Village Instruments CEO Hubert Chen wrote an open letter to Facebook last week, attempting to gague customer interest in an external PCI Express graphics card enclosure for Thunderbolt. He said that the company would begin development on such a device if 50 people left a comment indicating interest - as of right now, the letter has well over 300 comments, and Chen confirmed in a follow-up note that development on the peripheral would begin soon.

Village Instruments currently makes the ViDock, a graphics enclosure that uses the ExpressCard interface - the new Thunderbolt ViDock will probably be similar in construction to the current model. Performance of the new Thunderbolt device should improve considerably, since Thunderbolt gives devices 10 Gb/s of bandwidth to work with, while ExpressCard devices can only use about a quarter of that.

The Thunderbolt ViDock, when it's released, will be a boon to thin-and-light laptop owners who want good battery life and weight while they're on the road, but good graphics performance when they're at their desks.

Source: Facebook 

Thanks Sean for the tip!

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  • sean.crees - Thursday, August 4, 2011 - link

    Hard OCP did a comparison between 16x and 4x pci-e 2.0 slots. They show how a 4x slot does not bottleneck performance.

    Pci-e 2.0 4x uses 16Gb/s bandwidth. With a single TB port able to use up to 20Gb/s with Lightridge, or 16Gb/s with Eagleridge, it would provide enough bandwidth to support a full 4x slot.
  • DesktopMan - Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - link

    Current graphic cards work surprisingly well on limited bandwidth. At PCI Express 2.0 4x (Thunderbolt) they're already quite close to 100%. See etc.

    I have a GTX 285 in an ExpressCard Vidock on PCI Express 2.0 1x, which still performs better than most mobile GPUs available. 60-80% of a full 16x.
  • Metaluna - Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - link

    People get way too hung up on bus bandwidth for graphics cards. Even as far back as the AGP days tests showed that the performance loss was not that terrible when using typical GPUs in a slow slot (e.g. putting an AGP 8X card in a 4X slot). PCIe 2.0 16x is an insane amount of bandwidth -- something on the order of 70-80 gigabytes/sec. To give a sense of scale, the fastest DDR3-2133 DIMM you can buy can do something like 16 or 17GB/s.
  • KeithP - Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - link

    I wonder what the price will be? Looking at their current products, I have a feeling it would probably make more sense to build your own gaming rig rather than one of their docks.

  • zorxd - Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - link

    Great idea in theory. In practice, we all know that this will be way too expensive to be useful.
  • peacemyfriends - Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - link

    Isn't the problem NOT bandwidth but latency?

    External graphics cards would be REVOLUTIONARY if they worked well.

    Death of the desktop :P - I know everyone here hates to hear that but I wouldn't mind, personally. A notebook form factor is good enough for a CPU, RAM, and hard drive, but not good enough for a good graphics card.
  • groundhogdaze - Thursday, August 4, 2011 - link

    I have several desktops that I leave on all the time (workstations, htpc's, etc..) It would be nice to run my systems off the onboard gfx for 2D tasks and use the external enclosure when I want to game. This also allows me to keep my systems in smaller form factors. Having a portable solution makes a lot of sense to me from a size/heat/energy standpoint as long as the price isn't exorbitant. Another barrier besides pricing would be that none of my systems have Thunderbolt on them...
  • sean.crees - Thursday, August 4, 2011 - link

    "since Thunderbolt gives devices 10 Gb/s of bandwidth to work with"

    Isn't it 10Gb/s per channel, with 2 channels per physical TB port. So wouldn't it actually be 20Gb/s bandwidth for a single TB port?
  • archer75 - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    I would love this for my imac. It could use a video card upgrade.

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