Thursday, March 10th 2016

AMD Announces the XConnect External Graphics Technology with Razer and Intel

AMD today announced AMD XConnect technology, making it easier than ever to pair a powerful external Radeon graphics card with a compatible notebook or 2-in-1 using Thunderbolt 3. AMD XConnect technology is a groundbreaking new feature of Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.3. Traditionally, PC gamers have been faced with the problem of choosing between gaming notebooks, sacrificing portability for gaming performance, or ultrathin notebooks, sacrificing gaming performance for portability.

A lightweight notebook or 2-in-1 with Thunderbolt 3 that is compatible with AMD XConnect technology brings the best of both worlds to life -- conveniently lightweight on its own, but as needed, can easily tap into serious framerates and image quality of a gaming notebook with a powerful external GPU. The connection between the external GPU enclosure configured with Radeon R9 300 Series graphics is made possible over Intel's Thunderbolt 3, and can be connected or disconnected at any time, a first for external GPUs.
"AMD XConnect technology is representative of the Radeon Technologies Group's on-going commitment to gamers. With the introduction of our user-friendly plug-and-play external GPU solution, gamers no longer need to sacrifice portability for powerful performance in notebook gaming," said Raja Koduri, Senior Vice President and Chief Architect, Radeon Technologies Group, AMD. "As innovators paving the way with an ingenious external GPU solution for notebooks, we look forward to creating a thriving ecosystem of notebooks enabled with AMD XConnect technology in collaboration with leading manufacturers."

AMD is also pleased to reveal that there is a notebook available today that can unlock the potential of AMD XConnect technology, brought to you in a collaboration with Intel's Thunderbolt group and Razer: The Razer Blade Stealth, a brand new ultrathin notebook compatible with AMD XConnect technology, and the Razer Core, an external GPU enclosure that connects to the Razer Blade Stealth notebook via Thunderbolt 3. When the Razer Core is equipped with a Radeon R9 300 Series GPU, gamers can experience desktop-like gaming performance in a convenient plug-and-play solution on a Stealth running an AMD XConnect compatible driver. Configuring the Razer Core with a Radeon R9 300 Series GPUs even allows gamers to play on the Blade Stealth's high-resolution IGZO screen, or connect to an external AMD FreeSync-enabled monitor for a breathtakingly smooth gaming experience.

"The Razer Blade Stealth was developed as the ultimate Ultrabook for work on-the-go, additionally capable of transforming into a desktop gaming environment when connected to Razer Core, thanks in part to remarkable contributions from AMD and Intel," says Min-Liang Tan, Razer CEO and cofounder. "The collaboration and development between Razer and AMD for users with Radeon R9 300 Series graphics in the Razer Core helped us realize the world's first Thunderbolt 3 plug-and-play external graphics solution. A single Thunderbolt 3 connection now provides power and data between the Blade Stealth and Core, and other peripherals can connect to the Razer Core's USB ports to provide a desktop-class gaming experience."

"Thunderbolt 3 brings Thunderbolt to USB-C at speeds up to 40Gb/s, creating one compact port that does it all," said Jason Ziller, Director of Thunderbolt Marketing, Intel. "Thanks to technical collaboration with the Radeon Technologies group at AMD, desktop Radeon graphics cards are now validated for use with Thunderbolt 3. AMD's new XConnect technology brings effortless plug-and-play support and a convenient management interface to notebooks and 2-in-1s with the Thunderbolt 3 external graphics solution configured with a powerful Radeon R9 300 Series GPU."

AMD plans to expand the list of Radeon GPUs that can support AMD XConnect technology, which will enable gamers to upgrade their enclosures beyond the Radeon R9 300 Series.

For a list of compatible GPUs, visit this page.
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38 Comments on AMD Announces the XConnect External Graphics Technology with Razer and Intel

#1
Mussels
Moderprator
USB 3.1 comes out roughly equal to PCI-E 1.0 4x, which is quite a lot of GPU bandwidth for expanding on a laptop/netbook with the *universal* USB 3.1 port (which will be on almost everything in a few years time)


Thunderbolt for the serious gaming laptops, or at least serious CPU power laptops with IGP - and the dedicated external GPU.
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#2
sweet
This is a thing that I have been wishing for from ages.
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#3
m&m's
btarunr, post: 3429114, member: 43587"
Thunderbolt 3 brings Thunderbolt to USB-C at speeds up to 40Gb/s
Would be It's great if it really was is 40Gb/s but it's not because it actually is 40Gbit/s so 5GB/s which is the same as PCI-E 2.0 x10 or PCI-E 3.0 x5.
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#4
Mussels
Moderprator
m&m's, post: 3429147, member: 98257"
Would be great if it really was 40Gb/s but it's not because it actually is 40Gbit/s so 5Gb/s which is the same as PCI-E 2.0 x10 or PCI-E 3.0 x5.
Think you're a little confused. He says Gb/s - which is the terminology for gigabits. You just said that its not gigabits, its gigabits, and then shrunk the number to.. a smaller gigabits?
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#5
m&m's
Mussels, post: 3429151, member: 1746"
Think you're a little confused. He says Gb/s - which is the terminology for gigabits. You just said that its not gigabits, its gigabits, and then shrunk the number to.. a smaller gigabits?
Ah you're right! I confounded Gb/s and GB/s. My bad. Let me edit that post real quick, you won't even notice.
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#6
Mussels
Moderprator
8x PCI-E 2.0 can run even a fury X without much of a hit, which is why i guess they chose that for this first gen usage.
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#7
geon2k2
This looks awesome.

A solution like this would be a compromise between a desktop and a laptop, both from performance and space perspective.

Issue is most people already have too many devices lying around the house, and the desktop it is supposed to replace can have multiple roles: NAS, Media Server and a Gaming PC. With this solution you need a box for NAS, another one for graphics ... its more messy.

Though, it would also go very well with a "bring your own device program" from the company where you work, or if everybody in the house already has laptops as any laptop can benefit from increased GPU power when needed.

What I didn't see is the price though.
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#8
Mussels
Moderprator
I had a little derp moment when i thought about it properly.


Look at all those "2-in-1" laptops with keyboard docks.

The keyboard dock can literally add a fan cooled performance GPU and an extended battery.
Posted on Reply
#9
NC37
Mussels, post: 3429132, member: 1746"
USB 3.1 comes out roughly equal to PCI-E 1.0 4x, which is quite a lot of GPU bandwidth for expanding on a laptop/netbook with the *universal* USB 3.1 port (which will be on almost everything in a few years time)


Thunderbolt for the serious gaming laptops, or at least serious CPU power laptops with IGP - and the dedicated external GPU.
Faster than AGP which was the sole graphics socket for many years before PCIe came in.

With laptops yeah it will for sure be better than built in. Maybe even viable for desktops that want multiGPU but don't have the room or board for it. Consider 40GBps...what's SLI bridge do? Maybe 1GB? I know nVidia really hasn't done much with the technology since they bought it from 3Dfx. Why AMD has been scoring wins with Crossfire because it goes right through the sockets and boards now with all the bandwith it needs.
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#10
the54thvoid
geon2k2, post: 3429166, member: 156730"
What I didn't see is the price though.
I think it's in the order of several hundred dollars for the enclosure.

The Razor web page also says it's plug and play for both AMD and Nvidia, further, Extreme tech web site said Nvidia quietly rolled out a driver for plug and play during CES.
Nvidia would have more to lose with its mobile Maxwell in quite a few laptops, so I guess that's why they're staying quiet while supporting it.

FTR, only Razor have a laptop BIOS to support the feature for now, apparently.
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#11
medi01
Intel collaborating with "Radeon Group", wow.
/googles for cheapest notebook with TB3 port
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#12
john_
This is nice. You buy a 2 in 1 and you can have everything. A tablet by removing it's keyboard, an ultrabook when the keyboard is attached, a dual screen desktop, by removing the 2in1's keyboard and using a desktop keyboard/mouse kit and a desktop monitor, or a multi monitor desktop gaming system by adding also an external GPU.
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#13
Ubersonic
Awesome, I remember seeing Intel demonstrate this a couple of years ago, was really psyched when Intel announced Thunderbolt would support external GPUs, great to see AMD get on board :)
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#14
Frick
Fishfaced Nincompoop
medi01, post: 3429195, member: 158537"
Intel collaborating with "Radeon Group", wow.
/googles for cheapest notebook with TB3 port
About €1000 here, unless you find one for sale. Plus the enclosure, plus the GPU. It'll get very expensive very fast.
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#15
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Mussels, post: 3429132, member: 1746"
USB 3.1 comes out roughly equal to PCI-E 1.0 4x, which is quite a lot of GPU bandwidth for expanding on a laptop/netbook with the *universal* USB 3.1 port (which will be on almost everything in a few years time)
Except that USB 3.1 has:
a) shared bandwidth
b) substantial overhead/latency

Thunderbolt is to USB as NVMe is to SATA. Yeah, yeah, it could be done but should it be done especially when it is meant to be paired to a $300+ USD graphics card? I'd argue not. That said, 5 GB/s for Thunderbolt 3 is disappointing.


As the above pointed out, Thunderbolt isn't the runaway success Intel was hoping it to be. I think this will be most appealing to workstation laptop bulk purchasers (e.g. designing/drafting businesses). This allows them to have modest graphics and good battery life in the field with serious graphics at the office where productivity is paramount. This could be huge for AMD but no doubt NVIDIA will be close behind.


It looks like GCN 1.1 cards and newer are supported.
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#16
Mussels
Moderprator
FordGT90Concept, post: 3429204, member: 60463"
Except that USB 3.1 has:
a) shared bandwidth
b) substantial overhead/latency

Thunderbolt is to USB as NVMe is to SATA. Yeah, yeah, it could be done but should it be done especially when it is meant to be paired to a $300+ USD graphics card? I'd argue not. That said, 5 GB/s for Thunderbolt 3 is disappointing.


As the above pointed out, Thunderbolt isn't the runaway success Intel was hoping it to be. I think this will be most appealing to workstation laptop bulk purchasers (e.g. designing/drafting businesses). This allows them to have modest graphics and good battery life in the field with serious graphics at the office where productivity is paramount. This could be huge for AMD but no doubt NVIDIA will be close behind.


It looks like GCN 1.1 cards and newer are supported.
i'm not saying USB 3.1 will be great - but it is a HUGE step forward for USB video cards, the existing models of those are pure garbage. At least now we could get APU/IGP levels of performance, with pure USB solutions.
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#17
Ubersonic
FordGT90Concept, post: 3429204, member: 60463"
As the above pointed out, Thunderbolt isn't the runaway success Intel was hoping it to be.
That's their own fault for giving Apple a one year exclusivity deal on it which they did nothing with, during which time USB3 hit the scene and built a strong user base.
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#18
john_
I don't think Intel wants to take over the market with Thunderbolt, or create an alternative to USB 3.X. They are not exactly a company that create stuff to sell cheap. And now that they, in collaboration with AMD, found a way to make Thunderbolt 3 a vital interface for expensive laptops, they are probably opening champagnes.
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#21
Fluffmeister
the54thvoid, post: 3429183, member: 79251"
The Razor web page also says it's plug and play for both AMD and Nvidia, further, Extreme tech web site said Nvidia quietly rolled out a driver for plug and play during CES.
Nvidia would have more to lose with its mobile Maxwell in quite a few laptops, so I guess that's why they're staying quiet while supporting it.
361.75 driver added support for this back in January:

http://techreport.com/news/29649/nvidia-361-75-drivers-support-thunderbolt-3-external-graphics
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#22
Mussels
Moderprator
oh good, so its a universal standard? :D
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#23
Mussels
Moderprator
Oh god... what if this tech gets applied to game consoles?

Suddenly, console upgrades are possible (we know they'd lock it down to their specific hardware options, but still the mere idea)
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#25
vega22
vr must be so bad on the xbone :lol:
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