Snap on MXM eGPU

Since we know that eGPUs work fine on the Framework Laptop. I wondered if it would be possible to design and engineer a mobile dock for a MXM eGPU. Occasionally my work needs a little extra GPU performance to get jobs done and having a thin “dock” that can snap on to a laptop would be great. It should be possible to go from Thunderbolt 4 to at least 4 lanes of PCIe gen 3. The laptop can’t supply the extra 150W needed to drive a MXM GeForce RTX 2080 Mobile, so the “dock” should have it’s own battery, power supply, and thermal solution. I imagine it would be possible to shove this into a package 15mm to 20mm thick and the entire area of the laptop. Some sort of latching mechanism with the expansion ports could be used to secure the “dock” to the laptop. Anyone see anything obviously impossible or too great a challenge to overcome?

3 Likes

Cool idea. It is something I would be interested in, although, I don’t really need the thing directly attached to the laptop. I would prefer it having a single USB C cable that I plug in with the enclosure attached to it. Having that enclosure as small and portable as possible would be great. Cooling of course is important though.

Although if you are intending to use a battery source to power a desktop GPU there is no way it is going to be small and still useful.

1 Like

Maybe go for a more mid-range product?

mxm rtx 3060 70w with it’s own 80-100wh battery in a thunderbolt graphics dock would be sweet. Something like the sonnet puck egpu with integrated battery.

Yeah, it would have to be mobile GPU for sure. I was imagining a machined aluminum housing that coupled to a vapor chamber with a bower fan. It would probably be toasty enough that attaching it to the laptop would inflict a performance hit. Sourcing MXM GPUs seems to be the hardest part of the problem. I have only seen Geforce 2000 series boards from Clevo floating around. Also the MXM specification has moved from Nvidia to a working group MXM-SIG, so it’s not easy to get the mechanical and electrical specifications.

1 Like

Also the MXM specification has moved from Nvidia to a working group MXM-SIG, so it’s not easy to get the mechanical and electrical specifications.

Are you certain you don’t have the timeline backwards here?

I have very little faith in MXM as it is, and the cost of the available (soon to be outdated) options does not improve the situation at all. I don’t think the volume of potential buyers defends designing an MXM graphics card anymore.

And if the target is an external chassis anyway, the number of potential buyers decrease even more. The majority of those customers probably don’t care all that much about size or power requirements, and are perfectly happy with a desktop card in an external case.

So why create an MXM option for which there are 1000s of buyers, when you can spend design and tooling resources om something which sells in the millions?

I will happily eat my words if someone can come up with a business idea that works here. A partnership with AMD or Intel might work, if either of them are willing to carry the cost of the design and development of a ‘underpowered’ modular graphics option. But if this comes at the cost of some kind of exclusive business relationship with either of them, I am not so sure it will be a good deal.

1 Like

I’m not positive but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a Sonnet or similar external enclosure via Thunderbolt 3 that has a mobile GPU embedded to make a compact docking station that has much lower power demands than any desktop GPU in an eGPU case.

Bingo. I was not aware of this product. An actual Navi MXM card.

But there it is. And those who need it, can buy that. Or the 5500xt variant.

1 Like

no onboard battery, chonky, uses an extra power brick, ‘not certified for use under windows’

if they could get a puck that’s smaller, charges via usb pd 240w, outputs usb pd 100w, and has an onboard battery, would be interesting.

Price, size, specs. Pick any two.

1 Like

I’ll sacrifice gpu power.

vs xe onboard graphics, I feel something in the 3050ti / 3060ti mobile gpu class, would be well suited to being cooled in a small enclosure, and being powered off of a battery in the enclosure, instead of necessarily needing a power cable, or leaching from the laptop.

I could probably justify $450-700 for that accessory, compared to cost of other EGPU solutions.

I found someone on Ebay claiming to sell Nvidia 3060 MXMs. USD 1400. For the card alone. Used Clevo SKUs. (The 3080 is USD 2880.)

At your price, you’ll have to sacrifice gpu power to the point where onboard Xe graphics becomes pretty good, I think.

Again, I really wish that powerhungry, modular graphics was an affordable option. I just can’t see a viable business case for it. The second best option is probably AMD / Intel starting to push SKUs with differentiated on-chip graphics. So, a matrix with CPU options along one axis and 2-3-4 different graphics options along the other. And os- and/or user-controlled powerbudget.

Looking forward to the next (and next, next) AMD APU.

#scalper
also, wouldn’t necessarily have to be MXM. the unit could be soldered on. for perspective, the lenovo thunderbolt graphics dock with soldered in gtx 1050 was $399 msrp.

Considering how inflated Lenovo’s MSRPs are, I think a 3050ti unit could probably hit a $550 msrp.

I see on newegg they have rtx 3050ti laptops going for $950. they may have economies of scale on their side, but that’s a lot of additional hardware also included in the price, vs just being a thunderbolt graphics dock.

I wasn’t envisioning this as a mass market product, but more boutique. The lack of MXM options and a shaky future indeed make it difficult to justify the development and manufacturing cost. Maybe if a source of recycled mobile GPUs could be found a soldered solution on a custom daughter board might be possible. That would push it outside the range of hobby development. Don’t know about you but I have low confidence in my ability to solder hundred dollar parts with BGA/LGA and not destroy it without x-ray inspection.

Maybe a luggable eGPU package would be more realistic. Take a low profile or at the least single slot form factor PCIe card and add it’s own power, battery, and management system. The part available in single slot and low profile aren’t great either.

it should clamp to the bottom

It’s funny because the only issue with Windows is that you can’t attach a USB-C/TB3 native display.

The RX 5500 XT and RX 5700 require the latest release of Windows 10 20H2. Windows fully supports connecting displays to the HDMI and DisplayPort ports. However, a Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C display connected to the Thunderbolt 3 port is not supported by Windows at this time. You may use this port as a 10Gbps USB-C port to connect a USB-C device. Apple does not support eGPUs on Bootcamp.