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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:04 PM   #1
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11" MacBook Air Owner Connects High-End Graphics Card With Complex Thunderbolt Setup




Larry Gadea, a user on the Tech Inferno forums, has shown off a unique setup whereby he connects a graphics card to the 11" MacBook Air via a series of adapters.

He uses a Thunderbolt to Express Card adapter, then connects an ExpressCard to PCI-Express adapter, and finally to a Windows-compatible video card. The final result is somewhat bulky but seems to provide an excellent gaming experience.

Quote:
It has become very clear that gaming is not only high-performance, but super practical on an 11" Macbook Air. There's so much going against it: this hodgepodge of adapters, it has a low voltage CPU, disaster of wiring and exposed sensitive parts, crazy boot-time chainloading software, Intel killing companies producing adapters and products left right and center via legal threats, etc. but somehow, with the right parts and some patience, it works spectacularly. And is quite cheap too!
The full article goes deep into frame rates and benchmarking a variety of games, noting that -- though users need to use Boot Camp to run Windows because of graphics card driver requirements -- advanced PC gaming on the MacBook Air is workable with a little technical know-how.

Because his setup can be easily unplugged, it is especially useful for gamers who want to play games on a desktop-screen but still have a lightweight notebook for traveling. It could also conceivably be used on other Thunderbolt-equipped Macs, including the iMac and the upcoming Mac Pro.

Thanks Eli!

Article Link: 11" MacBook Air Owner Connects High-End Graphics Card With Complex Thunderbolt Setup
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:07 PM   #2
Trik
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Quick someone make an enclosure and monetize this and then...

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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:07 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by komodrone View Post
perfect.
Image
LOL that's literally my favorite line ever from Breaking Bad, a show with many a great line.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:08 PM   #4
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Apple could make a polished solution, something like Sony did with the Vaio Z.



The Vaio Z was thinner and half a pound lighter than an MacBook Air, but had full voltage processors (up to quad core i7) like a Pro. The external case isn't just for the Blu-Ray reader/writer – it also housed a AMD graphics card.

Last edited by elppa; Jul 30, 2013 at 03:17 PM.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:09 PM   #5
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This goes against the whole point of a MacBook Air.

Someone who buys an MBA in the first place is presumably wanting portable productivity. They are probably not looking to do this type of high-end gaming on it.

EDIT: I agree wholeheartedly with all the posters the saying that this would be an at-home solution. I admit to overlooking that part. This I would not mind even for my MBP's crummy Radeon 6490M.

But seeing as I play older games and that my MacBook Pro already has a dGPU which handles them ok, I guess I just didn't see the justification of cost for something like this.

I speak as a MacBook Pro owner so I'm not going to make any presumptions of how MBA owners would feel about this. If this seems right for you, then by all means.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:09 PM   #6
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Nifty, but expresscard does hurt thunderbolt's performance. I suppose it's going to be much cheaper than a thunderbolt-native version though.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:09 PM   #7
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AFAIK there is (or was planned) a market version of this. Not sure what happened to it (price probably killed it).

For those who want to try it!
http://www.hwtools.net/Adapter/PE4L%20V2.1.html
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Last edited by lordofthereef; Jul 30, 2013 at 03:24 PM.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:09 PM   #8
fatlardo
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So is this on the mac OS or windows?
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:09 PM   #9
TMay
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not much of a gamer/ not an MBA owner

But this is a very, very cool.

Kudos!!!
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:09 PM   #10
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Wowza, nice work! Hopefully this will become more mainstream if OEM's see it.

Couldn't help but think of this:

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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:10 PM   #11
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This is what I imagined would be done when the 2011's introduced Thunderbolt.

it's a perfect use for it. Allowing your average performing laptop to have average performing graphcis capabilities while docked, leveraging the Thunderbolt bandwith.

The fact that its' taken years to come to fruition is a bit sad, and I feel Apple has completely missed the boat with leveraging thunderbolt. Right now, it's effectively just a interconnect being used for drive arrays, but it's capable of so so so much more.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:11 PM   #12
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that's really cool. im sure countless people said this wasn't possible, but i'm glad someone persisted until it worked.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:11 PM   #13
TMay
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elppa View Post
Apple could make a polished solution, something like Sony did with the Vaio Z.

Image
It was way too early regrettably. Used a USB connector for TB before TB standardized on mDP so it is completely not standard.

Last edited by TMay; Jul 30, 2013 at 03:13 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:12 PM   #14
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Wow

Must.have.this
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:12 PM   #15
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haha this is awesome
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:12 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pk7 View Post
This goes against the whole point of a MacBook Air.

Someone who buys an MBA in the first place is presumably wanting portable productivity. They are probably not looking to do this type of high-end gaming on it.

However, yes, in a portable enclosure, this can be pretty neat.
You are right, but as you said ... having the option of potentially gaming with insane frame-rates when you want to, this would be incredible if Apple could do something like this.

Imagine it: a super sleek, thin laptop with amazing battery life. Then if you want to have a nice little LAN party, carry along a small caddy as well, and you're fragging in Ultra quality at 60fps.

I would love if Apple did this. It would be an insta-buy for me, no question about it.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:12 PM   #17
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That's great now can we actually have some decent games released for mac os so we don't have to switch to windows every time.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:12 PM   #18
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I cannot believe that actually works, lol. What's next, plug that into a VGA adapter and then run it on an old monitor? lol
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:13 PM   #19
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I thought it was the original plan too with the Mac Pro and its expandability using its thunderbolt ports.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:14 PM   #20
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:15 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fatlardo View Post
So is this on the mac OS or windows?
On the forum post that I read through, I think Win 7 was used.
http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-g...%24250%5D.html
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:16 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pk7 View Post
This goes against the whole point of a MacBook Air.

Someone who buys an MBA in the first place is presumably wanting portable productivity. They are probably not looking to do this type of high-end gaming on it.

However, yes, in a portable enclosure, this can be pretty neat.
This would be perfect for me. I want the convenience of having one machine that can be portable, yet still play games well at home. Right now, I make do with a MBP and Hackintosh.

However, the tech isn't quite there yet. Thunderbolt, even 2, can't compare to a dedicated PCI slot in terms of speed. I suspect he's getting away with it because of the low resolution of the 11".


Quote:
Originally Posted by Farplaner View Post
I thought it was the original plan too with the Mac Pro and its expandability using its thunderbolt ports.
Yes, but not this use case, obviously. Its gpus are more powerful than anything you could connect to it.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:18 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by TMay View Post
It was way too early regrettably. Used a USB connector for TB before TB standardized on mDP so it is completely not standard.
Yes - not standard, but Sony did this in 2011… It is also innovate and useful use of the technology (Light Peak/Thunderbolt).

For me it is also a far more interesting vision of a modern PC than the transformers/convertibles Microsoft insists on everyone making.

Last edited by elppa; Jul 30, 2013 at 03:25 PM.
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:18 PM   #24
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An "excellent gaming experience" is not looking down on an 11" display!
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Old Jul 30, 2013, 03:19 PM   #25
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Why use a MacBook Air for this?

As another poster said, why use an ultra-thin laptop for this kind of setup if a user is only going to bulk it up with adapters and extra hardware so that it can accept a PC graphics card? And, more importantly, how does this affect the MBA's battery life? I am sure that this is a battery-guzzler and would kill the machine before even the first level of a game is finished...
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