Echo Express Pro: Desktop Graphics In A Thunderbolt Chassis

Benchmark Setup And Software

Testing Notes:

Only a handful of Thunderbolt-enabled motherboards are available today, aside from Apple's Macs. However, in order to compare the native performance of a high-end PCI Express device to the Echo Express Pro operating over Thunderbolt, we require a desktop machine. The same comparison wouldn't be possible on a notebook. Naturally, you can expect similar results from a mobile platform.

MSI's  Z77A-GD80 with built-in Thunderbolt support gives us the connectivity we need to create a performance-oriented head-to-head.

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Test Hardware
ProcessorIntel Core i5-2400 (Sandy Bridge), 32 nm, 3.1 GHz, LGA 1155, 6 MB Shared L3, Turbo Boost Enabled
MotherboardMSI Z77A-GD80 v1.1
MemoryKingston Hyper-X 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1333 @ DDR3-1333, 1.5 V
System DriveOCZ Vertex 4 64 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 1.5
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 3000Palit GeForce GTX 460 1 GBAMD Radeon HD 6970 2 GB
Power SupplySeasonic 760 W, 80 PLUS Gold
System Software and Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 x64 Ultimate
DirectXDirectX 11
DriverGraphics: Nvidia 301.42, Catalyst 12.6 RST: Virtu: 1.2.114
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ATTO Benchmarkv2.46
Battlefield 31920x1080, Thunder Run intro, Ultra Quality
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm1920x1080, Crushblow to The Krazzworks, Ultra Quality, DX11
3DMark11v1.03, Performance, Extreme
  • amuffin
    Well, getting a laptop that supports thunderbolt is already pretty expensive. Then, you have to get one of these which ranges from $400-$800. THEN you have to buy a dedicated card....

    It's pretty expensive once you add it all up :/
  • yobobjm
    I like it, but I see limited use for it, especially for those of us who already have large towers, and don't really want another small tower added on to that. That being said, this would make a pretty awesome home dock for a laptop, and good for those tiny desktops that intel, apple, asrock, zotac and many others make (once all of those get thunderbolt).
  • acku
    Prices will go down. Remember that.

    Second, it's about the cost you'd have to pay anyways for a desktop (which you need if you want to game since you can't on a vanilla ultrabook), so its more like an alternative solution for those who want a single system setup.

    Andrew Ku
    Tom's Hardware
  • amuffin
    Prices will go down. Remember that.

    They don't go down enough...
  • mayankleoboy1
    any controller + the surrounding ecosystem that is this expensive cant survive much. Not being a hater, but being a realist.
  • acku
    You don't know that :). USB 3.0 was expensive when it first came out. Look at things now. Wow things have changed. Prices are substantially lower now.
  • Darkerson
    Pretty interesting, even with the currently high price tag.
  • Vorador2
    Needs to be cheaper. That's my only serious gripe.

    And well, for this purpose Thunderbolt still needs to be faster to fully take advantage of the external GPU, best around 16 Gb/s since it's the speed of a 16x PCIE 3.0 slot.

    Although you could potentially sidestep this issue if you use two linked thunderbolt interfaces, but then there's the problem of synchronizing data transfers (and finding a laptop with two thunderbolt interfaces...if there's any)
  • Menigmand
    If they can make this much cheaper, I would be very interested. I prefer to game on a laptop so I can easily stow it away when I have guests over and need the dining table. An extra box would be ok, as long as it doesn't need an external display.
  • assasin32
    Well this makes things more interesting, when the price goes down and becomes resonable within probably the next few years it may give us the ability to buy laptops and attach some reasonble GPU's to them so we can play games on them a lot better.

    If this was around 8 years ago I would have been all over it and had it for my laptop since I used to use that for gaming.