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Thunderbolt external GPU chassis for laptops in the works

Additional graphics power for Mac devices
Tue Aug 09 2011, 13:58

VILLAGE INSTRUMENTS has begun working on an external Thunderbolt graphics card enclosure for Apple's Mac computers, further expanding the limited range of Thunderbolt compatible devices.

The device will work similarly to Village Instruments' existing Vidock GPU chassis, which connects to Expresscard slots, but will instead make use of the ultra-fast Thunderbolt ports on the latest Apple Mac machines.

ExtremeTech reports that the Thunderbolt version of the Vidock will likely have similar specifications, including space for an eGPU card, a two-port USB hub, and power draw of around 225 watts or more, in addition to Ethernet and Firewire support.

The beauty of this device is that it can instantly provide additional graphics power for small portable devices, like the Macbook Air, that otherwise don't have room for expansion or substitution with additional or more powerful graphics cards.

The problem with the Vidock approach is that while it pumps in more power for graphics, it cannot display this on a laptop's built-in screen. Users will be required to use a separate monitor, such as the expensive Thunderbolt Display. Portability therefore suffers somewhat as a result, to say the least, and users who want higher performance graphics might be better off opting for a traditional desktop computer or a proper gaming laptop instead.

Apple will have exclusivity over the device until 2012, at which point Thunderbolt ports, which offer four times the bandwidth of USB 3.0, are expected to appear in rival Windows-based computers.

The price tag for the Thunderbolt Vidock is likely to be around £200. It's important to realise that this is only the chassis itself; a graphics card to put in it will be entirely separate and will cost another few hundred, depending on the model. Then you'll also have to buy a monitor, too. It's hard not to think that this is a good idea on paper that really just won't work out all that well in practice. µ


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