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$300 Alienware Graphics Amplifier [Discussion]

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From my point of view this whole package is not that much a failure, I mean it's a tested package, guaranteed to work with any VGA out there. Yes something can be said about that CPU but then Apple is even more expensive with the same configuration (but with better build) ?.

People can make the own DIY solution but all of them are either cheap and hackey (powered riser anyone?) or expensive (Sonnet III-D)? For me I've already spent 260$+ for the akitio + 50$ for the 2m thunderbolt cable + 40$ for casing + 20-30$ for the riser, which at this point way more expensive and bulkier than what Alienware offers. I do have the luxury of more compatibility with Thunderbolt 2 but then it's half the bandwidth? I'm not a frequent laptop changer so I'm fine with the fact that the Amplifier only work with Alienware laptop.

I'm looking at it not from a power user point of view, but as a guy with a laptop and want to do some serious (well, as serious as it get for one with a wife and a kid could get) gaming when he's at home, and for that Alienware solution crossed all of my checklists.

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I'm a little confused - is there any reason the Alienware enclosure would not work instead of an Akitio? I've got an Akitio now, but would swap for the Alienware (pay the extra) if it worked the same.

Rephrased: Would my MacBook Air be able to tell the difference between the Akitio and the Alienware?

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From my point of view this whole package is not that much a failure, I mean it's a tested package, guaranteed to work with any VGA out there. Yes something can be said about that CPU but then Apple is even more expensive with the same configuration (but with better build) ?.

People can make the own DIY solution but all of them are either cheap and hackey (powered riser anyone?) or expensive (Sonnet III-D)? For me I've already spent 260$+ for the akitio + 50$ for the 2m thunderbolt cable + 40$ for casing + 20-30$ for the riser, which at this point way more expensive and bulkier than what Alienware offers. I do have the luxury of more compatibility with Thunderbolt 2 but then it's half the bandwidth? I'm not a frequent laptop changer so I'm fine with the fact that the Amplifier only work with Alienware laptop.

I'm looking at it not from a power user point of view, but as a guy with a laptop and want to do some serious (well, as serious as it get for one with a wife and a kid could get) gaming when he's at home, and for that Alienware solution crossed all of my checklists.

Sure, the Alienware 13 will cater to a market. It allows gaming on the go with it's GTX860M or more extreme gaming at home via the Graphics Amplifier. The bean counters upstairs have however ensured it has buiilt in redundancy - non upgradable ULV CPU will be the deal breaker for a lot of ppl. Also, the Graphics Amplifier has only the single Alienware 13 host it can attach to at this point in time.

From my perspective, the upcoming MSI GS30 has a lot more going for it:

- uses a full x16 external PCIe eGPU link

- We don't have the full specs of the GS30 as yet but, unlike the Alienware 13, we know it has no onboard hot GTX860M discrete graphics with the associated bulky cooling for it. That gives MSI two design options (1) make an ultrabook thin i5/i7 dual-core OR (2) make a thicker to host a i7-quad CPU with beefier cooling.

If MSI want to be revolutionary then they'll add a i7-quad to the machine to make it truly game worthy. If they don't want to ruffle feathers then they'll make it a ultrabook thin peformance-redundant i5/i7-dual core system.

I'm a little confused - is there any reason the Alienware enclosure would not work instead of an Akitio? I've got an Akitio now, but would swap for the Alienware (pay the extra) if it worked the same.

Rephrased: Would my MacBook Air be able to tell the difference between the Akitio and the Alienware?

Alienware enclosure will not work with your Macbook Air. The Alienware uses a proprietory docking interface and cable (x4 3.0) that to now will only allow it to work only with Alienware 13 systems.

The Macbook Air uses a Thunderbolt interface and cable (10Gbps - slightly faster than x2 2.0). The 2013+ Macbook Pros use a 16Gbps x4 2.0 Thunderbolt2 interface.

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Sweet, but they should have (at least) uploaded the video with a higher (60FPS) refreshrate. With that the higher FPS would have been even more visible.

Still waiting to see more details about the setup in hardware and configuration in Windows (if there is any).

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Sweet, but they should have (at least) uploaded the video with a higher (60FPS) refreshrate. With that the higher FPS would have been even more visible.

Still waiting to see more details about the setup in hardware and configuration in Windows (if there is any).

Yeah I agree on this one, they could have at least shot the video in 60 FPS. Otherwise, still I am more leaning towards the MSI GS30 though...

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Thanks for that update. Depending on the price and how good the screen options are, I might just pony up for an alienware instead of waiting for thunderbolt 3.

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I just hope they can realise a new lower screen size with a better CPU. If Razer can fit a i7-4702HQ and 870M in a 14 inch laptop, I'm sure AW can fit a i7-4702HQ and 860M or whatever (or the modern equivalents).

I suppose the question is, did they do it not to cannibalise sales from the larger NBs?

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I really like this product and the combination of a 14 inch notebook. The cheapest 14 inch comes with a dissapointing i5 U processor which would be the bottleneck.

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I really like this product and the combination of a 14 inch notebook. The cheapest 14 inch comes with a dissapointing i5 U processor which would be the bottleneck.

The alienware 14 doesnt support this. Only the new 13,15,and 17 do.

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The proprietary connector (and cable) carry 4 PCIe lanes as well as USB for the enclosure. Also, the new systems are no longer using MXM cards...the CPU and GPU are BGA packages, soldered to the motherboard.

I spent a pretty penny on my m17 r5, and i would just as soon spend it on a custom DIY desktop rig.

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Guys.

I don't know if it's silly to ask or not, but...

Isn't it possible we remove the pci-e slot from the AGA and then just use one of our own? And then just take the thunderbolt cable running from ours, and connect it to the notebook--entirely side-stepping the proprietary part of this whole thing.

Side note, maybe while we're changing the pci-e board, we may as well upgrade it to pcix16 lanes instead of it's current 4 lanes-->a major bottleneck on the AW13's performance right?

I'm kind of guessing at all this but I haven't found a hole in my logic. I mean, if you compare, say the Netstor and the AGA, they both have: Enclosures, PSUs, space for a full-sized graphics card. To clarify I mean they're both nearly the same in the sense two of three main ways:1. Case<--->(PSU<<--power-->Pci-e board) and 2. Power--->Board<--**-->Card. The "**" in the end of my last sentence, is the major, and only AFAIK, difference that I'm trying to illustrate. In detail, I'm referring to: 3 (Card<--*information*->Board>>Laptop). The only piece that needs changing to amend this situation is the Board.

Sorry if my explanation of logic is a little hard to follow but just in case I sound 'a fool you guys will credit my hopefully not too lackluster premises :D

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Guys.

I don't know if it's silly to ask or not, but...

Isn't it possible we remove the pci-e slot from the AGA and then just use one of our own? And then just take the thunderbolt cable running from ours, and connect it to the notebook--entirely side-stepping the proprietary part of this whole thing.

Side note, maybe while we're changing the pci-e board, we may as well upgrade it to pcix16 lanes instead of it's current 4 lanes-->a major bottleneck on the AW13's performance right?

I'm kind of guessing at all this but I haven't found a hole in my logic. I mean, if you compare, say the Netstor and the AGA, they both have: Enclosures, PSUs, space for a full-sized graphics card. To clarify I mean they're both nearly the same in the sense two of three main ways:1. Case<--->(PSU<<--power-->Pci-e board) and 2. Power--->Board<--**-->Card. The "**" in the end of my last sentence, is the major, and only AFAIK, difference that I'm trying to illustrate. In detail, I'm referring to: 3 (Card<--*information*->Board>>Laptop). The only piece that needs changing to amend this situation is the Board.

Sorry if my explanation of logic is a little hard to follow but just in case I sound 'a fool you guys will credit my hopefully not too lackluster premises :D

They are routing x4 PCIe to a proprietory connector. There is no THunderbolt chip to perform muxing/demuxing and so can't be attached to any thunderbolt equipped machine. Therein lies its downfall.. this box can only be used with a few Alienware machines.

The AKiTiO Thunder2 is a PCIe-to-Thunderbolt adapter that can be attached to Thunderbolt-equipped notebooks. It's also cheaper and has been used extensively in stock and modified form to host eGPUs. It's a much better fit to do what you want. See http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/7205-us%24189-akitio-thunder2-pcie-box-16gbps-tb2.html and http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-gpu-projects/6578-implementations-hub-tb-ec-mpcie.html#Thunderbolt .

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@Atomicbomb22: What do you want to achieve? Increase the "lanes" for an Alienware Laptop from x4 to x16? Or use that Amplifier for a Thunderbolt-MacBook eGPU?

Both ways don't make sense to me.

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They are routing x4 PCIe to a proprietory connector. There is no THunderbolt chip to perform muxing/demuxing and so can't be attached to any thunderbolt equipped machine. Therein lies its downfall.. this box can only be used with a few Alienware machines.

The AKiTiO Thunder2 is a PCIe-to-Thunderbolt adapter that can be attached to Thunderbolt-equipped notebooks. It's also cheaper and has been used extensively in stock and modified form to host eGPUs. It's a much better fit to do what you want. See http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/7205-us%24189-akitio-thunder2-pcie-box-16gbps-tb2.html and http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-gpu-projects/6578-implementations-hub-tb-ec-mpcie.html#Thunderbolt .

You're answering half my point. The key point is REMOVING the alienware chip and replacing it with another chip. The reason i say this is you could take the AGA ($300), remove the chip, and then add the akito ($189) chip--effectively bypassing the AGA proprietary part for only ($489). Which is way wayyy cheaper than the netstor and sonnet and much more convenient.

@Atomicbomb22: What do you want to achieve? Increase the "lanes" for an Alienware Laptop from x4 to x16? Or use that Amplifier for a Thunderbolt-MacBook eGPU?

Both ways don't make sense to me.

And you're answering the other half of my point. Which is yes we're using the AGA as an modified thudnerbolt-macbook EGPU , AND at the same time since we're replacing the chip (See above post), we're increasing the lanes from x4 to x16.

Now. I think my point should be clear now--when i figured this out it was an "AHAAA" moment for me. lol :D

if you guys tell me that should work i'm gonna go buy this alienware AGA thing and mod it right now. I think it's really easy...there's no way that i see that the AGA could have used anything proprietary other than the chip which should be replacable with an Akito's thunderbolt chip.

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You will not be able to get x16 lanes to increase bandwidth! You will just have a mechanical x16 to host GPU cards and will be limited to x4 bandwidth.

To change the AGA with a AKiTiO to a TB2 solution is a waste of money, imho. You can easily get a PC case + power supply and have the same effect. For the look you could get this case: https://www.caseking.de/shop/catalog/Gehaeuse/Xigmatek/Octans-Serie/Xigmatek-Octans-Mini-ITX-Gehaeuse-schwarz::29942.html

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You will not be able to get x16 lanes to increase bandwidth! You will just have a mechanical x16 to host GPU cards and will be limited to x4 bandwidth.

To change the AGA with a AKiTiO to a TB2 solution is a waste of money, imho. You can easily get a PC case + power supply and have the same effect. For the look you could get this case: https://www.caseking.de/shop/catalog/Gehaeuse/Xigmatek/Octans-Serie/Xigmatek-Octans-Mini-ITX-Gehaeuse-schwarz::29942.html

But I don't think it would be. Especially for those considering a netstor/sonnet mod. All you have to do here is a hotswap and boom you're done, and not to mention you have all those extra usb ports now and nice finished look for little to no work. I'm not saying the Akitio method is bad, it's still a nice option for under $250 but if you're considering a sonnet/netstor now you'd have a serious contender at the sub-$500 price point--the only reason I can see you'd choose them is if you're maybe doing sli/crossfire OR maybe if you enjoy modding a fanless system.

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I still don't understand what you are describing. You want to take the AGA, take out the old PCIe board and replace it with a Thunderbolt based board like AKiTiO? Additionally you want to connect and reuse the USB ports of the AGA?

That might be tricky, depending how Alienware connected the USB ports to it's PCIe board. That seems to be realised by a PCIe card with that USB ports. So you would need a board with 2 PCIe slots for that cards + the slot for the Thunderbolt connection. That can't be done with the AKiTiO.

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But I don't think it would be. Especially for those considering a netstor/sonnet mod. All you have to do here is a hotswap and boom you're done, and not to mention you have all those extra usb ports now and nice finished look for little to no work. I'm not saying the Akitio method is bad, it's still a nice option for under $250 but if you're considering a sonnet/netstor now you'd have a serious contender at the sub-$500 price point--the only reason I can see you'd choose them is if you're maybe doing sli/crossfire OR maybe if you enjoy modding a fanless system.

There is no AGA chip to swap over with a Thunderbolt chip. Alienware connects using a x4 3.0 PCIe + 4x USB 3.0 proprietory connector that attaches to a couple of ALienware machines with the AGA port on them.

To make it a Thunderbolt device would require placing an interposer board with a Thunderbolt chip to attach to those x4 3.0 lines (running x4 2.0 TB1/TB2), with THunderbolt in/out on the other end. That presents major technical hurdles. For one, where are you going to get a standalone Thunderbolt chip to work with, let alone a complete board? Closest was that found at http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/6903-%5Bguide%5D-making-us%2468-thunderboltex-ii-pcie-based-tb2-egpu-adapter.html#post94832 but unfortunately there is a timing header on the top requiring specialized knowledge of what to do with it. Overall, the whole concept is way too difficult and cost effective to even try.

Might as well grab a AKiTiO Thunder2 (1-slot) or a three-slot device using a PCIe bridge Sonnet III-D/Sonnet EE SE II/Netstor NA211TB and mod it as required. eg: a three slot device + PCIe USB 3.0 board if want additional USB ports. Cheaper and easier pathway to achieve what you want.

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180 is def a reasonable price. but the egpu converters ive seen are all $50 is a 200 one really any better?

Whatever you've seen at the price of $50 wasn't even near the capability of Thunderbolt 2 or this thing which is equal or even better.

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