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AMD's XConnect Brings Native Driver Support For Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Cards 42

AnandTech writes about AMD's XConnect technology: Last night AMD issued a driver update that brought support for a new technology, XConnect. In a nutshell, XConnect is AMD's trade name for running external video cards via Thunderbolt 3, a long-awaited development that Thunderbolt owner Intel is finally getting behind and allowing. [...] AMD is also laying out the technical requirements for supporting XConnect. Not just any laptop/desktop with Thunderbolt 3 can support an external GPU, as there are specific hardware and software requirements, which is why the Blade Stealth is the first qualified laptop. In particular, laptops need to support what is being called the Thunderbolt 3 external graphics standard, or eGFX for short.
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AMD's XConnect Brings Native Driver Support For Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Cards

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  • I thought it was going to be the next gen or USB to take over this kind of thing but looks like the right thing is happening.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eumoria ( 2741315 )
      Many companies are making USB c-type thin laptops that act as as a charging port, external display connector and peripherals. Due to backwards compatibility USB is going to continue to crush thunderbolt for general usage especially with C-type being supported by many manufacturers for their upcoming products.
      • It wasn't too long ago companies were toying with their servers running the 3D game, and just piping you the video from it.

        • Yeah, but they failed by pushing popular latency-sensitive games, which, at least at the time, there was no technology to really make that work without intruding on game play.
        • at least they ran the video cards at the full X16 pci-e speed or at least X8

      • Most of those newfangled USB-C connectors also carry Thunderbolt, which makes things like this work.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @12:30PM (#51678173)

    Why not work on real pci-e ext cables / buses that does not need bios or bridge chips and is not capped at pci-e 3.0 X4 (at best)

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @01:08PM (#51678585)

      Why not work on real pci-e ext cables / buses that does not need bios or bridge chips and is not capped at pci-e 3.0 X4 (at best)

      1. Thunderbolt does not have a chicken-and-egg problem. There are plenty of Thunderbolt displays already available.
      2. Thunderbolt is "good enough". It can daisy chain multiple hi-res displays.

    • Why not work on real pci-e ext cables / buses that does not need bios or bridge chips and is not capped at pci-e 3.0 X4 (at best)


      Yes, why wouldn't AMD work on a technology that isn't well supported by many players? I mean it's not that AMD hasn't tried to develop interfaces on their own before and failed (XGH). [] Also I'm sure that Intel has not done any work with this fancy Thunderbolt interface and that TB devices are rare. [] Never mind that technology never evolves at all. I feel like a schmuck for going with USB over serial. Here I am stuck at USB 1.1 because the technology has never advanced.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      PCI-E is designed for internal system interconnect and is designed around the mechanical and electrical environment therein. - Meaning the connections are robost, things don't move around, conductor runs are short, and you're in a shielded/isolated environment

      The design requirements for a user accessible port interfacing with consumer grade external peripherals are a bit different. End users are, frankly, dumbass cheapskates.

      They'll happily, and forcefully jam whatever dollar store cable they can get and co

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @04:09PM (#51680327)

      Why not work on real pci-e ext cables / buses that does not need bios or bridge chips and is not capped at pci-e 3.0 X4 (at best)

      Something about high bandwidth signals being more difficult to transport as conductor length increases, blah blah blah, more power/error correction/signal shenanigans (differential versus single-ended), and most users not wanting to pay so that Joe_Dragon can run a high end video card off of his laptop.

      I.e., physics, engineering, and economics.

    • PCIe 3.0 runs at 8 GT/s, which has very high signal integrity requirements, at that speed even a 1mm stray solder ball starts acting like an antenna. If you want to route that signal over cheap wire (which is a requirement) you are going to have signal integrity issues at trace lengths >12" from the PCIe port on the chip-set, meaning your cheap cable is probably 3-4" in length at best. A 3' cable is going to cost $100 if you do it this way. Note that a typical 50cm U.2 cable costs $50 because of the s

  • Maybe I am being a bit stupid, but I don't get it.

    This box has a graphics card, a power supply, USB ports, and an ethernet interface. It is pretty much an entire computer except it doesn't have non-graphics memory, a CPU, a hard drive, or a Windows license. Does that make it cheap enough that it can compete with actual computers?

    Yes, with this thing you can game on your laptop, but most gamers probably use external keyboards and screens anyway... What is the use case?

    • Have a laptop as your normal computer that you can take with you. When you are at home, connect a cable and you have a better 3d gaming experience without needing to maintain two separate computers.

      • by amorsen ( 7485 )

        Fair enough, Windows upgrades is a good point. It might be worth paying extra to only have to deal with one Windows installation.

    • I could see a small NUC type PC equipped with TB using this for gaming. Keeps the heat and noise out of the NUC. I also could see a proprietary standard being created ;). Some devices need to be created so the problems we didn't really have can now be seen.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's possible. But then the heat and noise that is not in the NUC, will instead be in the GPU box, so you don't gain much. You might as well put everything in 1 case for more (than PCIEx4) performance and less boxes/wires/PSUs.
        A tiny ultrabook for on the go, with such a dock at home however...

      • by amorsen ( 7485 )

        Again, same problem. You could use the TB cable to keep the noise in another room, but it would be simpler to just run HDMI + USB and keep the entire computer in the other room.

    • One great use of an external graphics box is to support VR units with much better performance, so that there's no lag and you aren't throwing up from using it.

      It can also potentially work not just with computers, but mobile devices also...

    • It's the same reason people use laptop docks instead of connecting to one thing at a time. The disadvantage of laptop docks is that they are limited to certain manufacturers even certain models. If you buy a newer Dell for example, you can't use an older dock because it physically won't fit. This makes the dock more universal. Want to upgrade from an older laptop to a newer, lighter one? No problems. Want to get better graphics and still be compatible with your old laptop, no problem. Your friend want to us
  • 3 years after effectively killing expresscard, which fully supported eGPU through some cheap adapters, they bring it back in some convoluted spec? Wonderful, intel, wonderful.
    • Well ExpressCard 1.0 could never handle anywhere near the bandwidth that is needed to be a docking station that Thunderbolt promises to be. ExpressCard 2.0 has never really taken off.
      • I ran my X230 with a 660Ti eGPU for years. 100% stable and more than enough bandwidth. The adapter even had a USB port I used as a "dock" style setup with a USB hub, with the monitor connected direct to the 660Ti
        • Were able to connect Ethernet, video, and USB to a single ExpressCard? The issue isn't that you can have thick laptops with a discrete GPU that connects externally. The current direction is to have really thin laptops but unfortunately they have a lack of power when it comes to GPUs. So create one of these universal docking stations. A TB connector (and maybe a power cable) and a laptop is connected to everything you would need.
    • by Megol ( 3135005 )

      Intel killed Expresscard?!? It's Intel, not intel BTW.

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