Asus was one of the first companies to experiment with external graphics adapters for laptops when it showed off the XG Station all the way back in 2007. The use of graphics silicon for purposes other than gaming has spread in the intervening decade, as has the convenience factor of external graphics adapters. Asus has now teamed with boutique case manufacturer In Win to create the XG Station Pro, a Thunderbolt 3 external graphics dock designed for content creation and CAD professionals that need the capabilities of power-hungry GPUs at their desks and the portability and battery life of an ultrabook when out of the office.
In Win came up with the design for the aluminum exterior of the XG Station Pro. The box has removeable top and side panels that clear the way for installation of a 2.5-slot graphics card. Asus says the XG Pro will work with Nvidia 900-series and newer cards, as well as AMD Radeon R9 and newer boards. The enclosure itself occupies a 4.3" x 14.8" (10.9 cm x 37.6 cm) footprint on a desk, but users will also need to clear space somewhere for the beefy 330 W external power supply. The case is perforated on the heatsink-and-fan side of the graphics card and has a pair of 120-mm exhaust fans next to the card's backside. The enclosure's pair of fans are PWM-controlled units and spin down completely when temperatures are low.
A graphics dock for professionals would be incomplete without internal lighting, and the XG Station Pro sports its own white LEDs. Those looking to turn on the RGB lights when the office clears out will be delighted to learn that Asus' Aura Sync illumination control utility will still work with compatible graphics cards inside the dock.
The back of the enclosure has a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C connector for attaching to the host machine, as well as a second USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port for peripherals. That USB 3.1 port can supply up to 15 W to charge or power devices like a smartphone, though Asus didn't say whether or not the XG Station Pro can power and charge a host laptop. Wired networking is apparently not a part of the modern office, so no such adapter is included on the enclosure.
Asus says the XG Station Pro will start changing hands later this month for $329, and includes an expensive 1.5-m active TB3 cable. The company will show off the box at CES later this month. For now, AMD and Nvidia cards will work inside the enclosure in Windows 10 and AMD boards will play along with macOS Sierra.