ViDock External Thunderbolt PCI Expansion Chassis and Hub in Development

ViDock34open
Current generation ViDock

VillageTronic has started work on a Thunderbolt version of its ViDock PCI expansion chassis that allows laptop owners to use PCI Express graphics cards on their computers. They lay out the following usage scenario:

ViDock2Spider34

Imagine using your thin and light laptop PC during the day on the job, at school, or at the local café then arriving home, or dorm room, plugging it into your ViDock and firing up your latest PC game on a large format monitor. Just plug in one cable into your laptop PC and you instantly have a powerful 3D workstation with a big display, a big keyboard and your pointing device of choice. You are ready for gaming, video transcoding, photoshop, 3D design, watching full 1080p HD movies, and more!

The ViDock presently interfaces through laptops using an ExpressCard slot, but we've heard that development has started on a Thunderbolt compatible version. ExpressCard slots are a rarity on Apple's laptops, presently only available on the 17" MacBook Pro. By offering a Thunderbolt version of this expansion chassis, even 11" MacBook Air customers could theoretically drive an external graphics card.

Villiagetronic originally posted a feeler for such a device on their Facebook page, promising to pursue development if there was enough interest. They've also discussed the possibility of adding USB ports, Ethernet and other ports to the expansion dock. Separately, we've heard the chassis itself will adopt an aluminum "Mac" look, unlike the presently shipping ViDocks (pictured above).

Sony had previously introduced a similar but proprietary dock system for their upcoming ultra-thin 13" notebook. It's no surprise that companies are starting to work on similar solutions for the broader market, and Villiagetronic isn't alone with a similar Sonnet device also having been announced.

Top Rated Comments

gnasher729 Avatar
134 months ago
Exactly. Didn't this idea get discussed and sunk a few weeks ago? Apparently TB doesn't provide enough bandwidth for a top end graphics chip.

However, could it work if the graphics chip only needs to send its output directly on to the display? I don't know about the electronics necessary here at all - pure speculation on my part.

Do you normally go: Processor>Graphics chips>Processor>Graphics chips>Display?

Or just: Processor (data) >Graphics (draw)>Display?

Apparently lots of people talk a lot without knowing much what they are talking about. While high end graphics cards can use 16 PCI lanes instead of the four the Thunderbolt provides, that doesn't mean they actually improve performance. PCI lanes are only used for sending textures and commands to the graphics card. Giving the graphics card plenty of video RAM avoids having to resend textures, and Thunderbolt is still tons faster than the hard drive that these textures are read from. And you don't send _that_ many commands to the graphics card, especially with physics on the card. And what makes a high end card really high end is the amount of pixelshader code that it can run, and that is completely on the card and doesn't go over Thunderbolt at all.

And the normal case is that a graphics card sends data directly to the display. So an external card could have a DVI or HDMI adapter, or Displayport, or even Thunderbolt so that you can attach two displays, but not connected back to the main computer. It basically works exactly the same as any old graphics card that you buy and put into a MacPro or a desktop PC.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MacFly123 Avatar
134 months ago
Thats a cool idea. Wouldn't surprise me if Apple themselves have played around with the idea too.

would love to see this on thunderbolt displays. it would actually influence me to buy one.

Think of the new Apple Thunderbolt Display if Apple put a monster GPU in the display and when you dock your MacBook Air it turbo charges it with a beautiful display and ports already there! This sounds like a logical progression for mobile computing coexisting with power users! :cool:
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
res1233 Avatar
134 months ago
...if the drivers for Lion exist, which they probably won't. Also depending on the power supply the true high-end graphics cards might not get enough juice.
I'd imagine anything like this would have to come with its own power supply to be viable in the first place, so I wouldn't worry.

P.S. So now you people understand why some of us see a bright future for thunderbolt. Buy yourself a low-end mac mini, then get yourself one of these babies, and presto! A gaming PC. All we need now is for AMD/NVidia to start provide their own drivers, then we'd be all set. I wonder if NDIS could be ported to Mac OS?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iSayuSay Avatar
134 months ago
" ... Imagine using your thin and light laptop PC during the day on the job, at school, or at the local café then arriving home, or dorm room, plugging it into your ViDock and firing up your latest PC game on a large format monitor. Just plug in one cable into your laptop PC and you instantly have a powerful 3D workstation with a big display, a big keyboard and your pointing device of choice. You are ready for gaming, video transcoding, photoshop, 3D design, watching full 1080p HD movies, and more! ..."
Yeah .. imagine that Thunderbolt naysayers ... Can USB 3.0 do that? :D
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Hellhammer Avatar
134 months ago
The Sonnets come with 150W or 75W power supplies. The Radeon HD 6970 requires about 360W (http://www.guru3d.com/article/radeon-6950-6970-review/11). So, as I said- the high end graphics cards will still be out of reach unless they decide to stick a rather large PSU on the back of those things.

Of course, not everyone will need the best of the best. I imagine for most people the bay PSU will suffice for whatever they want to put in it.

That is the wattage the whole system is using, not the power consumption of the GPU (it can't really be measured separately). 6970 has TDP of 250W while the Sonnet and ViDock provide up to 225W (150W PSU + 75W PCIe).
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
futbalguy Avatar
134 months ago
not enough bandwith in thunderbolt yet. Thunderbolt = 4x PCIe. Modern video cards use 16x PCIe.
Please see the multiple posts in this thread disputing this fact. Its annoying when people spread information that is not correct. To summarize, modern GPUs support 16x but do not utilize that potential bandwidth except for the highest end cards. Even then, 4x is enough to get over 90% of the potential out of the highest GPUs so this implementation could greatly benefit those who are willing to pay for the option.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
airtag in hand

Apple Enhancing AirTags Anti-Stalking Measures With Android App and Shorter Sound Intervals

Thursday June 3, 2021 11:10 am PDT by
Apple is enhancing AirTags security to prevent stalking using the Bluetooth devices, Apple told CNET today. Apple is already sending out over-the-air updates to AirTags that will shorten the amount of time before an unknown AirTag alerts you if it is in your possession. At the current time, AirTags play a sound after three days of being away from their owner. After the update, AirTags will...
maxresdefault

Here's How Apple's New iPhone to iPhone Data Migration Feature Works in iOS 12.4

Tuesday July 23, 2019 1:20 pm PDT by
Apple this week released iOS 12.4, the newest version of iOS 12 available for iPhones and iPads. One of the new features in iOS 12.4 is an updated data migration option that uses device to device transfers rather than relying on iCloud. Apple didn't provide much information on the new data migration feature, so we thought we'd check it out in our latest YouTube video. Subscribe to the ...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...
airtag precision finding

AirTag Includes U1 Chip for 'Precision Finding' Feature

Tuesday April 20, 2021 12:11 pm PDT by
Apple's long-awaited AirTag was finally unveiled today, and as expected, the small circle-shaped accessories can be attached to items like wallets, keys, and more to allow them to be tracked in the Find My app. As was rumored ahead of release, each AirTag is equipped with a U1 chip, and on devices that also have U1 chips, there's a Precision Finding feature. U1 Ultra Wideband chips are...
iOS 15 General Feature Yellow

Everything New in iOS 15 Beta 6: SharePlay Disabled, Safari Redesigned and More

Tuesday August 17, 2021 2:12 pm PDT by
Apple released the sixth beta of iOS 15 just a week after the fifth beta, but the new update brings some of the most significant tweaks that we've seen to iOS 15 during the beta testing period. Safari Redesign Apple in iOS 15 beta 6 has added a toggle to move the Safari address bar to the top of the interface, which returns Safari to an iOS 14-like design and mitigates all of the Safari...
m1 macbook air

Kuo: Mini-LED MacBook Air Coming in Mid-2022

Thursday July 22, 2021 7:48 pm PDT by
Apple will release a new version of the MacBook Air around the middle of 2022, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in note to investors seen by MacRumors. The upcoming MacBook Air will feature a 13.3-inch mini-LED display, which would make it the second Mac to gain mini-LED technology after the 2021 MacBook Pro, which is rumored to include a mini-LED display and is expected to launch later ...
2016 macbook pro flexgate b

Apple Faces Another Class-Action MacBook Pro ‘Flexgate’ Lawsuit

Thursday August 20, 2020 6:43 am PDT by
Another class-action complaint has been lodged against Apple, which claims that the company was aware of a MacBook Pro design flaw that caused some devices to have backlight display issues (via Apple Insider). The so-called "flexgate" problem was present in some MacBook Pro models manufactured between 2016 and 2017. The problem appears as dark patches along the bottom of the MacBook Pro's...