AMD creates external graphics box for notebooks

Gaming has always been an iffy vocation for notebooks. Sure, you can get laptops with speedy graphics processors, but those GPUs often can’t be upgraded once they become obsolete. That’s a problem AMD is attempting to solve with its new ATI External Graphics Platform, which puts the GPU in a box outside the notebook and connects the two via a cable-based, eight-lane PCI Express 2.0 connection.

AMD says the link between the XGP and the notebook transfers up to 4GB/s in each direction, which is about the same as a typical PCIe 1.1 x16 link in a desktop PC. As a result, the XGP can play host to Mobility Radeon HD 3800 mobile GPUs in single or CrossFire X multi-GPU configurations. The XGP module also makes things easy for the end user by featuring its own power supply and cooling, not to mention hot-plugging capability that "enables ATIXGP technology on-the-fly." Each XGP module can team up with a compatible notebook to drive as many as four displays, and there’s even USB 2.0 connectivity built-in to hook up TV tuners, Blu-ray drives, or just a mouse and keyboard.

The Amilo GraphicsBooster. Source: Fujitsu-Siemens.

Nevertheless, the company has already gotten a partner to announce an XGP device. Fujitsu-Siemens’ Amilo GraphicsBooster packs a Mobility Radeon HD 3870 with 512MB of GDDR3 RAM with DVI, HDMI, and USB 2.0 connectivity, all in a box measuring 7.1" x 5.1" x 1.3" (180 x 130 x 33.5 mm) and weighing 1.1 lbs (500 g). The GraphicsBooster is designed to accommodate Fujitsu-Siemens’ new Puma-based Amilo Sa 3650 notebook, which has a 13.3" display, Turion Ultra processor, and Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics.

Comments closed
    • Welch
    • 11 years ago

    This would solve my current issue with my laptop, stuck using a 2600 vanilla mobility. It all depends on the cost of this unit, and somehow Im going to guess its price to be about 200.00 (have not seen anything yet). If this is sub 150.00 and the performance is near equal to the actual 3870 that I saw one was base on, I will buy it.

    Anyone have news of its estimated cost?

    • DRAKLOR 4000
    • 13 years ago


    • matnath1
    • 13 years ago

    Is this device only compatible with puma systems or will it plug into my existing Intel Based Dell Inspiron 1720? When will it be available and for how much?

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 13 years ago

      Unless your laptop has external PCIe connectors, I think you are out of luck.

    • AMDisDEC
    • 13 years ago

    Wow. I can see them selling a few thousand of these. Big money!

      • moritzgedig
      • 13 years ago

      A friend of mine wanted one of these for a long time.
      I told him the idea is stupid and technicaly impossible.
      I was wrong about the later.
      instead of wasting engineeringresources on this, they should focus on CPUs and GPUs for the massmarket, that is where the money is.

    • alex666
    • 13 years ago

    I’m impressed with the size and weight of this thing, quite small and light actually. I could see at least two scenarios for this: (1) if you’re a hard-core gamer and work on the road, you could easily pack this for a business trip, use your notebook per usual during the day, but have a decent gaming platform in your free time; (2) imagine taking this on a family vacation. As any of us with kids knows, any way to keep them occupied on long drives is a godsend. And during boring downtimes.

    Now what’s the price of this puppy? And is there a way to connect it to an external monitor if desired? I read the link to the AMD blurb, but neither question was addressed. This would have to be affordable to really catch on.

    • Cyril
    • 13 years ago

    Correction: XGP doesn’t require Puma, AMD merely says the module is “fully optimized” for its new platform. I’ve updated the post to reflect that.

    • leor
    • 13 years ago

    This is pretty cool it can be something for people who mostly need a mobile solution and still want to game without having to buy a gaming PC. just come home, connect that little box up and you’re playing crysis at 17 FPS! ๐Ÿ˜›

      • asdsa
      • 13 years ago

      Why are people always yapping about that stupid crysis. As if it would be the only game worth playing. Crysis is shit says I. Anyways, that graphics box is a cool idea if the pricing is appropriate.

        • ludi
        • 13 years ago

        For the same reason they yap about DNF: It’s there, and it earned it.

        If we’re lucky, Crysis will be like Daikatana, and finally go away after everyone gets bored with the meme. DNF, probably not, since it has pretty much achieved the status (and credibility) of an urban legend.

          • amerikhan
          • 13 years ago

          If Crytek were fair, then they would optimize Crysis game code for not only Nvidia, but also for ATI. The fact that game developers continue to take part in “The way its meant to be played” campaign is a joke. I would think that it is best to optimize code for both graphic cards.

          Also, as a gaming benchmark it is unfair because of the reason indicated above. Let us not forget Assassin’s Creed’s sudden departure from Direct X 10.1, which coincided with Nvidia’s TWIMTBP sponsorship

            • ish718
            • 13 years ago

            Yeah that pisses me off…

    • amerikhan
    • 13 years ago

    I withdraw my comment…..

      • amerikhan
      • 13 years ago


    • b4b2
    • 13 years ago

    Yeah….I don’t know. It seems like a cool idea, but the market for graphics intensive laptops doesn’t seem to be big enough to support something like this. I would see laptops headed the direction of simplicity and portability, but I could be wrong of course.

    This article seems to argue against my assumptions:

    ยง[<<]ยง Over 50% of nVidia laptops had dedicated graphics cards. OTOH, a separate box for "extreme" graphics seems over the top. I guess we'll see how they do.

      • echo_seven
      • 13 years ago

      For me, if I could have a box like this, it would almost eliminate the need for me to have a desktop. Which would save me a lot of power since I currently have to keep said desktop on all the time.

        • jesh
        • 13 years ago

        can be quite useful ๐Ÿ™‚

    • bcronce
    • 13 years ago

    “But even the most diehard Intel fanatic has to admit AMD has a bunch of cool ideas in the works.”

    Yeah, the Phenom has cool stats and stuff, but Intels quad cores are kicking the crap out of AMD still. Most benchmarks show intel at ~95%-140% clock-for-clock.

    Intels next Gen chip is scheduled for later this year and it’s current 65nm demo’d test chip is running about 45% faster than current Intel chips clock-for-clock.

    Once intel drops it on 45nm and puts it in production, they claim about 30% better IPC than current Core2 AND it gets a 10%-100% boost from the new Hyperthreading.

    Plug in those numbers for min/max and you get next-gen Intel coming in at ~20%(.95*1.3)-~360%(1.4*1.3*2.0) faster per clock and higher clock. That’s a BIG diff. (1.4 is the MAX 40% faster and 1.3 is the ~30% faster ipc intel claims and 2.0 is the MAX boost HT can give.)

    Even a ‘typical’ % speed is going to be in the range 150%-250%(not faster, but of total; eg. 1.5 or 2.5)

      • Dposcorp
      • 13 years ago

      bcronce, said q[<]ยง ยง[<<]ยง Q6600 versus X4 9750, both at 2.4Ghz. 95%-140% clock-for-clock my a$$

    • provoko
    • 13 years ago

    I get the laptop part, but what happens when you hook it up to a tv tuner or blueray player???

      • MrJP
      • 13 years ago

      Presumably it just works as a USB hub (via the PCIe connection) so that the laptop can use any connected external devices while it’s plugged in. A bit like a docking station but with its own USB controller. Unless it’s really clever and can be used to watch Blu-ray or TV even when the laptop’s not connected?

    • Walkintarget
    • 13 years ago

    Asus tried a similar thing about 2 years ago, with their XG Station packing a 7900 card into an external box, but it never saw the light of day, at least in the US.
    I think I would honestly consider buying the Asus unit for around $175 if it was in fact released.

      • stmok
      • 13 years ago

      LOL! Its still being worked on! They’re gonna switch to a GF8600GT for the video card.

      The problem is, the ASUS solution uses ExpressCard connection. That offers PCI Express x1 performance. (Which is about the same as AGP 1x, I think).

      While its better than nothing, the bandwidth does become a bottleneck in certain games. (It doesn’t affect ALL games, but some are indeed bandwidth sensitive).

      Well, anything is better than an Intel IGP! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • sparkman
    • 13 years ago


    I’m 90% certain I have an AMD fanboy lurking somewhere inside…

    I want the the tiny underdog to embarass the bloated monopoly. I want brilliant design to beat brute force and big spending. At the same time I have to be honest about Phenom: it’s probably an engineering wonder inside the chip packaging, and most people probably couldn’t tell without the help of benchmarking software whether any given system had AMD or Intel inside, the fact is that Phenom is second best right now.

    But even the most diehard Intel fanatic has to admit AMD has a bunch of cool ideas in the works.

    Why shouldn’t your laptop get faster when you dock it? (A future XGP might even support hybrid CrossfireX — neat-O!). Mass market systems really do need some guarantee of minimum gaming capability. (AMD GAME labelling.) Mutlicore chips should be tuned for highly multithreaded software, even though very little of that actually exists yet. (True quad core chips with shared cache.) Our chips should be a “grid” of cores that we pick to our tastes: CPUs, GPUs, and someday maybe even physics, encryption, and audio coprocessors. (AMD Fusion.) Open source ATI drivers can only make the world a better place. And the AMD+ATI merger does make good business sense. Fewer middlemen means lower prices and/or better profitability once they get the two organizations completely integrated.

    I wish AMD’s fab process tuning was looking better, meaning I wish Phenom ran at higher frequency and lower temperature. But AMD must have a bunch of great engineers working hard somewhere to accomplish what they are doing.

    They say AMD is putting most of their resources into refining the upcoming 45nm fab process. So the inner fanboy can still hope for a comeback.


    • Hattig
    • 13 years ago

    It’s just a small form-factor change away from being a really swanky docking station. At the moment it’s merely a swanky hub for the monitor, keyboard, mouse, external hard drives, etc.

    Great idea though.

    • nstuff
    • 13 years ago

    I would see this being more useful if OEMs implemented this into a docking station for their laptops.

    By including this into a notebook docking station, you would have one power cable that powers the notebook AND the XGP among the additional usb ports, firewire, etc.

    Thus you take your notebook and dock it. Immediately, it comes to life with your external monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, etc along with having the improved graphics for gaming. When you need to go to work or class, undock and take the smaller notebook with you.

    • adisor19
    • 13 years ago

    Cooool !

    You can buy an Ultraportable for mobility and still be able to play a demanding game when docked at home ๐Ÿ™‚

    Too bad the Puma is not quite Ultraportable yet.. damn.


    • mph_Ragnarok
    • 13 years ago

    What happened to the Asus thing ? damnittt

    • DrDillyBar
    • 13 years ago

    So are we going to start seeing PCIe external cables in the near future? I’d like to hear more about how they are going to start making this available on desktops too. Are we going to start seeing PCIe riser cards that just act like a hub and continue the slot out the systems rear? Maybe it’ll start showing up on future backplanes… Input Stephanie!

      • jwb
      • 13 years ago

      There already is a PCI Express cable specification, but it’s only for the 1.0 version of the bus.

        • DrDillyBar
        • 13 years ago

        I know, I have the PDF actually. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • amerikhan
      • 13 years ago

      I forgot what I was going to type??????

        • eitje
        • 13 years ago


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