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SilverStone debuts Thunderbolt external graphics card case

SilverStone debuts Thunderbolt external graphics card case

Attach this box to your laptop and you can add desktop graphics power.

SilverStone has demonstrated a new external graphics card chassis that can be used to add desktop graphics card power to any Thunderbolt-equipped computer.

The as yet unnamed product can house any current graphics card, a Thunderbolt to PCI-E interface board and an SFX-size power supply to power the card. Simply fit the hardware and plug into any PC with a Thunderbolt port - yup, even a MacBook Air - and it will provide that graphics processing power to the attached device.

By providing this amount of processing power to a laptop, for many people there will be little need to have a main gaming PC anymore. Also, unlike SilverStone's other eye-catching innovation here (the pumpless liquid cooler) at Computex 2013, this device will be coming to market in the not too distant future.

The device itself has a a design that is likely to split opinion a little, with it arguably resembling a bin. However, in the flesh it looks very nice and exudes quality thanks to its liberal use of thick sheets of aluminium.

SilverStone debuts Thunderbolt external graphics card case SilverStone external graphics card case debuted, changes game forever

Inside, the graphics card is mounted vertically, giving the whole device a footprint only around 25cm. Air is drawn in from the bottom of the case and exhausted out the top, where the outputs for the card and mains cable input for the power are situated; cables are routed through a hole in the back and a top piece pushes into place over these to keep things tidy.

We've seen plenty of external graphics solutions in our time but this is the first time that all the pieces seem truly to be in place - the external part is fully upgradeable while the connection is universal. We cannot simply wait to see this product come to market.

25 Comments

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bigc90210 6th June 2013, 17:52 Quote
Funny, was only a month or 2 ago me and Si_the -Dude were discussing building a custom alienware themed case like this to go with his monster m18x (the external card would have been a titan). Then he went and sold it and ruined the chance to make it /hmph
Corky42 6th June 2013, 18:33 Quote
Is it just the pictures or does it really look almost as big as some cases ?
Hustler 6th June 2013, 19:30 Quote
How will it bypass the inbuilt GPU of the Laptop?

If, as I would have thought, it's via special software profiles for each game, then I can't see it going mainstream.
Teknokid 6th June 2013, 19:48 Quote
Surely it will just use the same driver laptops use now - as many currently switch between Intel and discreet GPU's...

Looks good - shame more laptops dont have thunderbolt though
maverik-sg1 6th June 2013, 20:21 Quote
Very interesting indeed, really looking forward to seeing how these perform.
AiA 6th June 2013, 20:42 Quote
looks like a great product
but i'm guessing there would be other bottle necks in a laptop (memory,cpu
so i'm guessing it would be good for someone with a descent laptop, still good though.
KidMod-Southpaw 6th June 2013, 21:27 Quote
I can see a lot of potential problems, but if Thunderbolt really does become part of every laptop, this will be awesome! I can't wait to see it develop!
rocknroll237 6th June 2013, 22:19 Quote
I hope this becomes mainstream, I think things like this are the future of computing. The only real drawback I see is that not enough laptops will be able to support it fully and the thing looks pretty big atm.
Sheiken 7th June 2013, 05:55 Quote
Please, oh please make this work!
Apocalypso 7th June 2013, 08:49 Quote
This is a great idea. I could use my standard day to day laptop for work etc, come home of an evening plug in the thunderbolt connector and spend an evening gaming
Waynio 7th June 2013, 08:55 Quote
Awesome to make an ordinarily dedicated GPU sociable for any system that has Thunderbolt, very awesome, this should be extremely popular & will let people do mini-ITX tiny systems with a good sound card, love it & will be right on board for SFF awesomeness, this suddenly makes it cheaper with not having to buy new GPU for every system, can imagine it making more sales for AMD & NVidia too with it opening up a bigger audience. :)

Bravo to Silverstone.

Would make the project I've got on pause seem extra ridiculous if I didn't make it modular so could easily just lose the top half & change the mobo to have a better CPU, so glad I went modular. :D
blacko 7th June 2013, 09:38 Quote
Can we get some more info on the SFX PSU? would be interesting to find out how much juice its got.
samkiller42 7th June 2013, 10:24 Quote
Looks like a fantastic idea in practice, but it's cost would put me off, I'm looking for a new Laptop anyway, but the cost of a new laptop that has Thunderbolt. plus this would cost more than a gaming laptop.

Sam
geebles 7th June 2013, 10:38 Quote
More companies should be doing this, the technology is there! Having a small laptop with integrated graphics, plugging into a 'dock' at home with an external graphics card would be ideal!

I have a HP 2740p with integrated graphics, and built an "eGPU" enclosure which plugs into the ExpressCard slot (PCIe X1..) and by installing the nvidia optimus drivers, it is now a hot swappable external graphics card that displays on the laptop screen!! Google 'eGPU' and there is a massive thread on how to build it yourself right now :) The main bottleneck with my system is the 'PCIe X1' speed.. Thunderbolt should at least be 4 times faster (don't quote me) and should not be much of a bottleneck!
blacko 7th June 2013, 11:02 Quote
PCIE2.0 is around 8gb
PCIE3.0 is 15gb
Thunderbolt is 10gb.

defiantly enough speed.
MiNiMaL_FuSS 7th June 2013, 19:57 Quote
If this has a reasonable price and can perform anything like having an internal graphics card, then this could easily kill desktop computing. Who wouldn't want a laptop for use anywhere in the house and then just keep one of these on ur desk for when you want to game, brilliant idea, truly.
ArthurB 8th June 2013, 07:24 Quote
Will this use Thunderbolt 1 or 2?
Meanmotion 8th June 2013, 11:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by blacko
Can we get some more info on the SFX PSU? would be interesting to find out how much juice its got.

The one that comes preinstalled can deliver 450W. SFX is a standard though so you could swap it out for another model - not that they come much more powerful than 450W.

While 450W may not sound much, remember it only has to power a graphics card and the interface circuitry.
abezors 8th June 2013, 12:55 Quote
Can't wait to see these become popular items on desks around the world. It'll boost PC game sales more which is always good for us.

But --- roughly what performance hit would there be for using a laptop as the paired device (say compared to a quad-core desktop with thunderbolt)? Because the laptop CPU would once again become the bottleneck in gaming. Would they struggle even with this amount of GPU power available? See "don't be fooled by laptop cpus" article.
Waynio 8th June 2013, 23:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by abezors
Can't wait to see these become popular items on desks around the world. It'll boost PC game sales more which is always good for us.

But --- roughly what performance hit would there be for using a laptop as the paired device (say compared to a quad-core desktop with thunderbolt)? Because the laptop CPU would once again become the bottleneck in gaming. Would they struggle even with this amount of GPU power available? See "don't be fooled by laptop cpus" article.

We'll have to wait & see, :D should make for some fun tests for tech journalists when these come to market. :)

Pretty exciting progress though. :)
fluxtatic 10th June 2013, 02:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by samkiller42
Looks like a fantastic idea in practice, but it's cost would put me off, I'm looking for a new Laptop anyway, but the cost of a new laptop that has Thunderbolt. plus this would cost more than a gaming laptop.

Sam

Like anything, though, it's a compromise. Sure, you could get a gaming laptop that will be huge, heavy, and have a battery life of what, 2-3 hours? Or get a smaller, lighter laptop with decent battery life that you can plug into this.

I'm not saying one or the other is 'right', just that it's very much an individual decision as to whether something like this makes sense. I see it being fairly niche, as this won't come cheap - enclosure with a PSU and TB is going to be a little spendy, and that's before you get to the GPU itself. So gamers are a relatively niche market (at least those that are spending on a decent GPU), then laptop gamers are smaller yet. Then those that will have the money and desire to get a setup like this? A fraction of a fraction of a fraction.
Guinevere 10th June 2013, 12:46 Quote
If this was cheap enough I'd love to pick one up. I could completely remove my need to keep my PC running and I'd use my macbook for everything. At the moment the 650m is simply no match for the 285 I have in the old PC. How cool would it be to remove my GPU from the PC and run it like this.

I bet it's at least £300 when it comes out though.
richms 11th June 2013, 01:51 Quote
Cant see to much use in that form factor, but make it something that can mount behind a monitor or becomes a monitor stand and that would be great.
Phil Rhodes 11th June 2013, 17:11 Quote
I'm a bit late to the party here but:
Quote:
PCIE2.0 is around 8gb
PCIE3.0 is 15gb
Thunderbolt is 10gb.

defiantly enough speed.

Er, no. PCIe 2.0 is about 10 gigabits (8 after encoding) per lane. Graphics cards are generlaly 16-lane PCIe devices. This device would provide a graphics card with one-eighth the amount of bandwidth it'd have access to when plugged into a motherboard.

I suspect that would make some sort of difference, particularly if you ran the GPU out of its onboard RAM and needed to page it back and forth to main memory.

Thunderbolt is widely being taken as a panacea, and it really isn't. We still need proper internal PCIe buses, and the design of the new Mac Pro is silly.
Krog_Mod 24th June 2013, 14:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by blacko
PCIE2.0 is around 8gb
PCIE3.0 is 15gb
Thunderbolt is 10gb.

defiantly enough speed.

I'm kind of wondering why nobody caught this, but for PCI-E it's GBytes not Gbits (byte is 8 bits)

Thunderbolt is indeed 10Gb/s per channel. It has 20 total channels
10Gb=1.5GB so 30GB/s bus speed

PCI-E 2.0 is 8GB/s per channel
at 16x this is 128GB/s bus speed

PCI-E 3.0 is 15GB/s per channel
at 16x this is 240GB/s bus speed

Regardless of this... I very much doubt that any graphics card can reach these bus speeds anyway. If anyone knows what % of the bus a high-end GPU actually uses, I'd be very interested. But I doubt very much that many of them even use half of what PCI-E 2.0 gives.
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