DIY eGPU on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

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  1. #1
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    Default DIY eGPU on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

    I created this thread so those with Tablet PC's can get some info relevant to them on how to get more graphics power to their Tablet PC's by making a DIY ViDock (using an expresscard adapter from the computer [or a m-pci card slot adapter] that connects to a Desktop Graphics Card [the card is sitting in the adapter -either a desktop PCI x1 or x16 slot] connected by a mini-hdmi cable; all of which is powered by an external power supply unit)

    You can then display on a external screen by connecting it to the GPU's screen connectors. But you can get this extra graphics power to run on the internal screen of your Tablet PC that uses a "Intel IGP: Intel GMA 4500MHD, HD or x3150 (Pine Trail)" by using an one of the adapters, an external power supply, and a "Nvidia Fermi desktop card: GT4xx, GTS4xx, GTX4xx, GTX5xx (not tested with any other desktop adapters)". All you have to have connected to your Tablet PC is the the mini-hdmi cable, while the dock only needs to be plugged into a power source (so all that's needed is just power to the dock, and the cable between the dock and your computer)


    Parts I am using:
    Tablet PC with expresscard slot: my 2730p
    Desktop GPU: EVGA GTX460 1024MB vram
    Power Supply for gfx card: Corsair 430W PSU
    Docking solution: PE4L adapter

    I paid about $330 shipped -$50 in rebates, so about $280 for all the parts (you can certainly get a cheaper video card than I got)


    My Setup:
    Here is the nearly finished 'final form' of my DIY ViDock
    netting in at 4 Lbs 12 Oz (as it was in the last picture there); The enclosure itself is made of some sheet steel (I think stainless steel) that was folded into a box at 5.25" x 4.5" x 10.5" (at the long end) and 7" (at the short end); it has the pci section of a desktop case. It has a Corsair 430W PSU that I stripped to [mostly] the basics, and then spliced the remaining cabling to be only just long enough; and a full EVGA GTX460 1GB SuperClocked video card. The whole thing is currently quietly whirring next to me




    To see more of my DIY ViDock setup, please check my Flickr account (Agent--9)

    Results:
    Before:
    3D Mark 06: 784 (score of just the 2730p)
    WEI: 3.9 for 'Graphics' and 3.3 for 'Gaming Graphics'

    After:
    Internal Display:
    3D Mark 06: 8,731 (Initial score 8,356)
    WEI: 3.9 for 'Graphics' and 5.1 for 'Gaming Graphics'

    computer's VGA out:
    3D Mark 06: 7,723
    WEI: 3.9 for 'Graphics' and 5.1 for 'Gaming Graphics'

    External display (off of gfx card):
    3D Mark 06: 10,320 (Initial score 9,775)
    WEI: 7.5 for 'Graphics' and 7.5 for 'Gaming Graphics'





    Resources:
    Notebook Review forum:
    -Using Optimus to display on internal laptop screen DIY ViDock Experiences - Page 121
    -The main DIY ViDock thread (with lots of info) DIY ViDock Experiences
    -Simple write up of what you need DIY ViDock Experiences - Page 302
    -more to come...
    There is a lot of information out there, be sure to read most of it, and ask questions before purchasing something thinking it will work


    I will update this with more info, and pictures when I have time
    Any questions or comments are welcome!

    I take no responsibility for anything you or anyone else does [or any damages that might occur, ect... ect...]. By reading any part of my post(s) you have agreed to that
    Last edited by Agent 9; 06-06-2011 at 03:58 PM.
    Current: HP 2730p Win 7 & Linux Mint | Toshiba M4 | Motion M1400 renice 120GB SSD | ITRONIX IX-325 | Motion F5 (U7500 update) | Fujitsu P1620 | T4220 w/SXGA+ 160GB Intel X18-M & 1TB HDD in bay | broken TC4400 [for experimentation] | i5 3570K mITX desktop w/GTX460 | ASUS N10j
    Gone but not Forgotten: HP Tm2 | HP Slate 500 | HP touchpad 32GB | 6-core desktop

  2. #2
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    Default Re: eGPU on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

    I got the dock parts in, and now have it just lying sprawled out on my couch while I'm testing the system, it runs quiet, and so far I haven't seen any issues to note.

    I will be doing some benchmarks, and testing some games to see how it does. Pictures of the dock to come later. more options to test, more settings in programs, and so forth will have to be tested by me


    I have tried borderlands before, and it was entirely unplayable; now I can play it at native 1280x800 and some options set to high and it has a pretty acceptable performance.



    If you have some program, game, or benchmark you would like to see me run; then let me know and I'll test it with the 2730p by itself, and with my DIY ViDock
    Last edited by Agent 9; 06-06-2011 at 03:59 PM.
    Current: HP 2730p Win 7 & Linux Mint | Toshiba M4 | Motion M1400 renice 120GB SSD | ITRONIX IX-325 | Motion F5 (U7500 update) | Fujitsu P1620 | T4220 w/SXGA+ 160GB Intel X18-M & 1TB HDD in bay | broken TC4400 [for experimentation] | i5 3570K mITX desktop w/GTX460 | ASUS N10j
    Gone but not Forgotten: HP Tm2 | HP Slate 500 | HP touchpad 32GB | 6-core desktop

  3. #3
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    Default Re: DIY ViDock on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

    Game benchmark suggestions, you say?

    -Crysis (I'm not expecting good Very High DX10 performance, because it takes Tri-SLI GTX 580s or something ludicrous like that to maintain 60 FPS on those settings. But if you can eke out solid framerates on Medium DX9 with this setup...)

    -Magicka (There is no reason at all that this sort of game should require a desktop-class GeForce 8800 or better to be playable. The gameplay would be great fun regardless of graphical level of detail, I'm certain. Alas, I'm still going to need a DIY ViDock to have a chance of running this game smoothly away from home.)

    There are countless other games I could mention, but those are the big two I can think of at the moment. (Unless the table I hang around at uni suddenly gets big into Left 4 Dead (2) or other co-op games...I want to spread the word about Magicka, but it's difficult to do that as things currently stand when StreamMyGame won't work and GameString Adrenalin won't go open beta for another month.)

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    Default Re: DIY ViDock on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

    Wow I didn't know there was a whole thread on this, I was JUST thinking about doing this myself earlier today haha....

    I do have one question. Ok you know how these GPUs can only support two simultaneous outputs per card, right... Well does the internal LCD count as one when you're using optimus, or can you still connect two external monitors AND use the LCD all at once, all being powered by the fermi card?

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    Default Re: eGPU on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

    NBR is certainly has a lot on the subject of the eGPU, almost too much to handle really

    Namelessplayer: I tried Crysis, on the 2730p alone it was unplayable even at lowest settings (actually just navigating the menu when pausing the game was agonizing); but with the DIY ViDock displaying to the internal screen it handles all Medium settings pretty well (that was the 'recommended settings' by the game's auto detect. There were some drop outs, but nothing to major, though it wasn't 'smooth as butter'; I didn't check frame rates, because I don't know of a way to besides a program that will drop 10-30fps from just running it; I'll have to look into the Crysis benchmark program later on). If I use a external screen hooked up directly to the HDMI output of the GTX 460 (using the same Optimus driver still), when playing Crysis it recommends all high settings, and plays pretty well also (again, it isn't super smooth, but I think it is acceptable; if not to you, then you can lower a few settings. I was doing this from my couch to my TV, with my dock in between, and it was pretty cool to use). I'll also look into the other stuff you recommended...



    Manyak: it appears I cannot use the DVI ports on my video card (which is really a VGA port -with the adapter. Actually If I choose to 'make this my main display' for one of those DVI outputs, it will just display on the internal LCD, but not display it quite right -which leads me to think that these are in use by the Optimus driver); but I can use the mini HDMI port on my video card (with the mini HDMI to full HDMI adapter, so it an hook up to my TV that uses regular HDMI) -well this is how it is when running with 'Optimus' (I think with using the driver that comes on the disc you get, you are able to use all monitor ports on the videocard, but your internal display, and external displays won't be 'accelerated')

    That said, with the Optimus drivers I can 'acclerate' my internal screen, as well as the vga out on my 2730p (both to about the same); but the HDMI out on the video card is running at max potential; if that makes any sense (Basically because of the Optimus drivers, the external screen powered by the external gfx card is running better than if it were using the standard drivers, and better than the Internal screen with Optimus. It is actually better than my desktop was getting for a 3Dmark06 score, but the same WEI on gfx, my desktop actually loses to my 2730p on all counts except disc [and formerly graphics]... sad I know... for my desktop, lol)

    The reason both the external display, and the internal display on the notebook itself is 'accelerated' is because the external GPU does most of the processing work, and sends the data to the GMA 4500 MHD to use and then display how it sees fit (something like that, as the GTX 460 external card does not take over entirely); and the reason the Optimus driver 'accelerates' the external display coming right off the GTX 460 is because it is increasing the bandwidth between the computer and the video card with some fancy algorithms and drivers (nobody really knows, its Nvidia's big secret )

    Here is the WEI for my TV hooked up to the GTX 460 through the HDMI out on the GTX 460 (using Optimus drivers):

    While this is the WEI for either the internal LCD, or the vga out on my 2730p, with the 'assistance of' the GTX 460 (using Optimus drivers):




    So a easy way of seeing it is this (assuming you are using a 1x connection ie: only 1 cable running between your computer and the dock, such as only using the expresscard adapter; as this is about all a Tablet PC would be capable of):
    Meh: just your computer alone, as is with no additions (perhaps a little bit of overclocking for the CPU to help pick up the slack), but it sucks!!
    Good: Your laptop hooked up to a external monitor with a DIY ViDock
    Better: your laptop hooked up to a DIY ViDock using one of the aforementioned Fermi cards, running a Optimus drivers (Overclocking your CPU helps here, because at this point, the CPU will probably start dragging you down)
    Best: A external screen hooked up to a DIY ViDock with a aforementioned Fermi card, running a Optimus driver (as good as a decent desktop setup you can get while using a Tablet PC and a external screen; and this is where your processor will really start being a bottle neck -so overclock that thing)

    The great thing is that a DIY ViDock can do all of that without needing any hardware or software changes; so you only need to plug it in to different devices, and change which is the default desktop; which means you can go from: 'not playable' to 'it plays well' to 'sweet jebus, this is a Laptop?!?!' all from one device.


    And you are supposed to be able to overclock the PCI lane (the expresscard slot in my case) up to 25% more, and that would yield ~25% more bandwidth which giver better performance still. I'm going to have to read up on how to do this, and then see what it yields

    so, yea... lots and lots of information
    Last edited by Agent 9; 06-06-2011 at 04:00 PM.
    Current: HP 2730p Win 7 & Linux Mint | Toshiba M4 | Motion M1400 renice 120GB SSD | ITRONIX IX-325 | Motion F5 (U7500 update) | Fujitsu P1620 | T4220 w/SXGA+ 160GB Intel X18-M & 1TB HDD in bay | broken TC4400 [for experimentation] | i5 3570K mITX desktop w/GTX460 | ASUS N10j
    Gone but not Forgotten: HP Tm2 | HP Slate 500 | HP touchpad 32GB | 6-core desktop

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    Default Re: DIY ViDock on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

    Interesting. So the Optimus drivers basically capture the output that is supposed to go to the DVI ports and instead puts that output in the DMA space of the IGP so that the IGP displays it instead. That's pretty impressive thinking on their part lol.

    Switchable graphics on laptops used to require complex multiplexers to switch the circuitry itself between the two chips. This way isn't as power efficient because it obviously needs to use the IGP somewhat (although obviously very minimally), but it's definitely elegant.

    Then again, if you've got it on your desk with a huge GPU plugged into it I don't think you care much about battery life

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    Default Re: DIY ViDock on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

    All right, test number two: Is it hot-pluggable?

    Obviously, I'd only use the DIY ViDock if I was sitting down somewhere with two AC outlets readily available. I'd rather not have to reboot or anything to switch GPUs. It should be a matter of plug-and-play.

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    Default Re: DIY ViDock on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

    Quote Originally Posted by NamelessPlayer View Post
    All right, test number two: Is it hot-pluggable?

    Obviously, I'd only use the DIY ViDock if I was sitting down somewhere with two AC outlets readily available. I'd rather not have to reboot or anything to switch GPUs. It should be a matter of plug-and-play.
    kind of... you have to put the computer to sleep and then plug the expresscard adapter attached to a already powered on dock, then wake the computer from sleep and it will be working in ~1 second (the screen will flash black, and then re-draw all things on screen); to detach it you have to use the 'safely remove hardware' feature in Windows, put the computer to sleep, and then detach it (not sure if you have to sleep the system when removing the dock or not). Even with my god-awfully slow hdd, sleeping/ waking my 2730p barely takes a few seconds, so it isn't a big deal.



    I am eventually going to build a housing for it all, and I plan on making it so I can put one of my 2730p's power adapters into it (just the block part and the cable that connects to the computer); That way I have one device with 1 cord for power in, and the output for laptop power, and connector to the video card (This is only really possible with a longer cable that connects between the dock and computer, like the 5ft one I got)

    It isn't a perfect system, but IMO it does a pretty darn good job considering you have one computer that is both a ultra portable with great efficiency, and a very formidable powerhouse with the help of the DIY ViDock
    Current: HP 2730p Win 7 & Linux Mint | Toshiba M4 | Motion M1400 renice 120GB SSD | ITRONIX IX-325 | Motion F5 (U7500 update) | Fujitsu P1620 | T4220 w/SXGA+ 160GB Intel X18-M & 1TB HDD in bay | broken TC4400 [for experimentation] | i5 3570K mITX desktop w/GTX460 | ASUS N10j
    Gone but not Forgotten: HP Tm2 | HP Slate 500 | HP touchpad 32GB | 6-core desktop

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    Default Re: DIY ViDock on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

    Do you need the ATX power supply or is it possible to run a second laptop brick:

    If the latter is possible, then one could tape the two bricks together and run a single cord from them into the wall. It could be quite portable then as the largest physical thing would be the video card, which wouldn't even need to be that powerful to run OpenGL 2.0 for CAD. With a passively cooled card, one could save even more power.... maybe even run them all from a single more powerful brick.

    :)ensen.
    Those who claim to be making history are often the same ones repeating it.

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    Default Re: DIY ViDock on Tablet PC's: experiences, benchmarks, setup, ect...

    purplepeopledesign: with the smaller video cards that wouldn't normally need any extra power connectors, you can simply use a 12C or 15-20V laptop power supply (plugged into the adapter the card sits on), but none of those cards would be capable of using the 'Optimus' setup (where the video card is powering the internal screen); so you would need a external screen.
    Actually, if you provise for the max draw of your computer, and the card, then buy a large power brick and splice in another plug end, then you only need to use one power brick.



    Now, there have been a few people using a full GTX 460 card (using Optimus to display internally) with a Xbox360 power brick; apparently it is about the right amperage on the +12V line (though it requires you do some cable splicing to get power going where you need it; nothing too difficult if you can use a soldering iron); and the cards seem to run at full performance like this, so it isn't gimping your system.

    The reasons many people go with the 460 cards is because it gives a lot of performance, can do Optimus with no sweat, while being really efficient, cool running, and quiet. If you are planning on a card that is more along the lines of a 570 then you will probably need a very large power supply, and a large/ complex system to keep the whole thing cool, and it won't get you much of any more performance in a DIY ViDock.
    Current: HP 2730p Win 7 & Linux Mint | Toshiba M4 | Motion M1400 renice 120GB SSD | ITRONIX IX-325 | Motion F5 (U7500 update) | Fujitsu P1620 | T4220 w/SXGA+ 160GB Intel X18-M & 1TB HDD in bay | broken TC4400 [for experimentation] | i5 3570K mITX desktop w/GTX460 | ASUS N10j
    Gone but not Forgotten: HP Tm2 | HP Slate 500 | HP touchpad 32GB | 6-core desktop

 

 

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