AMD IS MAKING a valiant effort to bridge the gap between notebooks and the static world of desktops. We all know that Sandisk and Seagate are making solid state, or combined hard drives that will close the performance gap between notebook and desktop where storage is concerned, but there is one area in chich notebooks are screwed: graphics.
This is all set to change, however - with Lasso coming in place. Lasso is AMD's codename for external graphics card which will utilise the same external PCIe x16 connector we wrote about last week.
While this is mostly aimed at desktops, with the PCIe x16 bus-card that will be installed inside desktop PCs, it will also be compatible with upcoming notebooks that feature x16 and x8 connectors. This will bring high-end graphics power to the notebooks for the first time. We already know of one notebook manufacturer that plans to bring external PCIe standard to the world of mobile devices, so it might be possible to have a nice and compact notebook that turns into a gaming rig that can power 24- or 30-inch LCDs.
And this is not all ATI is making external. The company has also done some work on an external Crossfire configuration, although currently most resources are going into getting both the R600 and RV610/630 series out the door during March and April. External CrossFire will come to market probably before summer, oriented towards competing with Quadro Plex. It's not hard to imagine that the GPGPU world is soon going to become a real source of revenue for the company, just like Quadro SDI is for Nvidia.
This year is going to be pretty, pretty hot. But then again, it's to be expected. We're talking about 3D, not about car manufacturers.
ASUS's XGSTATION WAS a foray into the world of external graphics cards, but things are looking far more official after the PCI-SIG rubber-stamped specification which calls for PCI Express External cabling. The standards body now allows for PCIe signaling at x1, x4, x8 and even x16 to be transported via a cable no longer than 10 meters. This also kills a bunch of bandwidth bottleneck and signaling problems which kept graphics manufacturers away from playing with the idea of external graphics cards. Remember, when you're outside a standardized box, you can do whatever you want - no thermals to be careful of.
Sadly, the PCI-SIG is still maintaining it'd attitude that it's not allowing specifications for public download, so we got in touch with Molex and got some preliminary details about the cables, which are already in production. In order to sustain the quality of signaling, a 38, 68 and 136-pin layout is required, depending on the supported speed. In first picture, you can see how the connectors look:
From slowest to fastest - x16 connector certainly looks like it means business
The second set of pictures gives you an engineering schematic of the PCIe External Link cable and the connector for the fastest x16 variant.
Cable itself can range from couple of centimeters to 10m (32ft). More than that, and you need to put a repeater between two cables.
For x16 bandwidth, four separately shielded cables merging in every 136-pin connector are required
The target for the standard isn't only graphics, although the battle of the 3D titans will be featured the most. The purpose is also to expand servers, with RAID and storage controllers placement on the storage rack and not inside the server,and also the multiplication of the PC and various bandwidth-hungry systems such as medical devices.
But in the end, this announcement means only one thing. A future with external graphics cards which will feature their own PSUs and cooling is upon us.
For more information