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Unique Dell XPS M1710 Review

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the review-with-actual-info dept.

122

Searching4Sasquatch writes "Hot Hardware has just posted a unique review of Dell's flagship XPS M1710 notebook. They stumbled across some very interesting information within the BIOS which seems to indicate Dell is working on a docking station with its own discrete graphics. 'The user is given the option of using either the integrated GeForce Go 7900 GTX GPU found within the system or the extremely interesting option of using the graphics card found within a docking station. Could Dell be planning on releasing an enthusiast dock that features a high-end GPU that could not otherwise be crammed into the confinements of the notebook chassis? Perhaps an upgrade to allow for standard or even Quad-SLI would be possible with such a dock.'"

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Looks nice... (4, Funny)

Jhon (241832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637029)

Well it looks nice. But will it explode [techeblog.com] ?

Re:Looks nice... (1)

NIN1385 (760712) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637146)

Wow, that is crazy. I am calling the bomb squad for mine now.

Re:Looks nice... (2, Funny)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637243)

No wireless. Less concussive force than HE. Lame.

Re:Looks nice... (1)

hector_uk (882132) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638129)

i'd love to have a laptop with like gma 950 but something like an x900XTX in a docking bay. but only if it ran OS X and was not butt ugly

"service unavailable" (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637054)

insert 'they probably are running their website on it' joke here

Interesting (1)

tpjunkie (911544) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637056)

And if true, it would be the first time that I can recall that I am actually somewhat impressed by Dell.

Re:Interesting (1)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637505)

dont worry the dock will have some custom software that bogs it down to being unusable per Dell SOP.

Re:Interesting (1)

Raztus (745280) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638107)

This is probably not the place, and I don't mean to flame, but why is it that almost every Dell I've worked on has been so irreparably slow? Laptop and desktop alike, for the specifications of the machines I've worked on, the computers have always been much slower than they should. I remember a P4 2Ghz with 1GB Ram and a fresh install of Windows XP, and the thing chugged along. Again, I'm not trying to dog on Dell, just posting my observations. Any ideas on why this might be?

Re:Interesting (1)

dal20402 (895630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638225)

I don't know whether your fresh install was of a naked OS or a restore from Dell's original image. Most Dells ship with an image so full of junk that it makes them nearly unusable.

I have a Dell 3.2GHz P4 with 1GB RAM at work, with their special (and actually quite well-put-together) Windows XP image, and it flies. It's as much of a pleasure to use as a Windows box can be, if you ignore the gawdawful Dell keyboard with its tumescent space bar.

Re:Interesting (1)

Afrosheen (42464) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638890)

I've noticed this on alot of the consumer-level Dells, but not so much on corporate hardware like the Latitudes. A client of mine bought a dirt-cheap $500 Dell desktop with 512mb of ram, P4 3.x, etc. and it is dog slow. Even after upgrading the memory to a full 1gb it still chugs along slowly. Maybe it's got a terrible bus speed or just a poor motherboard, or maybe some junk 5400rpm hard drive. For now it's a mystery.

Re:Interesting (3, Informative)

Molochi (555357) | more than 8 years ago | (#15639244)

The main reasons oem (not just dell but sony, hp etc...) tend to be much slower than one might expect.

1) Integrated graphics chips that share memory bandwidth with the system. Many (possibly MOST, I haven't checked the sales figures) Dells were sold in the last 5 years that had no AGP slot, just 3 PCI slots. Buying any cheap ( $50) PCI Videocard usually solves this... If you aren't already using the slots and if the bios allows you to disable the integrated graphics. There are a few integrated options that don't suck (the life out of your system), but Dell never used them until recently.

2) Slow memory. Early on, P4 systems were commonly equiped (because it was much cheaper)with single channel sdr-sdram (1GBPS) instead of dual channel "pc800"RDRAM(3GBPS). Woe unto the poor slob that wound up with a p4 running SDR memory and integrated graphics. Mid gen P4 cheapy systems usually (i845) came with single channel ddr266 or if you were lucky DDR333 and these weren't too bad for day to day use, tho' they were pretty weak compared to top of the line i850E or better chipset. The P4's performance "feel" (as well as benchmark scores) is closely tied to memory speed; much moreso than P3, PM, or Athlons of any stripe.

3) Crappy initial BIOS issues. I couldn't tell you how many systems I've worked on that started behaving like real computers once they recieved a bios update that was released 6 months after the system was sold to the customer. However most of those were HP/Compaq or momandpopbrand. Intel often has a bios update that will work better with a standard intel spec'd mobo than anything the OEM delivers.

4) Craptastic drivers, particularly IDE controller drivers that let the system fall back to PIO mode. This is oftem fixed with an update issued months into the model's run. Intel's own drivers sometimes fix this better than anything issued by the OEM.

I wouldn't say that every Dell I've worked on is slow. I would say that the majority of Dells I've worked on has an economy level motherboard, and below average performance parts that cost the owner less than $600 shipped. They paid for a crap level system and they got it. Congratulations. Here's your sign.

How is this new? (5, Informative)

Thauma (35771) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637062)

There have always been expansion docks for laptops that allow PCI and even ISA bus access. Hell there have even been carbus based graphics adapters for notebooks. All this is a bridge to PCI Express bus. There is nothing new to see here... move along.

Re:How is this new? (4, Interesting)

Erwos (553607) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637111)

Absolutely correct. Indeed, it seems like the recent trend has been to move away from docking stations with real PCI/PCIe slots, and instead have these awful USB docks. That's a real shame, because I think it would appeal to a lot of folks to have a 12" laptop with good CPU, lots of memory, and a very low-power GPU plug into a docking station with a PCIe x16 slot and maybe a couple of PCIe x1 or PCI slots. Your 12" laptop doubles as a full-blown desktop, but doesn't sacrifice on either end - that's a nice selling point.

-Erwos

Re:How is this new? (3, Informative)

sk8dork (842313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637194)

if you want a Dell notebook that has a docking station connection on the bottom of the system so you don't have to use USB docks, then get a Latitude. *pets Latitude D620*

Latitudes have always had docking connectors. well, except for certain models like the X1 that doesn't have room for vents much less a docking connection.

Dell moved away from true docking connections on Inspirons some time ago. and yeah, XPS is now some generic word for Inspiron or Dimension pretty much now. XPS used to be THE high powered Dimension system, then the high powered Inspiron, now they make all these goofy flavors of XPS.

Re:How is this new? (1)

mzwaterski (802371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637429)

My Inspiron 300m has the same docking connector as the lattitude x300. Maybe that only applies to the little guy...

Re:How is this new? (1)

dreamt (14798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637466)

My Inspiron 8600 (and parents 8500) both have the same docking ports (and same dock, for that matter) as my Latitude D600 . They are pretty much identical to the Latitude D800, other than not having gigabit ethernet, no smart card slot and having a choice of graphics card.

Re:How is this new? (1)

sk8dork (842313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637883)

my appologies, the 8000 series and the 300m are older models. they stopped putting docking connections on Inspirons.

Re:How is this new? (1)

pndmnm (807945) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638016)

Even then, they weren't always even. I've got an Inspiron 8100 (equiv to a Latitude C810) that I flashed to the Latitude firmware so that it could use the Docking Station (with PCI slots) instead of just the Port Replicator (I also had to remove a small piece of metal from the case so that it would fit).

Re:How is this new? (1)

PB_TPU_40 (135365) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637882)

Inspiron series always has as well. The M1710 is an inspiron series Dell. Now before you all flame me saying I dont know what I'm talking about, I have one sitting on my desk at home. My fiance has a new inspiron as well, If you look on the underside there is a connector for a docking station, however for some reason you cant really find them. I was really disappointed when I ordered a docking station for my fiance so she could with one motion reconnect all the cables and leave it at that instead it doesn't charge the laptop and just provides keyboard, mouse, and network. Now you have to make sure your power cable doesn't fall behind the desk, etc. I'm hoping they release any docking station soon, because it blows.

Other than not having a docking station, I love my laptop, its rock solid, and I have yet to play a game that doesn't look GREAT on it. Works really well for development too. My next project is to create a program that will change the colors of my leds as a winamp plugin.

Re:How is this new? (1)

RoboRay (735839) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638856)

The Dell D/Dock works just fine with the M1710. I got a D/Dock for my M1710 off eBay for $40.

I am doing this right now! (1, Insightful)

jimwelch (309748) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637252)

On my Dell laptop. The dock has a dual card with two monitors.
I use one for the program, one for the debugger, and the laptop screen for email.
I've ONLY had this setup for 4 years!

Re:How is this new? (1)

mnmn (145599) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637523)

If I were in the Dell marketing department....

I'd recommend adding these menu entries in the BIOS so people would buy the laptops in hope for such a docking station. When we've sold enough laptops building those docking stations would be feasible. Then we can sell THOSE at a high price.

In short, I wouldnt believe it until I saw the docking stations and the benchmarks.

Re:How is this new? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637840)

So, let me get this straight, you say that, though there has never been a PCI Express dock, because other docks exist, this isn't new. Well then, I think we should get rid of all discussions of Vista, IE7, various Linux distros or kernel revisions because all of them have been done before. Oh, and there are mergers on the front page, since those companies existed before, and mergers are nothing new, then there is nothing to see there either. In fact, I think there is almost nothing that is completely independent on previous ideas, so we don't need any news whatsoever. Yay, all that can be discovered has been (except for the trivial we never need to think about), we can stop learning and stop thinking for ourselves.

Re:How is this new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15637862)

This is definitely nothing new. The Dell Latitude C/Dock II had a couple of PCI slots, as well as a built in SCSI port. It ran off of the same power supply as the laptop, though, so I doubt that it would handle the power requirements of some of the newer video cards.

Re:How is this new? (1)

Bif Powell (726774) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638090)

Had this on my old Compaq Armada with Docking station Circa 1999 or so.

Re:How is this new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15638212)

I doubt its even that, my old gateway had an option in the bios to use the docking station's graphics card, all it did was let me use an external monitor, on a worse chipset.

Dell does this on their other machines as well (4, Informative)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637063)

Their (very popular) D600 has the same option in the BIOS.

This is nothing new, please move along.

Re:Dell does this on their other machines as well (1)

fuzzywig (208937) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637541)

yup, and the Inspiron 8600 I use at work.... The bigger dock that they do (can't remember the naming, sorry) has a slot for a slim CDrom etc, just pop one straight out of one laptop and into the dock, and space for an extra harddrive, not to mention various ports round the back. quite nice really, handy in an office with various slaes people coming and going, which is what we use them for.

Re:Dell does this on their other machines as well (1)

dreamt (14798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637584)

Of course, the article is very well /.ed, so I can't read the article, but from the description, this is different. I am sitting on my D600 right now, with dual-monitor support, but the secondary video is NOT being generated by a video card in the docking port. The docking port has a VGA monitor connector that behaves as a secondary display, but it is still hooked up to the same video card and sharing the same video memory as the built-in LCD panel.

Re:Dell does this on their other machines as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15637648)

You are probably using the replicator port, which is not the same as the full-blown docking station.

Re:Dell does this on their other machines as well (1)

dreamt (14798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15639298)

Thats possible. This is a work machine, so I wasn't involved in ordering it or the dock. Didn't realize that they had multiple products availabe.

Re:Dell does this on their other machines as well (1)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638849)

Dell has, for quite some time, had docking stations that supported an external PCI video card. Support for these video cards seems to run throughout their professional line of laptops. Indeed, check your BIOS. I know my GF's D600 BIOS has the option in there. :)

Wow, this got slashdot'd quick... (1)

NIN1385 (760712) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637064)

It was posted at 12:24 and it was down at 12:27 when I checked. Three minutes and mirrordot didn't have it either. New record I believe.

This isn't new... (3, Informative)

SilentJ_PDX (559136) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637080)

My IBM Thinkpad has had the same option in the BIOS for ages. Seeing how 'boring' IBM is, I'm guessing there are lots of notebooks with similar options in the BIOS.

Re:This isn't new... (1)

limegreen (516173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638908)

Indeed the idea of a big docking station with a proprietary docking interface is so old it's gone out of fashion. Dell now sell a light weight USB docking station [dell.com] with video. Obviously it doesn't have quad GPU video performance(!)

not a bad idea... (2, Insightful)

Andrew Nagy (985144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637088)

Mobile Gaming is becoming somewhat of a buzzword, but I think this idea has some potential to it in a slightly different way. For those of us who don't necessarily enjoy lugging around a 12 lb notebook just for the occasional gaming opportunity, Dell or whoever could create a very portable notebook that docked into a more sophisticated machine, thereby allowing for a small family to go back to one PC. Of course, it's probably not in the best interest of the manufacturer, since they want us all to have as many PCs as we can stand, but it makes sense for the consumer. There are docks out there with built-in hard-drives, why not built-in video cards and extra RAM, and even a bigger monitor? Having everything on one PC would be beneficial to a lot of people.

Too bad what we want and what manufacturers want us to want are often two different things.

Re:not a bad idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15637434)

Ooo... Like the DuoDock [apple-history.com]

Re:not a bad idea... (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637476)

If your small family is going to go back to one computer (which is a good idea, why exactly?) wouldn't it make sense for that computer to not leave the house?

Anything to do with Alienware? (3, Interesting)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637105)

I wonder if this project has anything to do with their recent purchase of Alienware.

http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]

Nothing New (1)

williamhooper (325306) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637118)

I've got a number of older C/Dock models that came with Pentium 133Mhz Latitudes. They have a PCI slot and the option in the BIOS to select which is Primary video. I'm not sure, but I think there might even be a list somewhere on Dell of supported video cards. Heck my D800 has the BIOS option, too, and it defaults to "Dock Video Card".

Latency/bandiwdth (0, Troll)

king-manic (409855) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637123)

A high bandwidth device like a graphics card going through the I/O bus problably isn't goignt o be a good idea. You'd have both a much higher latency and it's flood the i/o bus.

Re:Latency/bandiwdth (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15637180)

Who say it has to be an I/O bus or limited to 1 bus on an expansion connector?

New high speed serial busses like PCI Express takes up very few pins. They could have reserved some of those for the video card alone.

Re:Latency/bandiwdth (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637356)

Most current video cards use 16 PCIe lanes. That's 4 GB/s. By comparison, that's 10 Firewire 400 ports, or 4 Ethernet ports. Bandwidth to the outside of the case is harder to get by a mile than bandwidth inside the case. You'd need a Fibre Channel connection (like the ones used for huge RAID cases). This sort of bandwidth would equal just about every other connector on the M1710.

Re:Latency/bandiwdth (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637831)

There's nothing preventing them from putting 16 PCIe lanes on a properly designed external connector, just like classic docking stations had a full blown PCI bus.

The new HyperTransport 3.0 spec also allows for external HT links, not useful for Dell at the moment since they don't have AMD-based systems, but it might be interesting for someone making Turion based laptops. So far every Turion-based laptop I've seen has been rather low end. :(

Re:Latency/bandiwdth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15638035)

You'd need a Fibre Channel connection (like the ones used for huge RAID cases). This sort of bandwidth would equal just about every other connector on the M1710.


Lay off the crack dude. The current top speed FC is 2 GBps.

This particular laptop, as a baseline config, has 1 ieee1394 port, which is 400 Mbps. It has six USB 2.0 ports, which is 2.88 GBps. So right there in just those two types of connectors you have 3.28 GBps.

FC is cool, but it's not God's gift to bandwidth. Hell, I get more IO performance out of my 6-way RAID 5 on Linux than I do out of a FC connection into the SAN. The difference is that I can keep adding new disks, arrays, tapes, etc. to my SAN.

Close but not quite (1)

IAstudent (919232) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637151)

The ideal use of this configuration I think would be to take your notebook to school/work/etc., bring it home and dock it in for more power.

The only flaw in this is that the "desktop replacement" itself has too much mass for it to be portable. If they could combine this type of dock with a smaller, more mobile system, it'd be the best of both worlds.

Most likely this is going to appeal to the hardcore power users in the notebook crowd.

Re:Close but not quite (1)

Aqua_boy17 (962670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637870)

The only flaw in this is that the "desktop replacement" itself has too much mass for it to be portable.
Amen to that. I bought an HP8800 series with the 17" display last year as a 'desktop replacement' and it is a real bear to travel with. It is technically portable, but really a pain in the neck (quite literally) when travelling much further than to and from the car. The thing weighs in at around 12 pounds with the a/c adapter and other junk I carry with it. Next time I need a case, I'll definitely get one with wheels.

This is off-topic somewhat, but other than the weight I really love the HP machine. The display is really nice compared to others in its class and it has a lot of other great features for the price. The only thing bad I can say is that I got mine just before HP started shipping them with the no OS boot option for using the CD and DVD players. Doh! It would be great if I could find a hack to do this without any HW modifications but HP support says it's not possible. If anyone out there wants to help me prove them wrong, I'm game to try.

Jumping the gun (1)

RedShoeRider (658314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637172)

"Perhaps an upgrade to allow for standard or even Quad-SLI would be possible with such a dock."

Ok, so they're doing little more than speculating about what Dell might be doing with its dock. Fine. Then they jump and start speculating about SLI or Quad-SLI? Considering that there are few mainboards that do either one of those functions, they're realllly reaching in even hoping for that kind of functionality. 4x AGP would be a good enough start for a new concept like this.

Re:Jumping the gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15637288)

Not to go all spelling nazi on you, but you may want to change "Loosing", which isn't a word, to "Losing". I mean otherwise you're going to get it every time you post.

Re:Jumping the gun (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637497)

You mis-spelled "losing" in your freakin' SIGNATURE. What is WRONG with you?

DuoDock ahoy! (1)

rho (6063) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637203)

The Powerbook Duo was a helluva machine. Sub-notebook and a desktop. It was nice to be able to do page-layout with dual monitors at work, and take the Duo home to do copywriting and the like. Expensive, though.

As for this, I can see the benefit to a few people, but 1) people who need workstation-level graphics will also need more RAM and faster processors than are available in laptops, and 2) people who would like to game with their laptops like to game on their laptops away from their desk, which is why they're playing games on laptops.

Of course, I haven't RTFA, as the link is dead to me.

Or could it be... (1)

quincunx55555 (969721) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637209)

Could Dell be planning on releasing an enthusiast dock that features a high-end GPU that could not otherwise be crammed into the confinements of the notebook chassis?

Maybe the option is something cheap instead of something that performs well. Why only ask a question on one side of the coin? Of course it would be nice if there was some great innovation, but considering how much goes into graphics cards from a company focused entirely on that concept, I really doubt Dell has the resources to come up with something that's better (or unheard of).

But we can all dream for a while!

E-PCIE? (1)

iPodUser (879598) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637228)

I remember seeing an article in Maximum PC a while back talking about the possibility of external PCI-e in the near future, thus allowing you to essentially put the graphics card anywhere you want and upgrade it easily. Is this the type of option that is implented here? As for the posts mentioning the option on older laptops, you might want to confirm that it is actually an option to use a seperate discrete GPU, rather than just selecting what port the video signal actually goes to.

Uh, Dual Monitors Anyone? (1)

Transdimentia (840912) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637258)

It doesn't have to be a conspiracy theory guys, it can be something simple.

with quad shit this and that GPU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15637277)

what size will this docking unit be?! /me starts thinking cooling for the stuff...

-m10

Like WOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15637304)

Could this be like the option to use a PCI graphics card in my ancient (3 y.o.) IBM Thinkpad dock?

Could be a Latitude / Precision in the making (1)

Stonent1 (594886) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637307)

It is well known that some of the Latitudes and Inspirons and Precisions are identical units except for casing and bios changes especially throughout the C Series. In some models you can pull the Quadro card out of the Precision and install it in a Latitude or Inspiron. Dell might be planning on offering this as a Precision model with some kind of Quadro card in the dock.

Re:Could be a Latitude / Precision in the making (1)

normal_guy (676813) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637446)

No, this is a standard option in many dock-capable notebooks from all manufacturers. Nothing high-end, just the VGA adapter in the dock.

Re:Could be a Latitude / Precision in the making (1)

m94mni (541438) | more than 8 years ago | (#15639029)

Ehm... the Precision M90 already exists, and is more or less identical (except for the casing) to the M1710, and it comes with the *amazing* Quadro FX 2500M, which is an OpenGL-enhanced GeForce Go 7900 GTX...

Display Hardware Objects (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637317)

Why don't monitors include graphics cards tweaked for exactly their performance specs? Self-powered speakers offer better performance and flexibility for upgrading the "processor" and "UI" components that drive them. Notebooks would include LCD cards, but not have to drive external monitors/projectors directly. That would make the notebooks smaller, lighter, cooler, cheaper, and the external display higher quality.

Give me an optical digital display output instead of VGA.

I could put that display output into a breakout box to any number of different displays, including multihead where I have them, without and extra HW. The differences could be entirely in software. Outputting OpenGL for display would let even simple HW and relatively simple SW exploit practically any display environment. Including the long-anticipated immersive goggles, or better.

Dell's BIOS seems to go a single step in the right direction. When will we sprint down the path?

Re:Display Hardware Objects (1)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637726)

Um, a monitor may last you many years (I've had a nice 19" CRT for 4 years now) but a graphics card technology is made redundant so quickly that you'd be swapping the graphics card in and out of your monitor pretty often. Also, getting graphics information to the monitor would be an expensive pain in the ass, probably requiring a ribbon cable about the width of a PCI-E slot.

Re:Display Hardware Objects (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637750)

Why couldn't you upgrade a plugin monitor graphics card the way you upgrade a PC card? And what's wrong with the digital optical out I mentioned?

Re:Display Hardware Objects (1)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637807)

Because it's extemely difficult to get 4 GB/s of data down a small cable, and that's just PCI-Express speeds. A graphics card needs direct access to the RAM of a computer in order to do it's job; you can't do it efficiently 2 meters away from the machine without some serious communications, and even if you could get fast enough comms, then a card on the board will still always be faster.

Re:Display Hardware Objects (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637903)

Where are you getting your certainty about your design principles?

The computer doesn't send 4GB:s to the graphics card, it sends high-level instructions. Especially in the case of the OpenGL I mentioned, the bandwidth to the GPU can be very small. Digital optics have more than enough bandwidth, even for 4GB:s if that were actually necessary. There is no need of the GPU to have high bandwidth access to main memory.

In fact, all your complaints are a bigger problem with the GPU sitting across a cable from the monitor, like VGA - which is fatter than an optical cable would need to be.

Re:Display Hardware Objects (2, Informative)

raodin (708903) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638142)

If graphics cards didn't need direct, high bandwidth, low latency access to the processor and system memory, we'd all still be using PCI graphics. AGP was specifically developed because newer, faster graphics cards needed direct, high bandwidth access to system memory... Textures don't magically appear in video memory, you know.

Re:Display Hardware Objects (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638364)

An optical link like I mentioned would be fast enough.

Re:Display Hardware Objects (1)

radish (98371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638426)

Do you know how fast PCI-Express is? Now explain why that standard even exists if PCI or ISA would do the job. Hint: I think you're forgetting about textures.

Besides that, I have dual screens on my desk. At $300, I'm quite glad I also don't have to buy dual video cards (although, that is of course an option with SLI). And, to be quite honest, I simply don't see what advantage there would be to putting the rendering hardware in the display. Why do it? Similarly, there is very little advantage (none in most cases) to putting audio hardware in speakers - which is why USB speakers are still quite rare despite having been on sale for years.

Re:Display Hardware Objects (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638758)

Actually, both the video and audio compartmentaliztion you mention are mainly the result of momentum and evolutionary design, defined by backwards compatibility. People don't spend much money on speakers, even though that's where the sound value lies, either in stereo equipment or PC audio. Onboard audio electronics are cheap because their development cost has been amortized, including the cost of designing them into new PCs. Likewise with displays.

But displays do have enthusiasts, so there is a bigger niche for better display than for better audio. (FWIW, USB is not a great audio interface, dealing poorly with interrupts in its realtime data, and FireWire etc is a more expensive extra.)

The architecture I propose sends high-level graphics symbols, like OpenGL, from the CPU to the GPU. An optical cable is plenty to load textures.

I worked with a team in 1990 to produce hirez (1-64Mpxls) digital cameras with such a cabled interconnect - though not even optical. That team had just produced a dual-CPU RISC workstation, with one RISC dedicated to rendering graphics from apps running on the other RISC. 20 years later, those architectures can make flexible, economical, high-performance displays.

I like the idea of the renderer tightly coupled to the display. The notebook reviewed in the story we're discussing is a good example. Why carry something that can drive a display much heavier-duty than the onboard LCD? If you've got dual monitors, you're using a dual monitor card, which isn't necessary for the much more common single monitor, and therefore much more expensive in small production quantities. Instead, each monitor could have a much cheaper card, driven by its instructions over the cable. In other words, distributed GPU provides the same economics and efficiencies as distributed networks of host computers. There's no reason those benefits can't apply to GPUs, except that the old way is "good enough" not to invest in the "new paradigm". The same reason many minicomputer companies continued to make and sell so many units, even through the late 1990s, and even today. But that doesn't make them better, except in some remaining specific massive applications that are best supported by massive centralized HW.

Re:Display Hardware Objects (2, Insightful)

radish (98371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15639416)

Why carry something that can drive a display much heavier-duty than the onboard LCD?
Why not? It adds nothing to the cost, in comparitive terms.

If you've got dual monitors, you're using a dual monitor card, which isn't necessary for the much more common single monitor, and therefore much more expensive in small production quantities
Except that dual head cards are now entirely standard (virtually all cards over $30 are dual head capable) and so we're not talking small production quantities we're talking huge quantities. The cost is utterly negligible.

In other words, distributed GPU provides the same economics and efficiencies as distributed networks of host computers
No, it really doesn't. Distributed computers work well (for certain problems) because of huge scale - hundreds or thousands of nodes. This lets you scale easily by adding more nodes, and replace dead nodes without adversly affecting performance. Clustering can also be used to make use of cheaper components at the expense of some performance - 16 single CPU nodes will not perform as well as one 16-cpu beast.

On the other hand, with graphics we're looking at a typical maximum of what, 8 screens? With the average being between 1 and 2? That's just not comparable. It's not a "distributed" GPU, it's a "remote" GPU. The average user with one screen will still have one GPU, it'll just be on the end of a wire. What does that buy him? Nothing. In the case of a laptop user who occasionally uses a monitor and projector - he now needs 3 GPUs. Again, why? One works just fine for him today. Where you get into people with multiple screens in use at once, like myself, again - what does it buy me? I currently have one GPU - why have two? Each would need the same amount of texture ram as my current single card, so there's double the cost right away. They'll also need some way to communicate with the host and each other which just adds to the bandwidth requirements and complexity of your communications solution. All this to replace a simple uni-directional cable which works perfectly well. I simply don't get it.

And as a final point, I still think you underestimate the bandwidth requirements. Look at this page [wikipedia.org] . We can see that PCIe x16 is 40GBit/s. That's huge - it's 8 times faster than the fastest SCSI standard and 30 times faster than fiber channel - in fact it's faster than most ram interfaces. Now I'm no electronics expert, so I'm not saying it's impossible, but getting that kind of speed in a 2 or 3 meter cable which is (a) cheap and (b) reliable seems non-trivial. The only cabled standard I can find with comparable speeds is OC768 which is far from cheap or commonplace.

hardware doesn't work that way.. (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638205)

Sounds like you're used to the infinitely reconfigurable world of software.

Video cards need high bandwidth low latency connections. High bandwidth/low latency connections are difficult to extend to the back of your case, let alone up to the top of your desk. And you definitely cannot daily-chain them to multiple monitors.

And why would you use optical? Wire is all you need for short distances. The bandwidth of twisted pair is very large, the capacity of a coax is enormous. Optical would just add cost.

Re:hardware doesn't work that way.. (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638404)

I've designed for custom HW for over a decade. HW isn't as stuck in the mud as you imply.

Optical is high bandwidth, low latency, and low power. That's one reason it's long been considered for interchip buses, and even for buses across a chip. Interconnecting whole boxes actually reaches the economic scales where optical is better, as demonstrated by consumer/pro electronics that use it.

Re:Display Hardware Objects (1)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638790)

This sounds like window forwarding, except in 3D.

sorry to burst your bubble, but.... (1)

theheff (894014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637334)

I say just get it right in the first place... inside the laptop. Video cards get obsolete so fast anyways, by the time a new technology actually gets to the market, the miniature (and laptop-compatable) version is available within months. Until monitors have wireless interfaces, I really doubt this kind of technology will take off.

Doubles as a frying pan for eggs! (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637357)

How hot do these things get under full cpu load?

It would be nice if reviewers rated heat which is becoming a big issue. Especially after the macbook pro problem and anything running on a duo.

I bought my compaq based on price and heat issues. I want a "laptop" and not a "notebook". Yes, my laptop never gets hot and I can comfortably place it on my lap. A cool CPU is also a longer lasting unit. My gf's Vio on the underhand, needs a special USB powered cooling unit pad below it to prevent if from overheating. She paid almost $500 more on her notebook too. Ouch

Dells so far do not have a good reputation for being lap friendly.

Re:Doubles as a frying pan for eggs! (1)

troll -1 (956834) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638812)

It would be nice if reviewers rated heat which is becoming a big issue. Especially after the macbook pro problem and anything running on a duo.

According to the wiki entry Intel's duo core has an outstanding "performance per watt" ratio [wikipedia.org] .

The only reason I plan on buying an HP instead of a Dell is for (AMD turion) 64-bit support which the duo core apparently does not have (expected in core 2). The wiki entry also mentions a duo core high memory latency due to the lack of on-die memory controller (further aggravated by system-chipset's use of DDR-II RAM).

Not a totally new concept to Dell docks. (1)

Lester67 (218549) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637397)

The Dell C/DockII, which is about 5 or 6 years old now, supported two PCI slots, one of which could be used for graphics.

So technically, anyone with a C series laptop should be able to get up to around an nVidia 6200 for their "docked" video solution.

(Now I have to go try this...) :-)

Re:Not a totally new concept to Dell docks. (1)

Pizza (87623) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638277)

I was doing this for a couple of years. Unfortunately the C/Dock II only supports PCI, which limits your graphics card choices considerably, but you can get modern low-end PCI cards still, and they're loads better than what my (reflashed) Inspiron 4100 came with (16Mb Radeon M6). Before I ended up replacing the machine altogether, I was using a Radeon 256MB 9250 card, which even gave me usable DX8-class grafix.

My current Acer laptop's eZDock is PCIe based (and even has an expresscard slot) so there's no inherent reason why they couldn't build a unit with a full PCIe slot for an external graphics card.

Gaming laptops are over-priced (4, Insightful)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637400)

I never quite understood why someone would buy these really pricey gaming laptops. For my boys I built microATX cubes that have every bit as much performance as these high end laptops, for about 1/4th the price -- and they are easily and cheaply upgradeable down the road. When they go to a friend's house for a LANparty they just grab the cube by its handle and throw their keyboard/mouse into a bag. Monitors are not a problem -- most people have monitors leftover in their basement/attic from when they upgraded to LCD, so they just connect to the surplus monitor, plug into their network and off they go. Seriously, you can build a nice cube gaming box for about $550 (DVD writer, Athlon 64 3500+, 1GB DDR400, 300GB SATA HD, Windows XP license, box w/420W supply, motherboard) plus whatever graphics floats your boat (I find the $99 NVidia 6 series PCIe boards are more than adequate, though I have also found that many games are actually quite playable using just the embedded graphics like the NVidia 6150). Sure, you may be 10 or 20 fps slower than your buddies, with a little less detail in the shadows, but who cares (especially when most LCD monitors top out at 60Hz refresh rate anyhow ;-).

Re:Gaming laptops are over-priced (2, Informative)

Lave (958216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637503)

For my boys I built microATX cubes....for about 1/4th the price....Sure, you may be 10 or 20 fps slower than your buddies, with a little less detail in the shadows, but who cares (especially when most LCD monitors top out at 60Hz refresh rate anyhow ;-).

Your Children care.

Re:Gaming laptops are over-priced (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637690)

For my boys I built microATX cubes....for about 1/4th the price....Sure, you may be 10 or 20 fps slower than your buddies, with a little less detail in the shadows, but who cares (especially when most LCD monitors top out at 60Hz refresh rate anyhow ;-).
Your Children care.

Think of the children!

Re:Gaming laptops are over-priced (2, Informative)

s31523 (926314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637522)

Monitors are not a problem -- most people have monitors leftover in their basement/attic from when they upgraded to LCD, so they just connect to the surplus monitor, plug into their network and off they go
I also like to utilize my S-Video(or normal video) output and plug right into a big screen TV and play my games, if my friends don't have an extra monitor any modern TV will do!

Re:Gaming laptops are over-priced (1)

AcidLacedPenguiN (835552) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638254)

in addition to your argument, you could also reccommend to spend 1/3 the price and have a machine equal to or 10 to 20 fps faster than them. I mean, toss a 7600GT or a 7900GT (sorry ATI fans, I don't know ATI's enough to reccommend a competing card ): and that's a more than decent gaming machine.

Either that or go with 1/5 the price, cut the hdd back a bit, and pirate the XP and that's like $250-$300 savings which is oddly enough, the price of a decent video card.

Also if one is so inclined they could make a creative/unique case to put their pc in. I mean, cubes are sooo 1990s. If your kid's a star wars fan, put it in a deathstar. If he's a star trek fan you could put it in a borg. . . err if your kid's a car fan, put it in a model porsche or something.

Re:Gaming laptops are over-priced (1)

dracphelan (916527) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638546)

I bought one for work purposes. I do web and graphic design. It allows me to work while waiting for clients and show them graphics at their best. It also allows me to play games when I have nothing else to do.

Re:Gaming laptops are over-priced (1)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638611)

For my boys I built microATX cubes that have every bit as much performance as these high end laptops, for about 1/4th the price -- and they are easily and cheaply upgradeable down the road. When they go to a friend's house for a LANparty they just grab the cube by its handle and throw their keyboard/mouse into a bag. Monitors are not a problem -- most people have monitors leftover in their basement/attic from when they upgraded to LCD, so they just connect to the surplus monitor, plug into their network and off they go.

This is extremely inconvenient and assumes that "most people have monitors leftover," which isn't my experience. In addition, try bringing a rig like that on a plane. It's much easier to disconnect a laptop from a dock, stick in a big, and go.

Re:Gaming laptops are over-priced (1)

plasticquart (75467) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638624)

Here, allow me to explain to you why someone would purchase one of these gaming laptops (I would think this would be obvious, but what do I know)...

Say you have a job that requires travel, via plane even. Say you are going on a trip and need to take your computer. Say you have a choice between: 1. SFF cube system, bag with mouse/keyboard, small speaker set, monitor (I guess you could repack it in its box and check it in with the rest of this mountain of luggage)... or 2. 17" widescreen notebook in a carrying case.

hmmm, um, I'm guessing most would select option 2.

Your situation works for you. Thankfully, you aren't supplying the only options to the rest of us for portable-gaming-capable-computer-systems.

give me a break (1)

doh123 (951318) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637421)

this has been an option in dockable Dells for like... 10 years?

How much will the external graphics dock cost? (1)

krusadr (679804) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637518)

I bet that it will cost more than a top-flight graphics card for a desktop. As the thing is already 8lbs even without the dock I'm struggling to see the point of it a little. I guess it might be OK for taking to LAN parties but then again, any gamer that serious won't want to compromise with a laptop.

Also I bet it runs hot and resting the heel of the left hand on a broiling plate whilst accessing ASDW isn't my idea of gaming heaven.

I'd rather have a top-notch games box plus a small and light laptop. Probably wouldn't cost any more either.

lets try some rewriting.. (1, Informative)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637530)

as posted
"Hot Hardware has just posted a unique review of Dell's flagship XPS M1710 notebook. They stumbled across some very interesting information within the BIOS which seems to indicate Dell is working on a docking station with its own discrete graphics. 'The user is given the option of using either the integrated GeForce Go 7900 GTX GPU found within the system or the extremely interesting option of using the graphics card found within a docking station. Could Dell be planning on releasing an enthusiast dock that features a high-end GPU that could not otherwise be crammed into the confinements of the notebook chassis? Perhaps an upgrade to allow for standard or even Quad-SLI would be possible with such a dock.'"

Written in English
"Hot Hardware has a review of Dell's flagship XPS M1710 notebook; they found information in the BIOS which suggests Dell is working on a docking station with its own graphics card. Customers can use either the laptop's graphics card, or a graphics card found within a docking station. Is Dell planning an enthusiast dock that features a high-end GPU that could not otherwise be crammed into the confinements of a notebook? Perhaps an upgrade to allow for standard or even Quad-SLI would be possible with such a dock.'"

and thats without even trying; 8.5 lines down to 6.5 - quite a savings
"interesting" should be used, at most, once per page.

Re:lets try some rewriting.. (1)

Stanley Feinbaum (622232) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637852)

Your version is more boring though, there is more to journalism than condensing information into the least amount of lines.

Re:lets try some rewriting.. (1)

Drey (1420) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638271)

More succinctly; "Hot Hardware has a rumor about Dell's flagship XPS M1710 notebook; won't someone think of their ad impressions?"

how about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15637552)

...putting a better graphics card and one of those physics processors in a docking station...

Toshiba Base Station (1)

Cr0t (963724) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637564)

I remember several years back a friend had a Toshiba Tecra 8000 laptop with basestation. If I remember the correctly that basestation had two PCI slots. He installed a Voodoo Monster and played his games.

Sign me up (1)

Brix Braxton (676594) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637676)

I'd get one if it was a reasonable add-on. Just knowing that I could squeeze a couple more years of life out of a laptop would be worth it for me. The PCI boxes they sell for laptops today sell for $1000 or so, way too pricey. What I don't understand is why someone hasn't released a cardbus powerVR (like the old Matrox3D). If you don't remember - it was an internal PCI card that worked with the overlay of your existing video card - no cables required. One would just pop the card in, install the drivers and get decent (for the time) 3d. I'm surprised someone hasn't used this idea for the cardbus slot on a PC. Bandwidth might be an issue but I think it would still be sufficient.

what is going on with graphics cards... (4, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637696)

Perhaps an upgrade to allow for standard or even Quad-SLI would be possible with such a dock.

Hey, and maybe then I can get a docking station for my docking station that has QuadQuad-SLI, and then maybe I can get in a robotic exo-skeleton and become the first Headmaster, and we can finally take the fight directly to Unicron. Is the gaming industry out of its mind? Seriously. I mean, I am not going to buy four graphics cards to put into my computer to play games. Ever. Period. End of story. I'm sorry game developers, but you're just gonna have to make do with the measly bazillion pixels my current stand-alone graphics card can dish out.

--
Instead of imagining a beowulf cluster of PS3's, just wait three years and check out the PS4.

Pretty sweet, even if not original (1)

SuperMog2002 (702837) | more than 8 years ago | (#15637744)

Docking bays with full size expansion ports were around ages ago (I had one back in '96 for my old 20 MHz Toshiba T1600, IIRC), but they seem to have dissapeared over the past few years. I think they were a casuality of the trend to make notebooks complete standalone desktop replacements, which lead to port replicators replacing docking station, and finally port replicators themselves disapearing. None of my last four laptops have had any kind of docking-type support built in. Silly little USB solutions that don't replicate video or PC card slots are still around, but they have certainly faded into obscurity.

I think this is pretty nifty, even if it has been done before. One of the biggest obsticles to buying a notebook for quite a while now has been a lack of upgradable video. This will certianly help to remedy that problem. Not all of us really like having a seperate notebook for work and desktop for gaming. This would be perfect for me.

Re:Pretty sweet, even if not original (1)

DoctorDyna (828525) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638626)

Agreed, not original. We have several docks here at work for the Compaq M700 series that has internal PCI slots. I haven't checked, but I would imagine in their bios, they pack the same feature, boot from AGP or PCI. Im going to guess that there will be a large Dell docking station that has a PCI Express card slot in it at some point. Not that farfetched, and definatly not newsworthy.

As for people talking about multi GPU setups with laptops, have you all lost your fucking minds? Once you take the portability (read:battery life) out of a laptop, you basically destroy 80% of the reason anybody would want one. It wouldnt matter in this instance, due to the card being in the dock (which would probably stop SLi from working due to different iterations of the same card) but it's still quite fabulously silly.

You know what, I will continue to use a regular machine for gaming. The monitor sits on my table, the case is on the other side of the room where I don't have to hear it, and if I want to sit back with the keyboard on my lap it's not going to bake my cock because there's 512 megs of DDR3 on some goofy semi-pci express video card under the G key.

Hot swappable hard drives? (2, Interesting)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638545)

LCD screen... swaps out for the monitor plugged in to the docking station.
Keyboard... swaps out for the monitor plugged in to the docking station.
Mousepad... swaps out for the monitor plugged in to the docking station.
Graphics system... swaps out for the monitor plugged in to the docking system.

About the only remaining parts that don't swap out are the hard drive, CPU and memory. In exchange for that, you tend to get a clunky docking station that takes up way too much desk space rather than discretely sitting under your desk like a dedicated tower. Given laptop memory and CPUs tend to be underpowered compared to desktop equivalents, replacing them for a typical laptop would run, what, $150 at the outside?

At what point does it become a much better idea to make your laptop hard drive hot swappable and then have a dedicated tower with all of the better priced components the desktop allows with an open bay in the front to move your data and OS setup over? By the time you have a docking station with a high end graphics card in it, the additional components are pretty trivial.

shurley vista readiness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15638622)

I think I've done the due diligence and searched the thread. Apologies if I'm duplicating comments from someone else with a degree in the bleedin' obvious. Shurely this is all about Vista readiness?

Latitude D410/610 have this already (2, Interesting)

LoadWB (592248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15638823)

Unfortunately, I cannot get to the article, so I cannot see exactly what they are talking about.

But to be short, the D410 and D610 BIOSes I work with have an option to default to the docking station video as well. IIRC, Dell produces docking stations (not just the advanced port replicators we use in the field) which have PCI and AGP slots. It seems only reasonable that they also intend to produce models with PCIe slots (none currently show on the website.)

So, this may not be anything new or stunning.

As an aside, I am disappointed that the newer Latitudes do not have docking ports. The USB port replicators are crap, and the drivers constantly crash on at least two models I have in customer sites (not my purchase, mind you.) I believe that the ability to dock could be viewed by home users as a replacement of the desktop. Of course, that would mean that people would not buy a desktop AND a laptop, so lower bottome line, eh? :)

Not with the current generation of laptops. (1)

mdkathon (579667) | more than 8 years ago | (#15639391)

As others have already mentioned Dell has had their C-Dock, and D-Dock [dell.com] docking stations with half height PCI slots for years now. I used to have a C610 and used a C-Dock with a nice sound card a few years ago and it worked well. At the time the support for using PCI video cards was available in the BIOS but it never worked very well.

The M1710 may have a dock connector on it but I doubt it is anything of a quantum leap beyond what they have on their Latitude models. It would make more sense for them to roll out a new dock that would allow upgraded video cards on their M90 or a new professional series laptop. Then move it down into their consumer line. I'm no expert but to try and get a PCIe 1x or 16x to work in a dock you're going to have to design how it will supply power to cards that may draw as much as the laptop, keep the video card cool, and play well with the laptop. The pathway between the laptop and the dock is going to have to be beefed up to and all I can see is headaches with crazy PCI bridges everywhere causing trouble. Think of how much time and effort would be going into a dock which would cost at least $300.00 so that users can install a $300.00 video card in it. This would be a waste of time for Dell.

This is just some hardware site trying to make something out of nothing. Pft.
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