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Introducing Simple External GPUs with AMD XConnect Technology

Staff
Staff
4 6 21.3K

PC gamers that want to game on the go have always faced some tough choices when buying a notebook. Do we buy a gaming notebook that’s great to game on, but tough to carry? Or an ultrathin that’s easy to carry, but tough to game on? Some of us just buy two notebooks. Some of us buy a gaming notebook, wishing it were lighter every time they carry it. Some just buy the ultrathin, acknowledging that comfortable portability is probably more important than gaming over the long run. Every choice has drawbacks.

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Many gamers—myself included!—have dreamed of buying the best of both worlds with a lightweight notebook or 2-in-1 that also supports a powerful external graphics card. The notebook or 2-in-1 could be conveniently lightweight for work, relaxing on the couch, or travel. But, when needed, the PC could also tap into serious framerates and image quality with a powerful external GPU that’s not far from carrying an average gaming notebook. The point is: you choose.

A system compatible with AMD XConnect™ technology could offer exactly that.1

AMD XConnect™ technology is a new feature debuting in today’s Radeon Software 16.2.2 (or later) graphics driver that makes it easier than ever to connect and use an external Radeon™ graphics card in Windows® 10. External GPU enclosures configured with select Radeon™ R9 GPUs can easily connect to a compatible notebook or 2-in-11 over Thunderbolt™ 3. Best of all, a PC configured with AMD XConnect™ technology and external Radeon™ graphics can be connected or disconnected at any time, similar to a USB flash drive—a first for external GPUs.

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And it happens that there’s already one company out there that’s incorporating all of these pieces into an amazing package, which brings me to…

AMD XConnect™ In Action: Razer Blade Stealth & Razer Core

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The Razer Blade Stealth with Thunderbolt™ 3 is an exciting new notebook that’s also the first to be compatible with AMD XConnect™ technology. The Razer Core, meanwhile, is an optional external graphics enclosure that connects to the Blade Stealth with Thunderbolt™ 3. Gamers are in for some pretty exciting features/convenience if the Core is configured with a Radeon™ R9 300 Series GPU:

  • Plug in, game on: There’s no need to reboot the PC to connect or disconnect the Razer Core thanks to AMD XConnect™ technology.
  • Flexible displays: Our driver gives you the flexibility to choose between gaming on the Blade Stealth’s display, or standalone monitors of your choice.
  • Upgradeable: We plan to continue testing and adding Radeon™ GPUs to the AMD XConnect™ support list, giving you the power to upgrade beyond the Radeon™ R9 300/Fury Series when the time is right for you.

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A Three-Party Collaboration

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The intersection of AMD XConnect™, the Razer Blade Stealth/Core, and Thunderbolt™ 3 is not a coincidence. AMD, Razer, and the Intel Thunderbolt™ group have been working for many months to architect a comprehensive hardware/software solution that brings plug’n’play external graphics to life over Thunderbolt™ 3. The first external graphics solution that “works like it should!”

It came from a simple place: we collectively shared a dream that external GPUs were an important step forward for the PC industry, but were adamant that three things were “must haves” for external graphics to finally be a serious option for gamers:

  1. The external GPUs had to have a graphics driver with all the right bits for simple plug’n’play use. With AMD XConnect™ technology, Radeon™ R9 300 and Fury Series GPUs now support this in Windows® 10.
  2. The external GPUs had to connect to a system with standardized connectors/cables and enough bandwidth to feed the appetite of a high-end GPU. Thunderbolt™ 3 does that very well.
  3. And the external chassis had to be upgradeable, so users could prolong the life of their system and buy into a performance level that’s right for their needs. The Razer Core supports that with gusto—up to 375W, dual slot, 12.2” PCB. You could fit easily fit a Radeon™ R9 Nano or 390X GPU in there!2

And so our joint project began with regular engineering and marketing meetings to design, build and test: drivers, enclosures, cabling, BIOSes, and so much more. After months of work and hundreds of man hours, here we are!

The Future of AMD XConnect™ technology

Future external GPU solutions from other companies may come in many shapes and sizes. Some may be very compact with integrated mobile Radeon™ GPUs. Other vendors might allow you to buy empty user-upgradeable enclosures that accept desktop Radeon™ GPUs of varying lengths. We foresee that there will be choice, and the choice will be yours.

To keep it easy, we will be maintaining a list of systems, system requirements, GPUs and enclosures that are compatible with AMD XConnect™ on www.amd.com/xconnect.

Robert Hallock is the Head of Global Technical Marketing at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.


FOOTNOTES:
1. Not all notebooks or 2-in-1s feature AMD XConnect™ technology, and not all external graphics (eGFX) enclosures are pre-configured with an AMD Radeon™ graphics card and/or feature user upgradability. Base system’s software package and BIOS must be configured to support AMD XConnect™ technology. System must have Thunderbolt™ 3 connection. Check with your manufacturer for full specifications and capabilities and visit www.amd.com/xconnect for a list of compatible devices. GD-86   

2. GPU upgrade must be supported by the system and enclosure OEM. New GPU must be supported by AMD XConnect™ technology. Visit your product’s support documentation for additional information. GD-87

ATTRIBUTIONS:
THUNDERBOLT AND THE THUNDERBOLT LOGO ARE TRADEMARKS OF INTEL CORPORATION IN THE U.S. AND/OR OTHER COUNTRIES. RAZER, RAZER DISTRESSED LOGO, TRIPLE-HEADED SNAKE LOGO ARE ALL TRADEMARKS OR REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF RAZER INC. IN THE UNITED STATES AND/OR OTHER COUNTRIES. USB TYPE-C™ AND USB-C™ ARE TRADEMARKS OF USB IMPLEMENTERS FORUM. FALLOUT, FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS, FALLOUT SHELTER, VAULT BOY AND RELATED LOGOS ARE TRADEMARKS OR REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF BETHESDA SOFTWORKS LLC IN THE U.S. AND/OR OTHER COUNTRIES.

6 Comments
Miniboss
Miniboss

I am confused about this.  Wouldn't it be harder to carry the ultra thin notebook and the external GPU/enclosure around?

Journeyman III
Journeyman III

I think it's meant to be able to game at home, and then have an ultra portable notebook to take with you when you are out. Making it a viable option for people who need a notebook for work/school but can't afford a stand alone PC at home as well.

Journeyman III
Journeyman III

The point here is that you could ditch the extra weight at home when you're travelling with a lightweight notebook while still having the option of using heavy-duty graphics when you want. I could finally stop switching between a desktop and a laptop and just have a laptop with external graphics to do pretty much everything I need to do.

Challenger
Challenger

Will the h.265 decoder include HEVC decoder, if yes what is the spec of the decoder?

Journeyman III
Journeyman III

I have an Alienware 15 with a Graphics Amplifier, which serves the same purpose. when I'm at home, I plug into the Amplifier and game. If I want to go somewhere with my laptop, I shut down my laptop, unplug from the Amplifier, and go. The only time the extra weight would matter is if you were going to a gaming party, but since everyone else is either bringing a bulkier laptop or even lugging in their desktop, it's not that bad. And the graphics cards that are being put into most gaming laptops are equivalent to mid-range desktop cards.

Esteemed Contributor III

Hello,


Currently your AMD Xconnect Technology supports Thunderbolt 3, and this is fine for modern thin laptops with no internal discrete GPU but Thunderbolt 3 connector use case.

In the case where the Laptop/Notebook is a Gaming Device and already has latest internal GPU, and an external Thunderbolt 3 GPU may not really be worth the effort, as Gaming Notebook GPU's are much more powerful today.

However, most Gaming Laptops in the market today with Thunderbolt Connectors will likely have Thunderbolt 1 or Thunderbolt 2 ports already.
They will have older internal discrete AMD or Nvidia GPU, and the user may want to add a new AMD GPU with an external Thunderbolt 1 or 2 enclosure.
Is there any chance that AMD will officially support the use of Thunderbolt 2/1 with a third party Thunderbolt 2 enclosure as well?

I am very interested in eGPU Technology and I have been looking at AMD XConnect Drivers on Windows 10 64bit with an external Thunderbolt 2 enclosure connected to a PC fitted with an ASUS Z97 Deluxe Motherboard.

I will be posting performance information here if anyone is interested:
Has anyone tried AMD XConnect with Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt and Windows 10?


Thanks.