Magma ExpressBox offers Thunderbolt-connected PCIe slots

Intel’s Thunderbolt interconnect has a lot of potential for notebooks, whose increasingly slimmer profiles limit not only the number of expansion ports that can be squeezed into the chassis, but also what sort of hardware can be tucked under the hood. For me, the biggest draw is the promise of external graphics modules. We’ve seen a couple of prototypes of MSI’s GUS, which allows Thunderbolt-equipped notebooks to leverage the horsepower of standard desktop graphics cards over a single Thunderbolt cable. We’ve also heard that the GUS isn’t popular with at least one graphics chip maker. That may explain why the prototypes, which have been working in all the demos we’ve seen, haven’t spawned actual products.

There may be an alternative thanks to Magma, a San Diego-based company that’s offering a Thunderbolt-equipped PCI Express expansion box. The ExpressBox 3T features three PCIe slots: dual x8s and a single x4. Only one of the x8 slots can accept x16 cards, but dual-slot coolers would block the second x8 slot, anyway.

The ExpressBox comes with its own cooling fan and 250W power supply. There are no auxiliary PCIe power connectors inside, but a pair of four-pin Molex connectors are available to provide additional power. Adapters should take care of the rest. Of course, the ExpressBox isn’t designed for gamers. Magma is pushing it as a solution for video capture cards, audio processing, and wicked-fast PCIe storage.

If you want to give the ExpressBox a shot with a PC graphics card, brace yourself. The device costs a whopping $979—and that’s without the required Thunderbolt cable. At least the thing has two Thunderbolt ports, which allows it to be daisy chained with other devices. Thanks to Xbit Labs for the tip.

Comments closed
    • Bauxite
    • 7 years ago

    $1k…sigh

    [url<]http://www.hwtools.net[/url<] [url<]http://forum.notebookreview.com/e-gpu-external-graphics-discussion/[/url<] Just do it your damn self.

    • willmore
    • 7 years ago

    I know this suggestion has been unpopular in the past, but I think most people are looking at this backwards.

    Instead of plugging external storage and GPU into a notebook (and maybe keyboard, monitor, and mouse), why not use a normal desktop for all of that and plug the notebook into the desktop only to access its storage. That way, you keep data synced between them, you can use less expensive COTS desktop parts, etc.

    • vargis14
    • 7 years ago

    Wonder if someone will make a TB daughter board for the DIY crowd. Basically a small motherboard with no cpu cocket, memory slots but with one 16x slot and 2 1x slots and a couple sata 3 or 6 connections for storage that we could mount in a case of our choice just big enough to hold a full length graphics card and a PSU of your choice along with a couple HDDs…..If i had a tbolt laptop/ultrabook i would pay 120$ for it. After a psu and a suitable case your talking 200$ minus the graphics card.
    Wish i had the money to back the design, r & d along with the lucid & tbolt licencing etc. I think a fortune could be made.

    • pedro
    • 7 years ago

    Here’s my dirty little fantasy. There’s a clamshell notebook as the central ‘hub’ into which we plug these things: 1) external GPU; 2) external primary HDD; 3) external sound card; 4) large monitor; 5) keyboard; 6) mouse; 7) ethernet-connected NAS.

    Seriously, how good is that!

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Definitely cool and in the right direction, but still not up to snuff. Lets make one of these with four-six slots in it and a daughterboard with all the normal motherboard amenities on it all fit inside a case with room for everything you want. Essentially a computer minus the processor and memory… If that could be hotplugged too, then all for that.

    I would comment on choosing Tbolt over PCIE, but that’s a dead horse. It’s just nice that this stuff is coming out. If it keeps going in the right direction it may actually reach a point where I can simply move to a laptop instead of having a laptop and a desktop.

      • demani
      • 7 years ago

      I think Magma has been working on something like that already, but not sure. We have a 5 or 6 slot box for audio editing station for the extra cards we need. But something like this with a (for lack of a better option) Mac mini “slot” would be interesting (Sonnet makes something like that, but it’s meant as a rack mount unit). But just being able to sit down with a laptop and have even 2-3 cards available would be great (one use would be GPU compute tasks to speed up rendering and processing-that would actually have a decent application on mobile shoots). It’s a small market, but one nonetheless.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        Not entirely sure about it being a small market. How many people own a laptop and a desktop? It’ll stay a small market if they price it at $1k a pop and don’t try to make it go mainstream, most definitely.

    • Washer
    • 7 years ago

    So… who is the GPU maker that doesn’t like these external PCIe devices?

      • dpaus
      • 7 years ago

      The fact that he’s afraid to name them suggests that it’s Nvidia.

      • Farting Bob
      • 7 years ago

      Im guessing Nvidia. Or AMD.

        • vargis14
        • 7 years ago

        Bob how did you come up with that??? It’s pretty dang obvious its one or the other but i am leaning toward Nvidia. They always seem to try to stop anything that might stop the sales of there overpriced high end notebook graphic’s solutions.
        I do not think it is AMD they will take any sales they can get.

        This looks very promising, it could turn any ultrabook/laptop into a formidable gaming/cad machine. With the lucid technology i just saw a video on a thunderbolt powered desktop card it was a 6670 but it worked great compared to hd4000.

        Someone has to make one without a 900$ price tag. At that price you can build a kicka$$ desktop gaming rig with a 660-680 series card or a 7800/7950 series card or 2 single slot 7850s afox just released them.

        Someone has to make one for around 150-200$ and the 250-300 watt PSU would be perfect. Lets be able to overclock it while we are at it

    • Ryhadar
    • 7 years ago

    I’ve seen this elsewhere and I really don’t get the almost $1K price tag. Do they price it that much because it looks like an apple product?

    But I digress. Thinking about the supposed “demise” of the desktop I can’t help but think, looking at this device, that even if it happened we would still be building our own boxes. I mean, look at that thing: power supply, PCI-E slots, cooling fans… it’s basically half of a computer and it looks simple as hell for a DIY project.

    If we could eventually build a box like this that incorporates a PSU, Hard drives (or SSDs), Expansion cards, etc of your choosing (save for the CPU, chipset, and RAM) I could actually be fully on board with the whole mobile computing thing. Just plug your “rig” into a laptop with thunderbolt and you instantly change your laptop into a PC that would rival many desktops — with most of the upgradability to boot.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      The only thing missing there is upgrading the CPU. That’s why this makes sense for storage but not as much for games. For larger notebooks, ok maybe, but using an Ultrabook-style computer with a slow CPU and an external GPU is unbalanced by a weak CPU.

        • vargis14
        • 7 years ago

        I do not consider a 17 watt ivy chip a weak cpu, it has plenty of power when coupled with a desktop classed card to provide a great gaming experience.
        A 2.4ghz dual core g530 celeron with a decent graphics card can game just fine, a i3 2120 is a good bit better but i bet the frame rates would be pretty dang close.

    • UberGerbil
    • 7 years ago

    And it certainly is styled to fit into a Mac-oriented workplace. It’s hard to imagine buyers at that price, but in a media-oriented shop that is already committed to Mac laptops, I suppose this looks cheaper than adding an entire Mac Pro for the people who need it.

    Even with the licensing costs, there’s no good reason for this to cost that much except that it’s first to market with bespoke engineering and so can claim the first mover premium. Once the commodity parts are available from ODMs these things won’t cost more than what they are: half a motherboard, an SFX PSU, and a USB 3-style external enclosure.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      -1 for using the word ‘bespoke’ to refer to a mass-produced item.

        • demani
        • 7 years ago

        I dunno- when I get my shirts done they only take one set of measurements and then produce 10 more for me. Same I dea. This thing isn’t just some OEM box with their nameplate attached.

        Pricing is ridiculous but that is the market-laptop user in production. There are worse ideas, but would it have killed them to add an ethernet port and two USB3 ports as well to make it a semi dock? Instead a user would either have to waste slots with cards or deal with other cables as well.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          Your clothes are bespoke even if they made 10 of them – they are custom made:

          [url<]http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bespoke[/url<] 2. British . a. (of clothes) made to individual order; custom-made: a bespoke jacket. Mass-produced items which are all identical is not. Just because something is 'shiny and cool' doesn't make it 'bespoke.'

        • dpaus
        • 7 years ago

        Tough crowd…

          • Farting Bob
          • 7 years ago

          Try Reddit, you can make the most perfect post, but if you dare miss out an apostrophe then you will get 500 people tell you that you are literally Hitler.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          Haha. Well, I wanted to be informative and not berate him for it. Still had to -1 though. There’s enough language butchering going on these days and sometimes it does bother me, in UberGerbil’s defense I’ve seen bespoke misused in supposedly professional writing. But now we know, and knowing is half the battle!

    • NeelyCam
    • 7 years ago

    There we go; external graphics for your ultrabook!

    Frizzed

      • entropy13
      • 7 years ago

      [url<]http://blog.laptopmag.com/thunderbolt-graphics-technology-turns-your-ultrabook-into-a-gaming-rig[/url<]

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      you’re kickin ass these days!

        • NeelyCam
        • 7 years ago

        I didn’t have time for this when I was on vacation… now things are different.
        GAME ON!

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          You guys probably cheat and use feeds or notifications when there are new articles. I roll old school and only get firsts when I visit TR not knowing whether there is a new article and still kick butt :p

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            What’s feed?

            Truthfully, I don’t use feeds etc. All my firsts are results of just wasting way too much time on TR

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            +1 for keeping it real then.

            • entropy13
            • 7 years ago

            All of your firsts were actually because I don’t participate in such childish “firsts”.

            • vargis14
            • 7 years ago

            I have had plenty of chances to be the 1st post i did it once and i don’t put thumbs down in my book of wants:)

            • entropy13
            • 7 years ago

            There have been quite a few shortbreads where I was the first post, but I don’t see the need to say “first” or a variation thereof towards the end of my post.

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