11" MacBook Air Owner Connects High-End Graphics Card With Complex Thunderbolt Setup

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jul 30, 2013.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    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.

    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
  2. Trik macrumors 6502

    Jan 18, 2011
    Washington, DC
    Quick someone make an enclosure and monetize this and then...

  3. Nicky G macrumors 6502a

    Nicky G

    Mar 24, 2002
    Baltimore & NYC
    LOL that's literally my favorite line ever from Breaking Bad, a show with many a great line. :D
  4. elppa, Jul 30, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013

    elppa macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    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.
  5. pk7, Jul 30, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013

    pk7 macrumors 6502

    Sep 27, 2011
    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.
  6. ConCat macrumors 6502a


    Jul 27, 2012
    In an ethereal plane of existence.
    Nifty, but expresscard does hurt thunderbolt's performance. I suppose it's going to be much cheaper than a thunderbolt-native version though.
  7. lordofthereef, Jul 30, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013

    lordofthereef macrumors G5


    Nov 29, 2011
    Boston, MA
  8. fatlardo macrumors 6502


    Mar 15, 2011
  9. TMay macrumors 68000

    Dec 24, 2001
    Carson City, NV
    not much of a gamer/ not an MBA owner

    But this is a very, very cool.

  10. Unggoy Murderer macrumors 6502

    Jan 28, 2011
    Livingston, Scotland
    Wowza, nice work! Hopefully this will become more mainstream if OEM's see it.

    Couldn't help but think of this:

  11. LordVic macrumors 601

    Sep 7, 2011
    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.
  12. afawcett macrumors regular

    Feb 23, 2010
    San Diego
    that's really cool. im sure countless people said this wasn't possible, but i'm glad someone persisted until it worked.
  13. TMay, Jul 30, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013

    TMay macrumors 68000

    Dec 24, 2001
    Carson City, NV
    It was way too early regrettably. Used a USB connector for TB before TB standardized on mDP so it is completely not standard.
  14. mac_airport macrumors newbie

    Jan 17, 2002
    palo alto, california
  15. gotluck macrumors 603


    Dec 8, 2011
    East Central Florida
  16. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    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.
  17. appleisking macrumors 6502a

    May 24, 2013
    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.
  18. freediverdude macrumors 6502a

    Dec 26, 2006
    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
  19. Farplaner macrumors 6502

    Aug 4, 2008
    I thought it was the original plan too with the Mac Pro and its expandability using its thunderbolt ports.
  20. HitchHykr macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2007
    I read "Lady Gaga, a user on the Tech Inferno...."
  21. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
  22. Cougarcat macrumors 604

    Sep 19, 2003
    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".

    Yes, but not this use case, obviously. Its gpus are more powerful than anything you could connect to it.
  23. elppa, Jul 30, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013

    elppa macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    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.
  24. Dagless Suspended


    Jan 18, 2005
    Fighting to stay in the EU
    An "excellent gaming experience" is not looking down on an 11" display!
  25. danielsutton macrumors regular

    Jun 13, 2011
    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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