AMD had lots of great stuff to show off in its suite at this year's CES, but one thing that stood out was a simple box that sat next to a thin notebook: an external graphics card enclosure. Now, we've been seeing this kind of product for many years - including from AMD itself - and not one of them has ever stuck. AMD promises that this one is different, though, because its design is more standardized.
If you like the idea of using a desktop GPU to power gaming on a notebook, you might not have to wait too long before you can get your hands on an enclosure. Robert Hallock, who's part of AMD's technical marketing team, posted a teaser on Facebook yesterday (seen below) which shows a Radeon R9 Nano installed inside one of these enclosures. Ultimately, these types of enclosures are going to accept both AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards, but it's nice to see a top-end card being used here - just to know that it's going to be supported.
The reason these new enclosures show real promise is because bandwidth is not an issue, and that's the very reason we see a powerful card like the R9 Nano sitting in there. We have Thunderbolt to thank for that; it can deliver, at worst, about 10Gb/s of bandwidth, or at best, 40Gb/s (TB 1 vs. 3). That's enough bandwidth to have more than just a GPU connected through it - which is the reason we see 4x USB ports at the back.
Overall, this is quite an elegant solution for mobile warriors who want a great gaming experience at home. With the USB ports available at the back, you can keep your peripherals plugged in, rather than have to worry about plugging them into your notebook every time you get home. It creates a brilliant scenario: set the laptop down, plug the enclosure in, and boom, you're experiencing desktop-class graphics.
Both AMD and NVIDIA are crafting their drivers in such a way for these enclosures so that when they're plugged in or unplugged, Windows will elegantly handle the transition. This is something that wasn't easily possible in the past, but Windows 10's design helps out a lot here.
There's no telling when we will see these enclosures hit the market, but given the tech demos at CES were working so well, the wait might not be too long.