So I just hooked up a 2GB 5850 to my laptop...

Discussion in 'Video Cards' started by Cyclone, May 28, 2010.

  1. Cyclone

    Cyclone Limp Gawd

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    ...and it works great! :D

    I built a dual Xeon machine back in 2004, and earlier this year it was finally reaching the end of its useful life for me. It was big, loud, and hot, and I was using an old Dell laptop I bought for $200 more and more. I wanted to consolidate into just one machine, so a few weeks ago I bought a brand new Lenovo Thinkpad T410s, which is one great laptop!

    Notebookcheck Review - T410s

    Now, this has the Intel integrated graphics, which works great for most of my tasks, but I do like to play a game every once in awhile. Certainly, the integrated graphics on this new laptop actually offer better performance than my old computer, but still not good for gaming at all. The game that gets most of my time, EVE Online, could run but only with every single graphic option turned to "Lowest" or "Off." Not pretty.

    I wanted to have better gaming performance while in my home office (I don't game "on the go"). I thought about building a small gaming desktop, but that would have added another computer back into the mix and I really liked the idea of just having the one machine with all my stuff on it. So, I needed to upgrade the graphics performance of my Thinkpad.

    Luckily, some members of the community over at NoteBookReview have been busy figuring out how to hook up desktop graphics cards to laptops. Using a couple parts from a Taiwan manufacturer called HWTools, it is possible to connect a desktop graphics card to the laptop using either ExpressCard or internal mPCIe connectors (or both). An external power supply is also needed.

    Some caveats: an external monitor is needed - this will not run the laptops internal screen. It is not a mobile solution - this is great for people like me, who game at their desk with external monitors. PCIe bandwidth through ExpressCard or an mPCIe connector is not 16x like on desktop PCIe, it is only 1x. This limits the performance of the card to only 60-70% of its full potential if connected by 16x. Still, it is a tremendous improvement over the integrated graphics! The part from HWTools will allow for an x2 link on some laptops if you use two physical connections (i.e. ExpressCard and mPCIe or two mPCIe). This allows performance at 80-90% of 16x. Final caveat, this thing can be a major pain in the ass to get set up. It is not plug and play, with many (most) laptops requiring custom boot disks to handle memory and pci allocations issues that prevent the setup from functioning until taken care of. Fortunately, just today NBR member nando4 released a new bootdisk package that introduces some much-needed ease to the configuration process.

    So, I ordered a Sapphire 2GB 5850, an Antec 550W PSU, and the necessary parts from HWTools. Spent today fiddling around with it, setting it up. Luckily, the T410s did not require any fiddling with PCI, IGP, or memory allocation to get working. Most machines need it, so yay for me. On the flipside, however, I did find that an x2 link is not possible for my Thinkpad at this time. My two internal mPCIe connections are not numbered correctly for this to happen. I will wait to see if any workarounds are developed in the future.

    Still, even on an x1 link, I am extremely pleased. With x1, it is very convenient to hook up the 5850 - just dock and sleep the laptop, plug in the vid card to ExpressCard, switch monitors to vid card input, and wake up - now I have real gaming performance! I can now run EVE Online at full 1920x1200 resolution, 8xAA, 8xAF, with every graphics option set to full at 100fps. I know EVE is not a graphically demanding game by today's standards but it is a shocking improvement to me who is used to playing with all graphics options set to poop-like quality. I have been out of the "hardware scene" for years, so I do not know what benchmarks people like to use today, so I ran 3DMark06. With the integrated graphics, my score was 1,720. With the 5850 hooked up, I get 12,765! :D Very wonderful for me and now I can try all sorts of new games that I couldn't before.

    So, I will post my full system specs and a few pictures below. Please let me know if you have any questions, and please let me know if you can suggest any benchmarks that I could run on both IGP versus the 5850 that people might be interested in seeing.




    Lenovo T410s
    Intel Core i5 520M 2.4 GHz
    4GB DDR3-1066
    Intel X18M-80GB G2 SSD
    Sapphire 2GB ATI 5850
    HWTools PE4H v2.0 PCIe Adapter and EC2C ExpressCard Adapter
    Antec BP550PSU



    Here's the 5850:
    [​IMG]

    And the PE4H v2.0 that the vid card plugs into:
    [​IMG]

    Then hook the ExpressCard adapter between the PE4H and the laptop:
    [​IMG]

    All hooked up! Maybe I'll build an enclosure some rainy day...
    [​IMG]

    Makes my desk look kinda hi-tech!
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Zink

    Zink Gawd

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    Never seen these. Sickest thing ever, especially because it is partially hacks and not a $400 AMD product. How much did HWtools parts cost and what are the power supplies used to power the board and that card? If I can do this then my next high end computer will be a t410 as well. I just don't have the money for a fast laptop and fast desktop so getting a $1200 dual core i7 thinkpad with an HD 5770 would be awesome.
     
  3. Cyclone

    Cyclone Limp Gawd

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    The PE4H with the EC2C adapter was $85. Shipping was $15, I think, and it came fast - from Taiwan to my Minnesota doorstep in less than 2 full days. Had to specifically request v2.0 in the purchase notes, and they sent just that.

    Power supply is just a regular computer PSU with enough wattage to make your vid card happy. Sapphire recommended 500W for my card so I got an Antec 550W. Power hooks up to the PE4H using a regular old floppy 4-pin connector. With the PE4H you get an extra little piece that hooks up to the PSU so you don't have to do the paperclip trick to get it to power up, just a switch - nice extra.
     
  4. Met-AL

    Met-AL [H]ardness Supreme

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    Wow, that is very [H]!
     
  5. Matrices

    Matrices [H]ardness Supreme

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    Very cool, though it looks a bit precarious just sitting there.
     
  6. Cschill1290

    Cschill1290 [H]ard|Gawd

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    That is awesome. If I hadn't sold my laptop a few weeks ago, I'd seriously consider this.
     
  7. pxc

    pxc Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    It is awesome. Hats off to the maker of that device, and for them reasonably pricing it.
     
  8. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod Staff Member

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    Awesome.

    $85 isn't too bad of a price for the adapter + Express card.

    EDIT: Though for future reference: You can run any SINGLE GPU video card off a good quality 400W PSU (well maybe except for the GTX 480 :)) since it's only the video card being powered. The recommended wattage is usually for a system + the video card in question. As shown in this review, the HD 5850 only draws about 165W at full load:
    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/gpu-power-consumption-2010.html

    So basically, for any future users, all you need is the $50 Corsair 400CX 400W PSU and you'll be set:
    $50 - Corsair 400CX 400W PSU
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2010
  9. Pkirk618

    Pkirk618 [H]ardness Supreme

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    considering this is one of the primary reasons people consider desktops over laptops, this is a gem!
     
  10. Cyclone

    Cyclone Limp Gawd

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    It does, doesn't it? Actually, it is surprisingly stable. It is hard to tell in the picture, but there's a quarter-inch-thick plate of lexan attached to the bottom of the PE4H, which really weighs the whole thing down - would be tough to accidentally tip over. I should stick some thin rubber footies on the bottom to keep it from sliding, though!
     
  11. mobusta1

    mobusta1 2[H]4U

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    Ok this is simply AWESOME! I've been lookin for somethign like this for a LONG time. The only major drawback for me is that you have to use an external monitor. I really don't like that because that means I lose the mobility of my laptop (of when I went to play games). I got a question tho.. can you still use your internal keyboard? I see you have an external keyboard hooked up (usb I'm assuming).

    Also, do you mind posting some real world benchmarks? I'm curious as to what a core i7 720qm (mobile version) and a 5850 can do @1920x 1080 resolutions in most games that are new or graphic extensive (like metro, bc2, crysis etc).
     
  12. Spare-Flair

    Spare-Flair [H]ardness Supreme

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    I can sense a really cool mod idea here.

    Take a thin 300 watt server PSU (like the ones in Shuttles) and build it into a small portable enclosure along with the videocard and all the extra hardware and shortened cables. You'll end up with something about the size of an encyclopedia but thin and portable.

    Mod it so it docks easily with the laptop and you're set to go!
     
  13. 2wiced

    2wiced 2[H]4U

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    Interesting. This is awesome. Can you please post benchmarks so others with a 5850 can compare. Id love to know if its bandwidth limited.

    this is pretty sweet lol. get 2 of those, run crossfire... if only you could hahah
     
  14. i2abid

    i2abid [H]ard|Gawd

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    this is genius! please run some benchmarks and stuff.
     
  15. rive22

    rive22 [H]ardness Supreme

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    Very cool nice job, I was wanting to do something like this before when I had my laptop. :D
     
  16. Cyclone

    Cyclone Limp Gawd

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    Yes, you can still use internal laptop keyboard, trackpad, sound, etc. I just like to have the full setup at my desk. :D Actually, you can also use the laptop's internal screen as an extra monitor using the internal GPU and extending desktop to it - just any applications running on that screen will be driven by the internal GPU, not the external vid card.

    I'd love to provide some benchmarks, but don't really know what to run. Can someone let me know what would be some good benchmarks to run and share for this?
     
  17. i2abid

    i2abid [H]ard|Gawd

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    turning on fraps fps counter and reporting your avg fps while playing your favorite games is good enough for me. =D
     
  18. Ihaveworms

    Ihaveworms 2[H]4U

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    I think something like this has been done before. It is nice and all, but there is a massive bottleneck in getting information to the GPU. I wouldn't call this a gaming solution for a laptop.

    2.5 Gbit/s for express card
    vs
    64 Gbit/s PCI-E x16
     
  19. flooberjobby

    flooberjobby Limp Gawd

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  20. Reziarfg

    Reziarfg n00bie

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  21. Builderbobftw

    Builderbobftw Limp Gawd

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    Dude, this is seriously [H].
     
  22. aintz

    aintz Gawd

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    hardcore stuff man, although a gaming laptop wouldve been cheaper and had the same performance lol
     
  23. Builderbobftw

    Builderbobftw Limp Gawd

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    I'm pretty sure no gaming laptops, even a GTX 285M SLI have enough power to beat the 5850 desktop version.
     
  24. PornoSatan

    PornoSatan 2[H]4U

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    There's theory, then there's tests

    http://techpowerup.com/reviews/AMD/HD_5870_PCI-Express_Scaling/25.html

    So nope. Not that massive.
     
  25. Ihaveworms

    Ihaveworms 2[H]4U

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  26. PornoSatan

    PornoSatan 2[H]4U

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    When you consider the width of the line and what everyone's opinion on 1x is, it's pretty damn impressive for the most part. Not just because of 1x, but because 8x and even 4x aren't even being maxed out yet, as evidenced by the near identical frame rates with 16x. This setup OP has going is going to make his laptop fly alot more than people think. Not only that, but he doesn't have to worry about the internal heat from the GPU since it's external.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2010
  27. IRSmurf

    IRSmurf 2[H]4U

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    Holey moley! This is front page worthy!

    I know there would be a HUGE bottleneck, but I'd love to hook one of the 285's I have laying around into the mini-pci-e slot on my Alienware M11x. Hmmm... there is much I need to research!
     
  28. Pieded

    Pieded Limp Gawd

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    Nice. This is space and power saving setup :)
     
  29. Cyclone

    Cyclone Limp Gawd

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    Yes!

    Thanks! I'll get to work doing some modern benchmarks over this weekend and post the results back here.

    I believe this setup is going to give me as good of gaming performance as any of the top gaming laptops, but the most important response is that I didn't want a gaming laptop - I wanted small, thin, and light Thinkpad! :D Now I get the mobility I want "on the go" with gaming performance at home.

    Yes, there certainly is a bottleneck - I can't use the 5850 to max performance. PornoSatan has already given a lot of great information that I would have offered to you - the techPowerUp article is a great read on this subject, and real-world testing by the users over at NoteBookReview are showing that you can get about 70% of max performance on the 1x link. For laptops capable of a 2x link (many are, mine is not for the moment, sadly), performance up to 90% of max has been shown.

    70% of a 2GB 5850 is so unbelievably far and away better than my intel integrated graphics I was used to, I'm still a bit in awe. I can play EVE Online at 1920x1200 fully maxed out with 100fps! I can try all sorts of modern games that I'd never have been able to try before! Am I going to win any benchmark contests? No. Am I going to be able to spend the day traveling with a compact business notebook and come home to use it to play the latest games with great graphics? Yes! :D
     
  30. Pkirk618

    Pkirk618 [H]ardness Supreme

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    actually, back in the day my t21's docking station used a similar setup in that it has an available PCI slot. I remember using a full sized video card in that docking station to run UT. Of course it all hinged on being connected to the docking station but like the OP, that's when I wanted to game the most, not while on the go.
     
  31. Angry

    Angry Limp Gawd

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    Wish I saw this a month or so ago, thats awesome!
     
  32. cybereality

    cybereality [H]ard|Gawd

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  33. RamonGTP

    RamonGTP [H]ardness Supreme

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    That was my first reaction until I thought about it... Most people want laptops for portability, this device arguably makes portability even less manageable than having a desktop computer. Then there is the bottleneck issue. How much better, if at all, would this perform then having a laptop with a real mobile GPU in there?
     
  34. Unknown-One

    Unknown-One [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Uh, all he has to do is put the laptop to sleep, and he can unplug the external video card. At that point, it's just as portable as any other laptop.

    I don't see how plugging in one peripheral suddenly makes portability worse than a desktop...
     
  35. Blahman

    Blahman [H]ard|Gawd

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    5-10x?

    the fastest mobile GPU is still going to be half the speed of its desktop equivalent, and you're not going to find one of them in anything more portable than a 17" 8lb behemoth.
     
  36. Blahman

    Blahman [H]ard|Gawd

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    Does anyone have a list of the 2x PCI-E compatible notebooks out there?
     
  37. RamonGTP

    RamonGTP [H]ardness Supreme

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    I'm talking about wanting to take your gaming with you. You would then need to take the laptop, the device, the video card, the power supply for video card and a monitor. If you're going to just use it more of a stationary docking station, that's different, but at that point, I'd still rahter have a seperate desktop for my gaming purposes.
     
  38. RamonGTP

    RamonGTP [H]ardness Supreme

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    Nice guess work on that 5-10x, but that's all it is. The bandwidth of this device is a fraction of a real PCIe 2.0 interface. By the OP's own admission, he can't use the 5850 to it's potential.
     
  39. Blahman

    Blahman [H]ard|Gawd

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    Then you could look into one of the commercial versions of this being offered or in development. Most of these are based around mobile GPUs in a smallish enclosure that hook up via ExpressCard.

    I think the purpose of this is the freedom of having a thin and light notebook for when you're not at home, and then hooking it up to your setup at home for gaming.
     
  40. Cyclone

    Cyclone Limp Gawd

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    Exactly :)

    Yes, it is limited, but I still get great performance - 70% of a 5850 is still very nice! :)

    There's really no hard and fast list. On Intel chipsets, the requirement is that the two connections you are going to use (ExpressCard + mPCIe or 2 mPCIe) - these two connections have to be consecutively numbered and start with either 1, 3, or 5. You can check what numbers are assigned to your PCIe ports in Everest under the Motherboard/Chipset/Southbridge option. So, for x2, the two ports you want to use have to be either port1/port2, port3/port4, or port5/port6. These are the only possibilities that will work. Port1/Port3 doesn't work. Port2/Port3 doesn't work. I don't know the technical details behind this restriction, but I do know it is pretty concrete at the moment. So, my Thinkad, with ExpressCard on Port4 and empty mPCIe on Port1 - no good! NBR users are working on a fix for this, but nothing available right now. So check your PCIe ports in Everest and see if your numbering is proper for x2.

    I assume it is, but I don't know 100% if AMD chipsets have the same issue.