Thunderbolt External GPUs

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Retrostarscream, Mar 24, 2011.

  1. Retrostarscream macrumors member


    Sep 13, 2010
    Miami FL
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 3_1_3 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/528.18 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile/7E18 Safari/528.16)

    I once heard a macrumors reader comment on this subject of the possibility of external GPUs with thunderbolt connectivety.

    Just wanted to hear other schools of thought.

    Is it feasible!? Could this possibly manifest / materialize itself on the horizon !?
  2. Eddyisgreat macrumors 601

    Oct 24, 2007
    It could. It's just an extention of the PCIe bus, just like expresscard (except Thunderbolt is much much faster).

    The question is, how much, and will it be too expensive for anyone to care.

    I expect to see a "magmabox" style solution where vendors sell a thunderbolt attatched backplane/enclosure with one or more 16x PCIe slots.
  3. /user/me macrumors 6502

    Feb 28, 2011
    I have, and if it's true, then you could easily set up an epic gaming rig on it.
  4. aznguyen316 macrumors 68020


    Oct 1, 2008
    Tampa, FL
    Technically it should be feasible since express card can do it and thunderbolt is even faster. Just need to find a diy method buy a decent desktop card and boom powerrrrrr since these sandy quads are pretty sick and in terms of gaming, the gpu is the bottleneck.
  5. mulo macrumors 68020


    Aug 22, 2010
    Behind you
    I heard Lenovo has emphasized on thunderbolt and will be producing extern gpus
  6. endless17 macrumors member

    Mar 8, 2011
    i've read there are bandwidth and latency issues that'll prevent true gaming GPUs from being used on these ports for some time.
  7. aznguyen316 macrumors 68020


    Oct 1, 2008
    Tampa, FL
    bandwidth issues are fine since express card did it. You won't get full power of the desktop card you use, but even then they're still pretty powerful. Unsure of latency problems but I would be that was there still on express card port and like I said it's a very popular option that many PC guys use (viDock and DIY vidock).
  8. djxavier macrumors newbie

    Mar 8, 2011
    Sounds interesting. Got a link?
  9. Macsavvytech macrumors 6502a


    May 25, 2010
    Even thunderbolt in its electric version is not fast enough we would have to wait till full optical light peak, unless somehow the raw processed files from the processor were sent out the thunderbolt cable then processed on the external that then connects to the monitor. Basically the latter is ridicolous and final light peak will be fast enough for a good GPU but currently the electric light peak or thunderbolt is not really fast enough for it to be worth while. And Lightpeak is 10Gb/s and Express Card is 5Gb/s so i wouldn't call lightpeak that much faster then Express Card not saying 5-10Gb/s isnt noticable but :S its only the speed of USB 3 :)
  10. Narse77 macrumors regular


    Jun 24, 2010
    Lightpeak on the new MBP is much faster than express cards and vidock already makes external enclosures for video cards for the express slot. From every rumor I have read external enclosures for thunderbolt will be avalible some time this year and it would house a video card of your choice. Your monitor would then connect to the enclosure.
  11. LunaC macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2011
    Typical ExpressCard GPU solutions didnt have 5gbps to work with since Rev1.2 was the typical, but this got me to wondering if the new MBPs support Version 2.0 of ExpressCard. Id presume even 5gbps would be sufficient.

    Remember the external card does most of the processing in its internal memory with its own GPU, so as long as the textures are pushed to the card fast and the bandwidth and latency are sufficient for vertex/processing data, the card is a standalone component. If the framebuffer needed to be accessed by the regular CPU, then you would be correct. I've always felt that USB3 would make externalGPUs truly feasible, so TB would just give more capability.

  12. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    While one has much more speed than with the expresscard slot it still only is PCIe x4 and thus it works for many GPUs but one shouldn't dream of some HD 6990 in an external box driving his/her 27" screen.
    I believe it will still only be a viable solution for 13" MBP and people who need cad or want to drive lots of displays.
  13. nickcao macrumors member

    Mar 24, 2011
    i think sony will pub a new machine which include a thunderbolt base station though thunderbolt. (blue ray, external GPU some more usb/FW prots and larger battery ect.)
  14. dmx macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2008
  15. grahamnp macrumors 6502a

    Jun 4, 2008
    I'm sure Sony will go to great lengths to prevent their base station from being used by competitors.
  16. motoracer1486 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 26, 2006
  17. Icaras macrumors 603


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
    I only have one question: can an external TB GPU be fast enough to at least exceed the power that of current integrated GPUs found in the new Macbook Pros. For example, can we expect more one to be more powerful than the current Intel HD 3000?
  18. Erasmus macrumors 68030


    Jun 22, 2006
    Hiding from Omnius in Australia
    Easily. It should be able to easily exceed the capability of even the 6750M.

    A link I just found:

    As Light Peak (Thunderbolt name still stupid) should be able to support 2 PCIe 2 lanes, you should easily be able to provide enough bandwidth to a big, hungry desktop card to get some great framerates out, even at high resolutions and graphics settings. After all, once the GPU has its textures, you don't really have to give it much more, and just need to pipe the screen frames back to the main monitor.
  19. dagamer34 macrumors 65816


    May 1, 2007
    Houston, TX
    My guess is the large slot requirement has much more to do with power than bandwidth. You don't want people thinking they can stick in 4 GTX 580s in a board and expecting the computer to boot.
  20. ///KM macrumors member

    Sep 3, 2009
  21. jamisonbaines macrumors regular

    Dec 14, 2007
    for use with the built in (laptop screen) this seems extravagant but for connecting to a large external or multiple external monitors this would be a terrific solution.

    dependent upon the throughput it could be possible to include an optical drive or hd storage built in alongside the gpu and maybe some usb ports for keyboard/mouse.

    how long then before we extend thunderbolt to our phones/tablets for similar purposes (docking)
  22. Aldaris macrumors 68000


    Sep 7, 2004
    Salt Lake
  23. w00t951 macrumors 68000


    Jan 6, 2009
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Oh my God. Does this mean that you can use any desktop GPU or are you limited to what Lenovo or some company produces? This is going to be epic, I can't wait.

    EDIT: Would you be able to SLI or Crossfire this thing?
  24. Artagra, Oct 24, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2011

    Artagra macrumors member

    Sep 6, 2007
    Interesting link:

    They tested a desktop HD5870 at 1x, 4x, 8x and 16x (PCI-E 2.0)

    It's performance, even at 1x, is very impressive compared with Notebook GPUs - so a Thunderbolt GPU will be a great option, assuming it's stable and has OS support.

    Thunderbolt bandwidth will fall somewhere between a 1x and 4x PCI-E 2.0 slot - probably closer to 4x, but because of overheads not equivalent. But still, a solution like this will perform very well :)

    Edit: I see they also did it for the GTX 480, but not at 1x (card wouldn't operate at 1x).
  25. Risasi macrumors 6502

    Sep 16, 2011
    Now if they will just fix the price...about a week ago I got an email from Magma saying they were shipping in December. I had the "opportunity" to pre-order to the tune of $979, plus I still would need a video card and monitor.

Share This Page