Thunderbolt Graphics Technology Turns Your Ultrabook Into a Gaming Rig

LAPTOP by Avram Piltch

Your Ultrabook’s onboard graphics chip may be good enough for some gaming, but what if you could enjoy all the power of a high-end desktop video card or even dual video cards, every time you sat down at your desk? A new technology from Lucid, makers of the Virtu MVP graphics acceleration software, will let you attach any Thunderbolt-enabled notebook to an external graphics card that’s good enough to transform your 3-pound ultraportable into a heavy-hitting gaming system.

In a private briefing on the eve of Intel’s Developers Forum, Lucid allowed us to go hands-on with a prototype Thunderbolt graphics card. To show the difference in performance discrete graphics makes, Lucid first had us run the 3DMark06 benchmark on a standard Ivy Bridge motherboard using Intel’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chip, where the system returned a mediocre rate of 28 frames-per-second.

We then closed out of 3DMark06 and plugged the external graphics card, which had its own case and power supply, into the computer’s Thunderbolt port. The screen went black for just a second or two and then the external video card, which in this case was an AMD Radeon 6700 chip, appeared in the Windows Device Manager under Display adapters. We launched 3DMark06 again and this time saw a frame rate of around 89 fps.

What happens when you accidentally (or purposefully) disconnect the external graphics card from your laptop while you have a program running? Lucid’s Thunderbolt graphics software will simply force close your application and return you to the Windows desktop, without forcing you to reboot or allowing a system crash. While this solution isn’t ideal, it is far superior to the epic Blue Screen of Death you’d experience if you yanked a video card out of your motherboard with the system running. read more...

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