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TSF - Enthusiast
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I just hooked up a 2GB 5850 to my laptop... - [H]ard|Forum

I built a dual Xeon machine back in 2004, and earlier this year it was finally reaching the end of its useful life for me. It was big, loud, and hot, and I was using an old Dell laptop I bought for $200 more and more. I wanted to consolidate into just one machine, so a few weeks ago I bought a brand new Lenovo Thinkpad T410s, which is one great laptop!

Notebookcheck Review - T410s

Now, this has the Intel integrated graphics, which works great for most of my tasks, but I do like to play a game every once in awhile. Certainly, the integrated graphics on this new laptop actually offer better performance than my old computer, but still not good for gaming at all. The game that gets most of my time, EVE Online, could run but only with every single graphic option turned to "Lowest" or "Off." Not pretty.

I wanted to have better gaming performance while in my home office (I don't game "on the go"). I thought about building a small gaming desktop, but that would have added another computer back into the mix and I really liked the idea of just having the one machine with all my stuff on it. So, I needed to upgrade the graphics performance of my Thinkpad.

Luckily, some members of the community over at NoteBookReview have been busy figuring out how to hook up desktop graphics cards to laptops. Using a couple parts from a Taiwan manufacturer called HWTools, it is possible to connect a desktop graphics card to the laptop using either ExpressCard or internal mPCIe connectors (or both). An external power supply is also needed.

Some caveats: an external monitor is needed - this will not run the laptops internal screen. It is not a mobile solution - this is great for people like me, who game at their desk with external monitors. PCIe bandwidth through ExpressCard or an mPCIe connector is not 16x like on desktop PCIe, it is only 1x. This limits the performance of the card to only 60-70% of its full potential if connected by 16x. Still, it is a tremendous improvement over the integrated graphics! The part from HWTools will allow for an x2 link on some laptops if you use two physical connections (i.e. ExpressCard and mPCIe or two mPCIe). This allows performance at 80-90% of 16x. Final caveat, this thing can be a major pain in the *** to get set up. It is not plug and play, with many (most) laptops requiring custom boot disks to handle memory and pci allocations issues that prevent the setup from functioning until taken care of. Fortunately, just today NBR member nando4 released a new bootdisk package that introduces some much-needed ease to the configuration process.

So, I ordered a Sapphire 2GB 5850, an Antec 550W PSU, and the necessary parts from HWTools. Spent today fiddling around with it, setting it up. Luckily, the T410s did not require any fiddling with PCI, IGP, or memory allocation to get working. Most machines need it, so yay for me. On the flipside, however, I did find that an x2 link is not possible for my Thinkpad at this time. My two internal mPCIe connections are not numbered correctly for this to happen. I will wait to see if any workarounds are developed in the future.

Still, even on an x1 link, I am extremely pleased. With x1, it is very convenient to hook up the 5850 - just dock and sleep the laptop, plug in the vid card to ExpressCard, switch monitors to vid card input, and wake up - now I have real gaming performance! I can now run EVE Online at full 1920x1200 resolution, 8xAA, 8xAF, with every graphics option set to full at 100fps. I know EVE is not a graphically demanding game by today's standards but it is a shocking improvement to me who is used to playing with all graphics options set to poop-like quality. I have been out of the "hardware scene" for years, so I do not know what benchmarks people like to use today, so I ran 3DMark06. With the integrated graphics, my score was 1,720. With the 5850 hooked up, I get 12,765! Very wonderful for me and now I can try all sorts of new games that I couldn't before.

So, I will post my full system specs and a few pictures below. Please let me know if you have any questions, and please let me know if you can suggest any benchmarks that I could run on both IGP versus the 5850 that people might be interested in seeing.




Lenovo T410s
Intel Core i5 520M 2.4 GHz
4GB DDR3-1066
Intel X18M-80GB G2 SSD
Sapphire 2GB ATI 5850
HWTools PE4H v2.0 PCIe Adapter and EC2C ExpressCard Adapter
Antec BP550PSU



Here's the 5850:

And the PE4H v2.0 that the vid card plugs into:
http://i.imgur.com/AbwfT.jpg
Then hook the ExpressCard adapter between the PE4H and the laptop:

All hooked up! Maybe I'll build an enclosure some rainy day...
http://i.imgur.com/85gMx.jpg
Makes my desk look kinda hi-tech!
Disclaimer:
This is not me, all props and congratulations go the user in the forum I linked above.

A possible solution for those with laptops that only have intel graphics in them. You would have to be willing to buying something things like this and it would have to be researched if said laptop is capable of this.

Consider this setup
-Graphics Card
Power Colour 5770
$114

-Adapter
Adapter for PCI-E slot
$85

-PSU
SeaSonic S12II 520 Bronze 520W
$75

And last but not least a monitor...
-Monitor
ASUS VH236H Black 23" 2ms(GTG) HDMI Widescreen Full HD 1080P LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 20000 :1 (ASCR) Built-in Speakers

If you don't need the monitor its just another $273 plus taxes and shipping to make a $600 or so laptop into a gaming machine. A laptop that could game would be $800 or more. In my opinion this is a kind limited setup but works if you don't want to try and sell your current laptop and buy a more expensive one.

What do you guys think?
 

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Team Manager, Gaming
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7,320 Posts
It's a good and a bad idea
first it's good because:
1- a gaming laptop is too expensive
2- stayed on the same Laptop


Bad:
1- Can't carry this setup with him if anyone want to play on the go
2- it's Ugly, I mean look at the Video Card hanging on the wall; imagine what will look like after a month and how dust will eat it
3- it's still a bit expensive and with that price you can get a good Gaming PC
 

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TSF Team, Emeritus
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9,133 Posts
One thing that I find especially good about it... you can either use a graphics card from a desktop or in the future use the card with a new desktop.

For one, I think this is a great idea.
 

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TSF - Enthusiast
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12,841 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The card from my point of view is:
-Easy to clean of dust and doesn't get hot from ther components so it shold stay even cooler
-Having a video card out in the open like that is cool to me but the only thing is that it is a bit exposed to just being knocked over I suppose. I Fear my own clumsiness.
-Spending $250 and up is better than trying to sell the old laptop for that price then buying a $800 to $1200 laptop or higher saving you a grand or less.

For me there is only pros to this setup. It seems like a great way to take a laptop that can't game and just buy some addons and its good to go.
 

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Retired Games Team
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TSF - Enthusiast
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
How would you run the graphics card without the PSU then? I think even a 450w PSU could run the 5850 since its just the card its running and the 12v isn't being used for anything else like a CPU.
 

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Administrator, Team Manager, Gaming, Team Manager,
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How would you run the graphics card without the PSU then? I think even a 450w PSU could run the 5850 since its just the card its running and the 12v isn't being used for anything else like a CPU.

There could be an issue with just using only the 12v on some power supplies, some models when loaded on only one rail and not the others can have trouble correctly regulating the voltage, others use load sensing on the 5v to control the PSU fan speed. Picking the right supply would be key here.


Lenovo used to make a laptop docking station for the T60(?) that had a x16 slot and would fit low profile cards, you usually saw them with either Quadro or Matrox business cards in them, while they did plug in and supply power to the slot there are not any aux 6/8 pin connectors.
 

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TSF - Enthusiast
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12,841 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
There could be an issue with just using only the 12v on some power supplies, some models when loaded on only one rail and not the others can have trouble correctly regulating the voltage, others use load sensing on the 5v to control the PSU fan speed. Picking the right supply would be key here.


Lenovo used to make a laptop docking station for the T60(?) that had a x16 slot and would fit low profile cards, you usually saw them with either Quadro or Matrox business cards in them, while they did plug in and supply power to the slot there are not any aux 6/8 pin connectors.
Do you think this is good solution with the laptops that can do this? Whats your take on the matter?
 

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TSF - Enthusiast
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The guy said the card does around 70% or a little higher of what card can do at 16x but its on a 1x slot. I've got to completely disagree with you on using a GTS 240 or tohse mid range cards will be like a low end 9400GT after the performance drop due to the hardware limitations.
 

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Administrator, Team Manager, Gaming, Team Manager,
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If the 5770 is performing at 70% any higher card would be performing at the same level, I think the 70% of a 5770 is probably the bandwidth limit of the express card slot and x1 slot, once you hit the limit of data traveling across the slots a more powerful card isn't going help. Only sure way to find out is to test this setup using the different cards:)
 
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