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Using an external graphics card via Thunderbolt

1 minute read

Using an external graphics card via Thunderbolt

We've had a few articles recently talking about the power of Thunderbolt and whether it's possible to make an external graphics card work with it

The difficulties are explained in this recent piece by Phil Rhodes and were the subject of some debate in this piece about the new Mac Pro.

Essentially, even Thunderbolt isn't fast enough to keep up with a modern, high-end graphics card going at full-pelt. Using an external graphics card arrangement will, if anything, slow your system down. Unless, that is, you're using a computer with lamentably slow graphics in the first place!

The Macbook Air

The Macbook Air has gradually been getting faster and for "office" type work, it's fine. The main processors are reasonable, and the fact that these laptops are all solid-state means that they seem faster than the specifications would suggest. But when it comes to the crunch, and by that we mean processing or rendering video, they're not so good. In fact, they can be positively glacial compared to the wickedly fast Macbook Pros, or virtually any other well-configured workstation. So, in this limited case, it is just possible that an external, reasonably snappy graphics card might speed things up a bit.

And that's exactly what Techinferno.com user Klopper found out when he built a system that allowed him to use an external graphics card with his 11" Macbook air.

Here's now he summarised the project:

"By buying around $250 in commonly available parts, plus a video card, you can make the graphics of your 11" Macbook Air from 5X to 7X faster. Demo video at end of post. Step-by-step, here's how to exactly do it. Warning: not for the faint of heart!"


It's not easy!

As you can see, this is not an easy thing to do. And despite the clever thinking that's gone into this, what you definitely can't do is describe the end result as portable.

But for our purposes, what it certainly does do is prove that it is feasible to use an external graphics card via Thunderbolt, but that you will only see an improvement relative to a very slow system in the first place.

There's a link to Klopper's article and an explanitory video on the next page.

For Klopper's entire article click here


 Explanitory Video


Tags: Technology