On Computex 2008, AMD was all at rage about eXternal Graphics Platform
, e.g. XGP. This part was supposed to usher us into an era of ultra-thin notebooks with expandable graphics cards that would yield with excellent 3D performance.
Unfortunately, besides one design from now-defunct Fujitsu Siemens Computer [Fujitsu AG as of April 1st, 2009
], XGP didn't gain traction as we hoped it will. But now, a small Taiwanese vendor is making progress by introducing an upgradeable graphics solution without the complexity of an XGP connector
Under the name ViDock2, Taiwanese eBon Technologies
created a product that features an ExpressCard and aluminum enclosure featuring ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics card. The manufacturer claims that ViDock2 offers all the goodness in hardware features brought by Radeon 4670 - such as video upscaling to 2500x1600 [DVD and 720p and 1080p HD] - all brought to the notebook form factor.Currently, ViDock 2 features ATI Radeon 4670, but the manufacturer claims DX11 upgrade is possible
Given the fact that ExpressCard comes on practically every notebook in the last two years, including Apple's notebooks [until the recent castration act on MacBooks], upgrade abilities are immense. There is no reason to buy a new notebook if you own a two year old notebook, for instance. The only thing you might need is to upgrade the amount of system memory to 4GB or more, and with prices of DDR2 memory being in the toilet, adding ViDock 2 wouldn't break the bank.
One of worries we had with a product such as this one is driver support. Recent driver SNAFU with the ASUS and latest ATI Mobility Radeon 4870X2 only confirmed our worries about notebook graphics subsystems. What added fuel on fire with our concerns was talking to AMD guys about XGP - their single biggest issue was multiple operating system support, since DRM-infestation in Windows Vista posed some serious issues in adding and disabling graphics cards inside Windows operating system.
ViDock 2 uses regular desktop drivers, e.g. ViDock 2 drivers will be more recent than ones on 99.9% of ATI-powered notebooks due to the fact that ViDock 2 qualifies for monthly updates - after all, desktop Catalysts are coming from Terry's team like clockwork.
Girls'n'Guys from eBon now claim that ViDock 2 will offer "Great Experiences" with Windows 7. According to them, Windows 7 will remember ViDock 2 and instantly restore your display configuration upon re-connecting ViDock 2 to the system.
Surprisingly enough, 3D performance should not be taxed by the fact that it only uses a PCI Express Gen2 x1 connection [500 MB/s for simultaneous read and write].
According to the manufacturer, biggest 3D performance issue is the fact that notebooks use slower CPU and system memory biggest issue Furthermore, ViDock 2 is upgradeable with the next generation hardware from AMD, e.g. you can upgrade the system with a mainstream graphics card from the DirectX 11-enabled Evergreen family.
We will be checking those claims as soon as we receive the sample from the manufacturer, and expect an upgrade story coming in late September.
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