Asustek Computer has officially revealed its external graphics card for mobile computers that is designed to enable more pleasant video gaming experience on notebooks. The product is unveiled for the second time already, but as it approaches the market, actual prospects and capabilities of the solution become less evident and appealing.
Asus ROG XG Station comes bundled with Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT-based graphics card inside as well as and Dolby Digital 5.1-channel audio logic to process audio. The device also features four USB ports, headphone and microphone jacks, built-in power adapter, volume controller as well as a screen that can display certain important parameters, such as system master volume, graphics chip’s clock-speed and temperature, frames per second information, fan speed and so on.
Nvidia GeForce 8600-series graphics cards are based on the G84 graphics chips, which feature 32 stream processors, 16 texture modules, 8 raster operation units (ROPs) and 128-bit memory controller. Asus EN8600GT clocks graphics processing unit at 540MHz and 256MB of GDDR3 memory at 1400MHz. In general, the GeForce 8600-series graphics cards cannot provide performance on par with modern graphics cards that cost $150 and higher. Nevertheless, Asus claims 12 and 6.7 times performance improvement compared to Intel’s graphics cores inside 945GM and 965GM chipsets, which seems to be correct, considering truly low performance of built-in graphics solutions.
The external graphics adapter connects to notebooks using ExpressCard interface, which means that actual bandwidth available for its graphics processing unit is 250MB/s since ExpressCard interface connects to I/O controller of a computer using PCI Express x1 and USB interfaces. With such bandwidth restriction, even if a higher performance graphics card can be physically installed into ROG XG Station, its performance may be limited by interface capabilities.
While it is true that Asustek Computer's external graphics card for notebooks delivers considerably higher performance than integrated graphics processors, the GeForce 8600 GT will hardly satisfy modern gamers, unless they play previous-generation games. Unfortunately, upgrade capabilities of the XG Station are not clear.
Pricing of Asus “Republic of Gamers” XG Station was not announced, but if it is low enough, the product may become rather popular.