Quantcast Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

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  1. #1
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    Default Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

    Seeing how the topic of external video cards for laptops is not taking any meaningful direction(amazingly) i decided to start a thread that talks about realistic solutions and hopefully attracts enough savvy people to get the ball rolling.
    Below are descriptions of 2 major directions that are currently around as well as my personal proposal at the end.

    ExpressCard or Mini PCI-E slot hacks:
    Description: Attempt to utilize pci-e x1 speed(or possibly even x2 speed)slots for video performance boost.
    Pros:
    - Works on SOME laptops
    - Sufficient performance boost for SOME people
    - For SOME people it is the only option
    These are the only pros.
    Personally, the fact that this is the only thing that people came up with for the entire existence of dedicated laptop video cards is quiet sad.

    ATI/AMD XGP or "Closer to the truth"
    Description: External PCI-E x8-x16 connector/architecture standard from ATI that is going to take a yet unknown amount of time to get adopted by laptop manufacturers.
    Cons:
    - Uncertainty of mass adoption
    - No option to use Desktop Video Cards (due to early stages of adoption)
    These are the only cons.

    I am fairly certain that laptop manufacturers used solutions similar to XGP for many years but strictly for internal use.

    My proposal - something that can be done right now

    Below are diagrams of two possible designs of a hack that could be an appropriate companion to XGP(until it takes off) ->
    -> All-in-one version:



    And, possibly, a more suitable version:



    Finally, this is a render of what the above could look like in reality:



    What you see is an adaptor board that takes an MXM slot and converts it into a desktop PCI-E x16 slot and a DVI input port as well as a drive bay type power supply sitting beside the video card.

    MSI and ASUS have done this same conversion but in the other direction, namely, PCI-E x16 -> MXM instead of MXM -> PCI-E x16 as pictured above

    The main components would be:

    1. Type II blank MXM card
    2. LVDS serializer that converts DVI to laptops LVDS (like any lcd monitor board)
    3. PCI-E x16 bus extender cable/strip soldered to PCI-E wires on the MXM blank:
    - molex version - http://www.molex.com/molex/family/in...k=Introduction
    - adexelec version(scroll down) - http://www.adexelec.com/pciexp.htm - they can provide variable lenght
    4. LVDS cable soldered to LVDS wires on the MXM blank that connects to LVDS serializer
    5. PCI-E x16 slot
    6. MXM Slot
    7. Desktop video card
    8. External video card power supply.

    Unbeatable advantages over other solutions:
    1. Full PCI-E x16 desktop grade video performance - big savings on laptop upgrades
    2. DVI/HDMI input to display external content on laptop's LCD



    Here are MXM's specs and pinouts:
    http://stashbox.org/679919/MXM_Electro_Spec.pdf
    http://stashbox.org/679923/MXM_Software_Spec.pdf
    Attached picture below highlights MXM's LVDS wires to be used by the "LVDS Serializer" from the diagram above. This serializer is pretty much the same as the convertor board in each and every LCD monitor around(some are capable of better resolution and color depth).

    National Semiconductor, Texas Instruments and MAXIM are major serializer manufacturers that should have some idea of what to do as opposed to cracking open lcd monitors.

    The main problem here is building a "dummy" MXM board that takes the required wires outside of the laptop chassis.
    Villagetronic, Matrox, HWTools and a few others are the people who can accomplish this fairly easily. It is also quiet possible that some skilled individuals could knock something up themselves.

    Let's hope this post brings more light into the elusive world of "external laptop video cards"

    Commercial solution possibilities:
    MX2 is a possible name of the product.
    Some interesting news on the progress may surface in the coming months.
    Stay tuned.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails mxm_specs.jpg  
    Last edited by toshiki; 2nd March 2010 at 09:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

    Quote Originally Posted by toshiki View Post
    The main problem here is building a "dummy" MXM board that takes the required wires outside of the laptop chassis....

    It is also quiet possible that some skilled individuals could knock something up themselves.
    If you're keen to get the ball rolling, all you need is:
    - PCI-Express PCI-E 16x Riser Card
    - a cheap MXM card
    - some IDE cabling, or other ribbon cable of appropriate pitch

    1/ Cut the MXM card - just want it as a solderable blank to shove into the mxm slot.

    2/ Attach ribbon cable on MXM blank and the PCI-E riser to appropriate pins.

    3/ Attach external 12V to tap onto the 12V line of pci-e riser.

    Optional - use serializer to attempt to pipe desktop card's DVI out as LVDS input to drive notebook's LCD. I'd personally just leave it to drive an external LCD for the time being.

    Test and report results for others to duplicate.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

    nando4,

    Thank you for suggestions.
    I would have to resort to friend's help as i don't have the gear or the skills to do soldering on the MXM - too small for my bear grip.

    Ideally, the final design would incorporate the serializer on the MXM board itself and have a small female port dangling on the outside for the rest of the assembly to connect to.

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    Default Re: Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

    Now this is a very exciting idea. Would any mxm slot work ie my laptop uses mxm 2 eg 8600M/9600M GT cards. I would immediately get my lappie converted to use this setup if the notebook LCD can be driven and put good money forward to have it done as I possess no technical skill .
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    Default Re: Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

    HA! You forget that on some laptops (like mine, for example) you need to take the whole system apart just to get to the MXM card. Sad...
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    Default Re: Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

    Quote Originally Posted by NJoy View Post
    HA! You forget that on some laptops (like mine, for example) you need to take the whole system apart just to get to the MXM card. Sad...
    Lol unlucky mate,I can pop my mxm card out in under 5 mins
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    Default Re: Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

    King of Interns,
    Mount points are the same across all MXM types so MXM blank of Type II can be used for every laptop.
    As far as pinouts go - the main part which is concerned with PCI-E and LVDS wires is also the same across all types of MXM so a wired Type II MXM blank seems like a universal solultion.
    It's a little early to talk money - get your electronics technician friend excited and see where things take off. In fact, if everone did this - we'd have a fairly good chance of getting this done without the need for potentially lengthy involvement of small manufacturing firms.

    NJoy,
    Even if it takes you a solid THREE MONTHS of opening your laptop case - this is still worth every second of it.
    "You forget" that this is a one off procedure.
    You also forget that this is a SMALL REVOLUTION in the laptop world which, increadibly, hasn't found its way to the shop shelves yet.
    Personally, i never owned an MXM slotted laptop and the only reason this has finally come out is because i'm planning on getting one some time at the end of the year. I observed this scene for some time and simply can not trust marketing defensive giants any longer as I must have this by the end of the year.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

    But this has been done via ExpressCard with great results?

    Almost all new laptops now come with ExpressCard 34 which is plug and play, no fiddling around taking the case off
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    Default Re: Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

    Quote Originally Posted by Manic Penguins View Post
    But this has been done via ExpressCard with great results?

    Almost all new laptops now come with ExpressCard 34 which is plug and play, no fiddling around taking the case off

    This solution is for those wanting full desktop graphics performance on their notebook, eg: GTX280 rather than GTX280M. In order to do that there is a need for a full x16 pci-e link which the MXM port provides. An expressport provides a x1 pci-e link. WHat does that mean in terms of performance? The pci-e scaling analysis shows HD4870 x16 2.0 performance as a baseline. There is on average 16.5% performance drop over a x2 1.0 link. At x1 1.0 it loses over 50%!! If you're a desktop gamer you'd think ViDock using x1 1.0 speed is pretty poor performing.




    All that we are trying to do is extend the MXM port to allow connection to a pci-e desktop video card.
    We can see that, for example, the 965PM chipset's pci-express uses >60 pins and runs off the Northbridge(MCH). The MXM card taps this connection.

    The expressport/mini pci-e port taps off the southbridge, giving up to 6 1x ports. port1-port4 allow combination into x2 and x4 mode, which would also give pretty decent performance, however the electrical connections must be there to do this, so may be vendor specific. It might mean combining the pins from the expressport AND mini pci-e port to get a x2 link to work. DIY ViDock thread is looking at that possibility.

    The expresscard ViDock solution will not be too bad when it's an expressport x1 2.0, but we can expect that in 2010. Means a new notebook too. This project wishes to get Desktop video performance as soon as is technically possible. Promises of expressport 2.0 and ATI/AMD XGP have been dragging on for quite some time.
    Last edited by User Retired 2; 12th August 2009 at 03:42 AM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Let's figure out how to convert internal MXM connector an external PCI-E x16 box

    ExressCard 2.0 requires a new laptop.
    GTX 260M laptops are getting pretty cheap(GTX 280M ones should cost about same or even cheaper in 2010) and provide similar performance to Vidock 2.0 with these new ExpressCard 2.0 laptops (you'd have to turn the detail level down a little to get equal bang)

    The above is not a good sign for Villagetronic unless they can tap x4 speed on a wide variety of laptops.

    MXM solution is much more versatile and time resistant. PCI-E x16 2.0 interface speed limit is still a long way from being reached.
    Besides you would also get a DVI/HDMI input for your laptop's screen which can be handy in a variety of scenarios.

    Commercial existence of such a solution yields economic re-modelling for the laptop market which no manufacturer wants to come any time soon.
    I would not be surprised to see attempts to phase out MXM slots/XGP ports in order to maintain sales figures.

    edit:
    To add to this, I can only imagine the faces of major manufacturer execs when back then still independent ATI came out with XGP(i.e. "what the hell do they think they're doing?!!!"). Noone will know whether shutting them up and slowing the processes down was one of the reasons AMD bought ATI out.
    Last edited by toshiki; 10th August 2009 at 10:12 PM.

 

 
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