TechSpot

AMD XConnect makes using an external graphics card way easier

By Shawn Knight
Mar 11, 2016
Post New Reply
  1. The concept of an external graphics card has been around for several years. Being able to supplement a standard notebook (or these days, an Ultrabook) with a powerful external GPU is no doubt an intriguing proposition for serious gamers but up to this point, we've yet to see a non-proprietary solution gain much traction.

    AMD is aiming to change that once and for all with XConnect, a new technology built into Radeon Crimson Software 16.2.2 (and later) that adds support for Thunderbolt 3 external graphics enclosures. The whole affair is plug-and-play making it incredibly simple to use. What's more, gamers can elect to play on their notebook's display or connect an external monitor.

    It is, however, still somewhat proprietary. As of writing, AMD XConnect is only compatible with the following Radeon graphics cards:

    • Radeon R9 Fury
    • Radeon R9 Nano
    • Radeon R9 300 Series
    • Radeon R9 290X
    • Radeon R9 290
    • Radeon R9 285

    Do note that you'll also need a system running Windows 10 (build 10586 or later) that has also had its BIOS updated to support external graphics.

    AMD says it will continue to test and add additional Radeon GPUs to the support list moving forward. Speaking of, AMD points us to its XConnect website where it'll maintain a list of supported systems, system requirements, GPUs and enclosures. As of writing, only the Razer Blade Stealth notebook and the Razer Core enclosure are on said list.

    Permalink to story.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2016
  2. Darth Shiv

    Darth Shiv TS Evangelist Posts: 1,620   +376

    Now we're talking... nice one! Got me rethinking my next gaming laptop!
     
  3. Adhmuz

    Adhmuz TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,648   +521

    Slowly the gap between portability and performance is being narrowed, this is great news for anyone who wants to game with their laptop at home and use it for work everywhere else, which I could presume is anyone who plays PC games.
     
  4. Jamlad

    Jamlad TS Booster Posts: 59   +61

    I like what AMD have been doing with FreeSync and XConnect, but I still have difficulty forgiving them for a dire Rage 128, an underperforming Radeon HD6750, and generally poor hardware. And Thunderbolt 3 was designed with external graphics support in mind, so this is hardly visionary.
     
  5. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,170   +577

    Hmm, don't know if I would say that. This device is really only to enable a laptop users to get a desktop level of GPU power. It isn't intended to be taken everywhere so that's going to be an obvious trade-off. In addition, the cost of the unit and only having 4x PCIe lanes are going to limit it's market. Really, this device is target at people who need laptops but want desktop power. Anyone else isn't really going to get much.
     
  6. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,550   +2,894

    I might start window shopping, when I see something like this for nVidia.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2016
  7. cartera

    cartera TS Addict Posts: 296   +78

    We have been asking for a portable external graphics solution for laptops for years. I can't understand how it has taken so long to gain in traction, and I don't view this as much.
    It's a really good idea,just needs some more work now. Good luck AMD.l
     
    wontolla and Darth Shiv like this.
  8. Levi Sterling

    Levi Sterling TS Enthusiast Posts: 67   +21

    If I was going to be tethered to a desk and part of the laptop would become functional useless, then why would I do this? It is difficult to game with the control interface of a laptop already so I would buy a mouse, then the screen is always tiny and in most cases you can't use the laptop screen with an external graphics card. So I would need another screen. The keyboards are tiny and usually not mechanical, so we replace that. Or instead I could just have a cheap laptop and a gaming computer. Who are gaming laptops aimed at? How shitty is your significant other that you are not allowed to have a computer desk? How exactly do you suppose a person who likes to game already would switch to something that consistently overheats?

    Why would people like this product?
     
  9. Technician

    Technician TS Addict Posts: 677   +113

    Why not just buy a capable laptop instead of a gimped one that needs this to work well for gaming? If the gpu is internal, you can game anywhere, a better deal.
     
  10. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,550   +2,894

    How shitty is your significant other that you are not allowed to have toys for your kids? Maybe a little sarcasm will help you realize how crazy that remark really is.
     
    Technician likes this.
  11. Technician

    Technician TS Addict Posts: 677   +113

    Clifford, you should have said "the significant other is not shitty enough to be with you if that's the question". :) lol joking, people.
    Group hug.
     
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  12. Levi Sterling

    Levi Sterling TS Enthusiast Posts: 67   +21

    Nice false equivalency argument. Irrelevant to the question I asked. How or why would someone use this product? I asked my question as a proposal of why someone would only use a laptop. Why would this be a child's toy? How exactly does that relate to this?
     
  13. Technician

    Technician TS Addict Posts: 677   +113

    Its a product. Someone will use it that has a need or desire to use it. Its not for me but I'm not the target audience.
     
  14. Darth Shiv

    Darth Shiv TS Evangelist Posts: 1,620   +376

    Relative to many gaming laptops, the cost is fairly low for a desktop GPU. Also this is the first gen. Things will ramp up in the PCIe side quickly if this has enough market demand.
     
  15. Darth Shiv

    Darth Shiv TS Evangelist Posts: 1,620   +376

    Because you can buy a tiny form factor laptop instead of a gaming form factor one. If you are gaming the minority of the time, it has several advantages.
     
  16. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,170   +577

    Well first off this is a niche product so there will only be so much demand. Second, there's only so much external connectivity you can put on a laptop. Unless there is a special connector developed they will have to spend allot of money on laptop external ports.
     
  17. Technician

    Technician TS Addict Posts: 677   +113

    You can also buy an abacus, doesn't mean it's better because its smaller, I like a large screen whether it's for work or play.

    I found it odd that they chose nVidias colors for the gaming side of the picture.
     
  18. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,170   +577

    It's a Razor product and that's their color.
     
  19. Darth Shiv

    Darth Shiv TS Evangelist Posts: 1,620   +376

    Thunderbolt is inherently easily scalable being linked to PCIe, the ports are small and honestly how many do you need? Iirc they can daisy chain or have multiple devices from a single port.
     
  20. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,170   +577

    PCIe is 1 GB/s per lane so for 4x PCIe that's 4 GB/s, almost the max that thunderbolt 3 can handle. How many laptops do you know of have a thunderbolt 3 controller? It doesn't matter how "scalable" it is if the speed needed is outside the specification it can handle. People are going to have to wait for the next iteration of thunderbolt to get 8x PCIe and then wait for Laptops to actually use it.

    Another problem with this is the only reason to implement newer thunderbolt tech is for this very niche scenario. Because of this you should expect laptops with this feature to be sectioned off into more expensive "gaming" laptops. They might just sell you the laptop with the external enclosure.
     
  21. Technician

    Technician TS Addict Posts: 677   +113

    That's even funnier, trying to fool people by copying the color of the competition.
    It reminds me of the knock off sound-alike companies that hope people will confuse their product for the recognized name brand and buy it by mistake.
    They should have gone all in and called it the Vnidia Razor. :)
     
  22. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,170   +577

    I'd call Razor and Nvida more of a team as they favor Nvidia cards more than AMD. They want to have that "L33T" appeal. I'm sure they do enjoy some extra cash from the green color scheme, it's basically the same as Nvidia's.
     
  23. Darth Shiv

    Darth Shiv TS Evangelist Posts: 1,620   +376

    When I meant scalable, I mean for future gens it is easy to ramp up as there are no upstream bottlenecks. So yes. I was implying Thunderbolt 4 or 5.

    It will not need to be a gaming laptop. Why? This is a mobo chipset thing. Native to the Intel chipset. So there will be plenty of Ultrabooks that do and will have this capability just as many laptops now have Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt 3 will be common. Thunderbolt 4, when it arrives, will be common. Pick one of those. Again, not a gaming tier feature...
     
  24. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,170   +577

    Not all Laptop Intel chipsets have Thunderbolt. Companies have to pay extra and get the higher tier ones for that. It'd be naive to think that companies wouldn't charge extra money for a feature they know gamers want.
     
  25. Darth Shiv

    Darth Shiv TS Evangelist Posts: 1,620   +376

    Yes that is true that it won't be on the cheapest tiers. It will be substantially cheaper than a gaming laptop with an say GTX980M for example. And you want reasonable specs anyway if you use an Ultrabook for work and plug a gfx card in for gaming.
     
    Evernessince likes this.

Similar Topics

Add New Comment

You need to be a member to leave a comment. Join thousands of tech enthusiasts and participate.
TechSpot Account You may also...