Are the graphics cards that install through the PC card slot in your laptop actually any good?
July 18, 2007 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Are the graphics cards that install through the PC card slot in your laptop actually any good?
posted by matkline to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think it depends on what you're after. If you're looking for something to play top-level 3D games with, I think the concern would be the bandwidth of the card slot interface.

I'd also be concerned about cooling. Top-notch 3D display chips crank almost as much heat as the CPU does. There's no way to put a cooling fan in a card.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:22 PM on July 18, 2007

The big problem is they are limited to PCI bus speeds, which is pretty slow by modern standards.

Are you looking to add another display to your laptop or bypass the current video card in your machine? If the former I'm very impressed with Matrox's splitter boxes (Dual head 2 go and Triple head 2 Go) if your current video card has the memory/capacity to drive them.
posted by Mitheral at 3:53 PM on July 18, 2007

Best answer: There are two different technologies that do what you're looking for: MXM graphics cards, which can be installed in specially equipped laptops (of which there are very few) and PCI-e enclosures that can plug in via some sort of Expresscard attachment (ex. this and this). The MXM solutions are, indeed, pretty good—since the requisite MXM ports only come on high-end laptops, the MXM cards you can buy tend to be similarly powerful—but of course the catch is very few laptops actually have an MXM port. Furthermore there are very few MXM cards—after all, we're talking about a very small market for them.

As for the Expresscard solutions, Engadget did a hands-on with one and noticed a sizable boost in performance. However, it looks like ExpressCard doesn't have the bandwidth to properly support PCI-e x16, and many of the extremely fast cards are dual-width cards because of the massive cooling solutions mounted on them. The first product I linked to only supports single-width cards.

Considering that the Asus XG is likely to sell for ~$600 (including a 7900GS card, which normally retails for ~$150), you're probably better off spending that $450 on a laptop with a better graphics card right off the bat, or if you're concerned about battery life, waiting a bit—I think Asus is readying a laptop that has a Geforce 8400/8600M that can be turned off when not needed for gaming.
posted by chrominance at 3:53 PM on July 18, 2007

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