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External Graphics Upgrade for Notebooks

ViDock Gfx PRO: First impressions and examination

Our ViDock sample came well packaged in an attractive box. The main components are the ViDock box itself, a power cable, some DVI-to-analog converters, as well as a DVI-to-HDMI converter. As it is a prerelease version, some of the materials were beta versions, such as the driver CD, but there was nothing really to complain about.

The ViDock Gfx itself is a fairly simple looking unit, essentially a metal box with identifying decals and holes for air movement. While it isn’t an offensive look, I personally found it a little uninspired and old-fashioned, in my humble opinion. The Asus XG station is quite flashy, and although I didn’t expect the same from the ViDock, I think a Mac-inspired white box design would have been more attractive and appropriate. But I’ll be the first to admit that styling is a purely subjective affair, and it’s the functionality that counts.

The back of the unit is where all of the attached cables go. Two DVI display ports and the USB and power supply connections reside here, as well as the single ExpressCard cable that will attach to the laptop when in use.

At Tom’s Hardware we are always interested in the internals, so of course we probed deeper than a cursory inspection. The screws holding the ViDock together were covered by protective rubber which was glued on but came off fairly easily, allowing us to remove the front and back covers of the device:

With the covers off, the main circuit board and graphics card slid out easily, showing us the man behind the curtain: the Radeon 2600 PRO 512MB, in this case, an HIS branded card.

At its heart, the ViDock is an ExpressCard-to-PCIe adapter, as we can see when the card is removed.

Seeing the ViDock in its glorious simplicity certainly made us wonder how the ViDock would perform with a different graphics card. This is something we tested out later in the review, so read on!

  • a 6pack in
    thats a nice work around for 3d graphics on laptops. but at the 429 price tag plus the price of a 8600gt or a 3870.. thats getting pricy.

    its a valid option, but one that a normal user should think twice about.

    nice write up
    Reply
  • crazyhandpuppet
    "If your integrated video chipset doesn’t support DHCP, or doesn’t accelerate decoding, it’s not going to play Blu-ray movies."

    Amazing how far DHCP has come over the last few years... Looks like it's already replacing HDCP :)
    Reply
  • cleeve
    DHCP... ugh.

    Sorry, I'm Lisdexic!

    We'll have that fixed real soon. :)

    Reply
  • cleeve
    At $429, it comes with an 8600 GT or 2600 PRO.
    Reply
  • gwolfman
    Did they beat ASUS to the punch? When is this product available?
    Reply
  • gwolfman
    No Call of Duty 4 benchmarks? :*(
    Reply
  • cleeve
    Call of Duty 4 is so much easier on hardware, I prefer to concentrate on stuff that will really challenge it like Crysis and SupCom so we have a worst-case scenario.
    Reply
  • piratepast40
    There are several interesting points here. The fact that card compatability is dependant on chipset type is interesting but not really shocking. It's (sort of) similar to the hybrid SLI and Crossfire capability of the 780 series chipsets and the way the chipsets support specific GPU series. It sounds as though another header or bus type is needed to fully support the concept. The expresscard/USB bus was the holdup a year ago and it appears to still be the main bottleneck. I'm curious to see if AMD's PUMA platform or Intel's version (forgot the name) will show us something in this area. Am also wondering if one of the laptop OEM's might offer the external card setup for specific models of their computers. Will be interesting to see what others are doing. Haven't heard anything at all from ASUS since early last year.
    Reply
  • spuddyt
    would it be possible to run crossfire/sli with two of these things? (largely out of curiosity, twould be insane to actuall sensibly do it...) That way wouldn't you have 2 seperate pcie 1x bandwidths to play with/
    Reply
  • anonymous x
    aww, i wish the express card slot had enough bandwidth to suport a geforce 9800 card
    Reply