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Now we wait for devices to show up

Several years ago when PCI-Express was being developed, the technology was also being designed to support devices outside of the traditional computer enclosure. While "internal" PCI-Express took off, development and support for external devices was slow. This week, the PCI Special Interests Group (PCI-SIG) announced the availability of the PCI-Express external cable specification revision 1.0.

With the new specifications fully defined, cables will be developed for all PCI-Express link widths including: x1, x4, x8 and x16. This allows for devices such as external high-speed storage controllers, network or fabric interfaces and graphics adapters to use the technology.

According to PCI-SIG chairman Al Yanes, external PCI-Express products should now be in full development and show up on the market in less than a year. "This specification helps the industry create new products that will take PCIe technology out of the box – enabling PCIe solutions for IO expansion drawers, external graphics processors, tethered mobile docking, communications equipment and embedded applications,” said Yanes.

External PCI-Express devices will be able to use signaling rates up to 2.5 gigatransfers per second (GT/sec). Of course, the host, adapter and cable must be able to support those speeds, but the future looks promising according to the specification's outline. Later on, 5GT/sec. rates will be possible. Some applications for this type of technology include stacking storage arrays together by using the external PCI-Express interconnect rather than relying on Gig-E networking.

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External GPE
By kuyaglen on 2/9/2007 2:13:53 PM , Rating: 5
External Graphics Processing Enclosure?
So my lanning rig could very well be a Sony Vaio 13.3" notebook with an external 8800GTX?

RE: External GPE
By Scabies on 2/9/2007 2:44:55 PM , Rating: 1
Someone has already made an expresscard - PCI-Express Enclosure (insert your card here)
read about it on engadget...

(but it doesnt feed back to the laptop's LCD screen, you have to hook up another display to this device, making your ultra-portable laptop kind of bulky when it comes to portable gaming)

RE: External GPE
By FITCamaro on 2/9/2007 3:55:08 PM , Rating: 3
True but if you want a portable notebook with integrated graphics for office and DVD playback, you could have your larger LCD monitor at home with keyboard, mouse, and now GPU that lets you play games. Instead of needing two PCs because you want to be mobile and play games, you could get away with one. A C2D in a notebook with 2GB of RAM and a 7200 rpm hard drive along with an external GPU would let you basically "dock" your notebook and game as if you had a desktop.

Not saying its something I'm looking to do just yet, but its definitely a way to save some money. Might not be quite as fast as a full gaming rig with Raptors in RAID 0 and all that but its definitely better than any current laptop is capable of.

RE: External GPE
By Soviet Robot on 2/9/2007 4:08:29 PM , Rating: 2
For the same price, you could have a killer desktop for gaming and a slower(but fast enough for media and internet) laptop to be portable.

RE: External GPE
By outsider on 2/9/2007 8:03:28 PM , Rating: 1
What if you want portable gaming?!
Nowadays the only component that prevents a cheap laptop from gaming is the GPU. Take a look, you can buy a Sempron 2GHz and 1GB RAM for 600$. That platform can take on every single game out there. So all you need to add is 250$ Graphics Card that you would have spent anyway on the "Killer Desktop".

Your statement hold absolutely true for the current state of notebooks. Right now gaming notebooks are very expensive. Thats why we rejoice, because now a killer GPU for notebooks will cost us the same as one for PCs. And you can even plug the external card off when you dont need it, to save power.

RE: External GPE
By FrankM on 2/9/2007 8:02:41 PM , Rating: 2
Meanwhile, don't forget: XG station = expresscard slot = pcie x1!
This, however, will be pcie x1-x16.

RE: External GPE
By 457R4LDR34DKN07 on 2/9/2007 9:07:24 PM , Rating: 1

The XG Station also has a dedicated control panel to let users control settings through a GUI based interface and easily switch modes between the notebook screen and the external LCD monitor.

RE: External GPE
By ForumMaster on 2/10/2007 5:20:12 PM , Rating: 2
correct address is:

and i quote:
The XG Station also has a dedicated control panel to let users control settings through a GUI based interface and easily switch modes between the notebook screen and the external LCD monitor.

Great work!
By outsider on 2/9/07, Rating: 0
RE: Great work!
By Gatt on 2/9/2007 5:22:21 PM , Rating: 1

Notebooks are, in no specific order...

Slower-Due to speedstep since they can't cool a small case.

Less upgradable-Sure, you can start adding external boxes all over the place, but at some point, you might as well have bought a PC.

Less overclockable-Can't overclock to any significant measure when you're locked into an itty-bitty battery, nor can you O/C when your powersupply is smaller than a good set of speakers.

Screen is seriously lacking compared to a desktop display.

By the time you're done making up for as many of a notebooks shortcomings as you can, all you've managed to do is turn it into a desktop PC with a bad display, no overclockability, and has a slower speed.

Pointless for any significant workload.

RE: Great work!
By outsider on 2/9/2007 7:38:15 PM , Rating: 2
Somehow I've been extremely happy for 2 years with my Athlon 3400+ and 1GB RAM notebook. And even now I couldnt wish for more.
It rips a DVD in 3 hours at excellent DivX quality, it records YouTube videos from screen capture at full frames, it plays any game underclocked at 1500MHz, it converts from MP3 to Audio CD in realtime and writes the CD in 5 minutes, in 10 minutes it writes a full DVD, the wireless adapter works at 2-3 MB/s never the bottleneck in internet connection, it executes and debugs .NET apps immediately and in realtime, and the same is true for PHP script and database queries, it even handles all the flash and javascript of the web fluently just like the developers intended the experience to be. And I can do all that without getting out of bed... or 100 miles away from home.

What I'm not happy with is the Radeon 9600. Very few games can it play anymore. I usually have a plug nearby wherever I go, so power is not a problem for me. Let me use a Radeon 1950 for my notebook and I'm good to go for another 2 years with this baby.

RE: Great work!
By outsider on 2/9/07, Rating: -1
RE: Great work!
By Zelvek on 2/9/2007 9:35:38 PM , Rating: 2
Ah what the heck is your problem!? Got something against overclocking; most of the people I know who overclock are 25 or older? Given the maturity of your response I think it is quite obvious who is in their naive youth. Perhapses you should stop flaming on forums when you don't agree with someone and go live yours.

RE: Great work!
By outsider on 2/9/07, Rating: 0
RE: Great work!
By Uncle C on 2/10/2007 1:11:09 AM , Rating: 2
I'm happy and rather successful from overclocking.
I'm running a two year old setup that still kicks some serious ass in gaming because it IS overclocked.
Also, why can't you just accept other people's hobbies? To some, its fun to tune your computer just right.
As for "comfort of the notebook," where do you play games away from your home? At work, class, driving? I'm all for mobile lanning, but I enjoy RVs much more with DESKTOPS!
Anyway, snuff the flame. No one is saying laptops are worthless, just that desktops are better for gaming right now.

RE: Great work!
By otispunkmeyer on 2/12/2007 4:08:51 AM , Rating: 2
tell that to dell

though yeah its like $2000 if not more, and comes with a GPU good enough that you wont need an external one anyway, but the XPS M1710 is a good example of a laptop done rigth

the cooling set up is sublime, its quiet even under full load, and works very well so that your C2D and Nvidia 7900GTX with 512mb of ram can run full speed.

you can easily overclock, though not to the extent of a PC and the display is 1920x1200...

it is a do it all machine that thing.

shame though because Asus' new lamborghini VX2 is the muts!, its not as powerful GPU wise, but its Geforce 7700 with 512mb ram should be enough for most, then theres the glorious lambo paint job....*salivates*

RE: Great work!
By S3anister on 2/9/2007 7:32:19 PM , Rating: 3
omg.... it's not PCI-X... pci-x is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT specification.

seriously, it's like enhanced crappy pci...

PCI-E!!! not pci-x...


RE: Great work!
By outsider on 2/9/2007 7:48:33 PM , Rating: 1
Actually I just read the article. Maybe you know more about this. In the article it does not say PCI-E or PCI-X, it says PCI-Express! And up to 16x!

RE: Great work!
By linkgoron on 2/9/2007 8:01:12 PM , Rating: 3
PCI-E is PCI-Express.

PCI-X is an older standard. (I believe it's a server standard?)

RE: Great work!
By outsider on 2/9/2007 8:07:54 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, my mistake. Now I see it. I misunderstood the previous poster.

By DigitalFreak on 2/9/2007 1:54:16 PM , Rating: 3
Now I won't be wasting usable slots with two slot coolers!

RE: YES!!!!
By Scabies on 2/9/2007 2:00:43 PM , Rating: 3
Oyez, oyez!
This also allows for all-in-one (not all-in-wonder, specifically) GPU boxes that have built in PSU's, perhaps a water cooler and radiator, etc. No more heat poisoning!

People will think you're insane to have a tower with the essentials of your rig and then another case for your quad-SLI (assuming you can SLI/Crossfire ePCIe [which looks horrific typed] devices...)

RE: YES!!!!
By Misty Dingos on 2/9/2007 2:06:00 PM , Rating: 2
No two slot coolers but a $600 external attachment to your PC that demands a separate power source and serious cooling. This could lead to a lot of very good products or bizarre ones. I can see the GE-Force 7000 External now with water cooling! Just the size of a small printer.

RE: YES!!!!
By kenji4life on 2/10/2007 4:10:54 PM , Rating: 2
This reminds me of the Hercules Gametheatre XP soundcards.. a small pci card with a connector and a thick ass cable that runs to an external box.. It's actually kind of funny to imagine that the video industry never went full out like this with the high end like the sound industry. But this is probably because advances (ISA < PCI < AGP << PCI-E etc) have kept the video industry much more 'busy' than the sound. I mean honestly how far have sound cards come (relative to video cards)? The perceivable difference favors video advancement 10 fold.

But I wonder what a blind person might argue?

Bottom line is (I went WAY off on a tangent)
It would be both awesome and ironic to see external video cards. Awesome for obvious reasons and ironic since being 'tethered' to the cpu for speed for so long, the video card hasn't had a chance to break out like the sound cards.

This is evolutionary.

RE: YES!!!!
By misuspita on 2/11/2007 7:03:01 AM , Rating: 2
And since we've touched the soundcards, think about some Pro and semipro equipment coming from top dogz of the sound industry. I mean less latency when running tons of plugins, vst instruments and outboard equipment.... this might be cool, when running on a core2 duo or quad laptop. Really cool. No more cumbersome desktop system. I'm waiting for the development of soundcards based on this. Though I think it will pass a couple of years before this kind of products hit the road...

RE: YES!!!!
By ceefka on 2/11/2007 1:38:32 PM , Rating: 2
Digidesign Pro Tools and TC Powercore already come in PCI-E cards. With a 192/I rack unit, that is practically a PCI-E breakout box. The only thing missing was connectivity with a laptop. Your laptop will however still need an external drive to have a respectable track count and or play your sampled concert piano and drums. Perhaps having a couple of big and fast SSDs on external eSATA or PCI-E someday will help with that.

competition with usb, firewire, and (e)sata
By hellokeith on 2/9/2007 2:05:42 PM , Rating: 2
While I understand the motivation behind this spec, do we really need another cable type?

I just don't have a good feeling about external video cards, and as far as storage is concerned, this would be in direct competition with SATA and eSATA.

By UNCjigga on 2/9/2007 2:16:44 PM , Rating: 2
Dude, external PCIe could be up to 100x faster than eSATA. When they say "useful for storage", they're talking network storage, as in mass arrays sitting in a datacenter somewhere.

A really cool (and wicked expensive) use for this tech is an external NAND flash memory RAID 5 array using multiple PCIe to SATA300 bridges (each drive has a dedicated SATA300 channel!) That would be all kinds of fast.

RE: competition with usb, firewire, and (e)sata
By RyanHirst on 2/9/2007 2:46:19 PM , Rating: 3
An application you might not have thought about:

Computer clusters.
I mean, holy crap! Can you imagine what this would mean for the Folding@Home project? With direct x16 cables, a group of cheap, identical computers is a massively parallel SMP box.

There are also server/enterprise applications. I'm guessing a company like Google wouldn't mind cheap, standardized NAS cabling at PCIe x16, either.

By ADDAvenger on 2/9/2007 10:39:41 PM , Rating: 2
Heyyyy, that would be amazing for F@H, although I'm sure it'd take forever for them to get a client out for that...

eSATA + ePCIe = smaller form factors!
By UNCjigga on 2/9/2007 2:04:10 PM , Rating: 2
I just built a Shuttle XPC which I plan on using as my main box now, but the one I got didn't have eSATA ports built-in to the motherboard (I do have a PCIe x1 slot though). Now that there's an external PCIe, we can have even smaller form factors and still maintain flexibility and upgradeability. For example, you can buy an HTPC or SFF with integrated graphics and add an external GPU or physics processor when its time to upgrade. I'm sure this could have applications in the notebook sector as well. Sounds pretty cool to me at least.

RE: eSATA + ePCIe = smaller form factors!
By chinna on 2/9/2007 3:11:51 PM , Rating: 2
This is exactly what I was thinking, it is really great for HTPCs. Now, Manufacturer have options to make thin cases, and users need not compromise with only low profile cards, and expandability is not that much problematic anymore.(Raiser cards are there, but not that popular and not flexible).

One can have quite powerful Graphics card outside the case with just passive cooling.

I see lot of possibilities, hope manufacturers embrace this soon.

By ElJefe69 on 2/12/2007 11:31:54 AM , Rating: 2
Yes exactly what I thought! being a devotee of for years, I have made my gaming machine using one undervolted 120mm fan. If I could remove the video card from the case, I could easily passively or at least near silently cool it. I could get a r600 xtx, rip off the cooling and make it work in a silent setting.

clusters and linux.... one could make a cheap small form factor setup with onboard video, like a 3200 amd64 chip, put that into the cluster for a few hundred dollars... lots of fascinating possibilities. One could make their own google computer :)

By tungtung on 2/9/2007 3:17:50 PM , Rating: 2
Actually what I was thinking was something in the line of the Mac Mini. Just imagine a "lego-ish" pc, so you have the main component and then just buy the part you need and "snap" them together sort of speak. That would probably be one of the best example for "plug-and-play".

So going back to the Mac Mini example, I'm imagining a basic box with the processor, memory and harddisk (small Solid State disc), integrated video, and all the necessary ports for stand-alone operation.

Then after that you have the other "snap-on" components. So you can get a component for the video card, additional storage, sound card, etc. That would be awesome if someone manage to get it "done".

Though the question is how many PCI-E lane can they squeeze in. I mean the way things today, there doesn't seem to be enough PCI-E lanes to go around, especially if you start doing SLI and stuff.

Asus already at it.
By crystal clear on 2/10/2007 8:27:48 AM , Rating: 2
"Now we wait for devices to show up"

We already have one on the way-We saw it at CES.

Its called XGstation.

"XGstation connects the graphics card tucked in a external box with any laptop that can fit an ExpressCard. Box right now comes with 120W PSU, but the guys are evaluating 150W ones as well. Because of the better cooling environment, this box could prove to be an ideal house for the 8800GTS graphics card, or the upcoming R600XL board, thus offering extreme graphics performance on a notebook.

All of the R&D is being finalised now, and mass sampling should start in April/May. Expect that this product will be a big hit at CeBIT 007, with availability set around Computex Taipei in early June.

RE: Asus already at it.
By Sureshot324 on 2/10/2007 12:16:19 PM , Rating: 2
This could mean the end of USB sometime down the line. PCI-Express is already hot-swapable, and if your PC only needs one PCI-E controller instead of both a PCI-E AND USB controller it should be cheaper, simpler, and use less power.

Of course it would take a loooong time for USB to die because of the thousands of USB devices that are already out there.

RE: Asus already at it.
By Zoomer on 2/11/2007 2:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
Are you serious?

PCIe for a keyboard. Wow. :p

USB will be with us for a long time. It's cheap and works well for what's it designed to do (slow HIDs, not storage or comms).

RE: Asus already at it.
By Sureshot324 on 2/12/2007 11:48:58 AM , Rating: 2
Why not? I doubt a PCI-E keyboard would be any more expensive once it got mainstream, and I can't see any other disadvantage compared to a USB keyboard.

By Hawkido on 2/9/2007 2:39:31 PM , Rating: 2
My wife has been playing WoW on her lappy, but keeps complaining about the chug as it struggles to work on the integrated GPU. Once this comes out she will be able to tote her new (yep gotta buy a new one) lappy and when she wants to play just drop her lappy into the docking station which would have the External GPU "box" attached, and Viola! Instant gaming PC! I hope they engineer this to work with a docking station, or integrate the External GPU attachment into the docking station!... how cool would that be! Power supply, cooling, and all integrated into the docking station with a standard PC power cable running from there to the wall (vs. the proprietary power brick and unique DC power plug that is the norm on most Docking Stations). Drop your lappy in and play or take your lappy out to work on the road.

By novacthall on 2/9/2007 3:52:39 PM , Rating: 2
How much RAM has your wife's laptop got?

I ask because - and it's really almost scary - you're in the same boat as I am. My wife-to-be plays WoW and chugged along with an old Alienware laptop with 512MB of RAM in it. By accident one day, while I was playing WoW on my computer, I brought up the task manager and saw, by chance, just how much RAM WoW uses to keep itself going. It's a system hog, consuming anywhere from 430MB to 500MB - and possibly more - during normal operation. So I took a chance, bought her a gig of RAM for her laptop and dropped it in.

The difference was night and day. She went from low double-digit framerates (slideshow in Ironforge) to sustainably playable framerates, consistently. This was all pre-expansion, so I'd wager that Shattrath would likely give her problems, but the performance difference was visible and easy to implement.

Sadly, that's all moot now that we built her a computer with enough power to run the old Soviet Bloc, but lessons learned nonetheless.

By Hawkido on 2/13/2007 10:13:33 AM , Rating: 2
Great post, thank you! I was shopping for a gig stick to put in it for Valentine's day. (That and the movie Greese on DVD, LOL) I was hesitant because I didn't know if it would make much of a differance. Her lappy has an integrated ATI Mobility 200 Video Card, and I was worried that the GPU was chugging and the memory wouldn't help that much. Exact same situation as you.

With the memory we will be able to wait till the new generation of laptops to come out and the price to stabilize before having to purchase one.

By tripomarto on 2/9/2007 5:23:59 PM , Rating: 2
will this exterior PCI-Express have any latency problems?? i hope it doesn't

RE: Latency?
By skyyspam on 2/9/2007 7:00:29 PM , Rating: 2
That's a great question, which I'd like to know as well. I doubt it would, being that the cable is relatively short in length, but until we have the hardware in our hands (or reviewed by anandtech) we won't know if there's any latency issues to speak of.

If there is display lag, that would be a problem, as most LCDs already have an inherent display latency (especially some of the larger ones). Adding more lag to these displays is bad.

But that being said, I personally doubt there's going to be an issue with latency with externally-configured graphics. That's just SKYY talking out of his butt, though.

RE: Latency?
By ElJefe69 on 2/12/2007 11:36:27 AM , Rating: 2
well, consider this:

pci-e at 8x has no difference in ability with current gfx cards when compared too 16x.

agp 8x can run just as fast for what is out there TOO RUN at this point. Worrying about latency hopefully wont be much of a worry as the pci-e standards throughput is immensely more than is needed. Still, any cable longer than an inch is subject to problems.

PCI-E internal took off!
By jabber on 2/12/2007 8:41:07 AM , Rating: 2
I like the way they say it took off like a raging success.

For graphics cards maybe but for anything else? Hmmm not really. I'm still waiting for the great PCI-E bandwagon.

I reckon I'll get through at least two PCI-E motherboards before I plug anything other than graphics cards into the other slots. They may as well just have made it one/two slots and rebranded it "AGP Xtreme" (or something else that could enable the excuse to put flame graphics and maybe a dragon on a motherboard box).


RE: PCI-E internal took off!
By ElJefe69 on 2/12/2007 11:40:36 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I agree here. really, pci is a more than fine enough interface for companies like creative. I purposively looked and bought a motherboard that would give me more usable pci's and a lot less pcie slots. they are 100% useless. In fact, I need another slot for a radio broadcast program and am debating how to move my water cooling stuff around so that I can utilize the last one.

pci-e slots = useless except for spoiled brats with mommy buying them a sli or crossfire setup so they can frag n00bz.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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