine answer to something the CPU world has already dealt with.
This short survey into the things we see coming to the world of computer graphics is on one hand exciting, as we will see more reality inside our games. We can look forward to better image quality with HD content coming to PCs, and Windows Vista and Aero Glass will change the way the mainstream views computer graphics, putting it in a new light. This also should generate a new round of sales, as consumers need a dedicated 3D card with some horsepower. Effects physics and other applications written for parallel processing on a graphic card will only add to the demand for new cards.
But while all of these things are interesting, exciting and new, the problem remains the same. Getting smaller and faster only makes sense if the design also is less demanding on the wall socket and cooling system. We all want different things when it comes to advancements, but first and foremost we need better power management. The bottom line is simple: graphics makers must take a step back from feature brainstorming until the power issue is resolved.